Have you ever googled your own name and found someone else who goes by the very same moniker? There’s a word for that: googleganger. Plus, the language of hobbyists and enthusiasts: If you’re a beekeeper, perhaps you call yourself a beek, and if you’re an Adult Fan of Lego you may refer to yourself as an AFOL. Also: what will you get if you order a bag of jo jos? In parts of the United States, you may just get a blank look — but in others, ask for some jo jos and you’ll get a bag of tasty fried potato wedges. Topping it off, a sunny-side-up puzzle, pulchritude, a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you, baby’s breath, synanthrope, antidisestablishmentarianism, believe you me, and you cannot cover the sun with a finger, and more.
This episode first aired March 21, 2020.
The lingo used by hobbyists and enthusiasts includes names they give themselves. In the parlance of Lego lovers, an AFOL is an adult fan of Lego. If you’re a beekkeeper, you might call yourself a beek. People who love performing improv comedy sometimes refer to each other as imps. What’s the term you use to describe yourself and your own fellow hobbyists?
Sir Paul McCartney once wrote a song that included the phrase female pulchritude and luminosity. The word pulchritude means “beauty,” but why such an ugly-sounding word for such a lovely thing? Pulchritude derives from pulcher, a Latin word meaning “beautiful,” “handsome,” or “fine,” and has been around in English since the 15th century. If you consider the word pulchritude unappealing, you might say it’s a heterological adjective — that is, one that does not describe itself. An autological word, in contrast, is one that does describe itself. For example, the adjective short is a short word, and polysyllabic has many syllables.
When Melissa was growing up in Tacoma, Washington, she’d walk to the corner store, where she’d pick up a corn dog and a bag of jo jos, a term for soft potato wedges with the skin left on. Researcher Barry Popik has dug up a story that may explain the origin of the name jo jos, also spelled jojos or jo-jos. However you spell it and whatever the origin, this food name is heard primarily in the northern United States, from Washington to New York State.
If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you is an English idiom suggesting that the listener is gullible. It’s widespread throughout the United States. On our Facebook group, listeners shared other versions, including one that involves the sale of swampland in Florida, and the George Strait song “Ocean Front Property,” which invites similar skepticism about a tract of land in Arizona.
Quiz Guy John Chaneski breaks through the clouds with a puzzle about words and phrases that include the letters S-U-N. For example, what do you call a person perceived to be an inexperienced, slow, and unskillful motorist?
Why are those tiny, white flowers that grace bouquets called baby’s breath? Some people say they like newborn’s breath, but the name may simply reflect the fact that these blossoms are small and delicate. Their genus name, Gypsophila, literally means “gypsum-loving,” reflecting the fact that baby’s breath thrives in gypsum-rich soil.
In response to our conversation about the expression ding-ding man, a term used mainly in Nebraska to mean “the driver of an ice cream truck,” Greg in Auburn, California, shared that he and his wife used to call that vehicle the music truck so their children didn’t realize that frozen treats were passing by their home.
Sam in Westville, Indiana, heard a woman from Puerto Rico use the expression You cannot cover the sun with a finger, referring to the problem of having more things to work on than she could handle. The Spanish expression tapar el sol con un dedo, or “to cover the sun with a finger,” is widespread throughout the Spanish-speaking world. In many Muslim countries, a similar expression translates as “You can’t cover the sun with the palm of your hand,” suggests either that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, or you’re trying to fix a big problem with a small solution.
A listener shares yet another prank played on newbies: One of the first things you learn in the Coast Guard is that rope is called line, not rope — a vocabulary lesson reinforced by officers who would send new recruits down below to fetch 100 feet of shoreline.
Lynne from Grapevine, Texas, remembers that her parents sometimes referred to her clothing as a get-up, as in That’s quite a get-up, or Where did you get that get-up? The implication was that her outfit was poorly conceived and she ought to wear something else.
In his book about language, A Mouthful of Air, Anthony Burgess offers a lyrical description of the satisfying way that grammar supports and enhances the thoughts we wish to express.
Have you ever googled your own name and found someone else who has the very same moniker? There’s a word for that: Googleganger, a play on the word doppelganger, from German words that literally mean “double goer.”
Synanthropes are creatures that live and thrive close to humans but aren’t pets — animals such as pigeons, raccoons, and rats. Synanthrope comes from Greek words that mean “with” and “human,” and has been around since the 1940s. The Synanthrope Preserve is an audio tour of New York City that encourages listeners to see that place as a habitat shared between human and animal residents. This multimedia project is a collaboration between artist Gal Nissim and designer Jessica Scott-Dutcher.
Anna from Alden, Michigan, recalls as a child looking up the word prophylactic in the dictionary. It goes back to the Greek word phylax, which means “guard.” To guard against tooth decay, you can get dental prophylaxis, also known as teeth cleaning.
Following up on our discussion of the really big word you ever learned, some listeners responded with antidisestablishmentarianism, a word rarely seen except in, well, discussions of big words.
Vivian in San Antonio says when her family returned from a vacation, her dad would announce Home again, home again! Jiggity jig! This saying is actually more than two centuries old, and comes from an old nursery rhyme about farmers going to market, the type recited while dandling a child on one’s knee. The jiggity jig or jiggety jig most likely refers to that motion, which is imitative of the motion of a wagon bumping along the road.
In case you need a word for a really meaty burp — and what nine-year-old doesn’t? — 18th-century lexicographer Samuel Johnson has you covered. In his 1755 dictionary, he defines nidorosity as “eructation with the taste of undigested roast-meat.” Deriving from Latin nidor, meaning “a rich, strong smell from cooked food,” the word nidorosity is rarely used today. Eructation is a synonym for “burp” and is related to the word “erupt.”
Photo by Sarah Hilliard used with permission.
Book Mentioned in the Episode
|A Mouthful of Air by Anthony Burgess|
Music Used in the Episode
|The Gang Is Back Again||Kool and the Gang||Kool and the Gang||De-Lite|
|I’m So All Alone||Dyke and The Blazers||Runaway People 45||Original Sound|
|Up Hard||Willie Mitchell||Up Hard 45||Hi Records|
|Chili Beans||Mongo Santamaria||Chili Beans 45||Columbia|
|Beagle Street Mood||Willie Mitchell||Up Hard 45||Hi Records|
|The Cisco Kid||Reuben Wilson||The Cisco Kid||Groove Merchant|
|Hot Dog||Mongo Santamaria||Chili Beans 45||Columbia|
|Groove Grease||Reuben Wilson||The Cisco Kid||Groove Merchant|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|