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Beat the Band

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Can language change bad behavior in crowded places? The Irish Railway system has launched an ad campaign to encourage passengers to be more generous at boarding time. For example, have you ever rummaged through your belongings or pretended to have an intense phone conversation in order to keep someone from grabbing the seat next to you? Then you’re busted — there’s a word for that! Also, one of America’s top experts on garage sales is looking for the right term for that kind of bargain-hunting. Is it garage-sailing? Yard-selling? Or something else? Plus, a Godfather-themed word game you can’t refuse. And conversational openers, see-saw vs. teeter-totter, “ledged out,” scartling, trade-last, and “beat the band.” This episode first aired October 9, 2015.

#GiveUpYourSeat Campaign

 If you’re the type of person who wants so badly to sit alone on a train that you have strategies for deterring other passengers from taking the seat next to yours, the Irish train system is onto you. Irish Rail’s #GiveUpYourSeat campaign has posters all over trains warning people about frummaging (pretending to rummage through your bag in the seat next to yours) and snoofing (spoof snoozing).  


 The guy who may be the nation’s foremost garage sale expert called us from Crescent City, California, with a question that’s vital for anyone writing or thinking about garage sales: Do the verbs garage-saling or yard-saling refer to the person holding the sale or the shopper visiting the sale?

The Wreck of Hesperus

 Someone who “looks like the wreck of Hesperus” isn’t exactly looking their best. The idiom comes from a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, inspired by an 1839 blizzard off the coast of Massachusetts that destroyed 20 ships.

Godfather Word Game

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski presented a word game we couldn’t refuse based on the line in The Godfather, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Except in this game, he can’t refuse is replaced with other words that rhyme.

Pronouncing Buried

 There’s no one correct way to pronounce buried, but depending on where you live, it might be common to hear it in a way that rhymes with hurried. As the spelling of the word changed from the original old English version, byrgan, no single standard pronunciation was settled on.


 A mobile-phoney, as defined by the Irish rail system’s new ad campaign, is someone on a train who pretends to be having a phone conversation in order to prevent fellow passengers from taking the seat next to them.

Once More Unto the Breach

 The exhortation in Shakespeare’s Henry V, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends,” is now a part of common speech. But not every fan of the Bard knows what a breach is. It’s simply a gap—a space between two things.


 Scartle is an old Scots word meaning to scrape together little bits of things, like picking the coins and crumbs out of a car seat.

Celebrities Falling Out of Favor

 Bill Cosby is perhaps the latest but certainly not the first celebrity whom the public has fallen out of love with over something terrible they did that went public. Is there a term for this kind of mass disenchantment with a celebrity?


 Goggle-bluffing is the train passenger’s trick of averting your line of eyesight so as to fool other passengers into not taking the seat next to you.


 The first occasion when a new mother sees company after having a baby is called the upsitting. But upsitting in certain cultures is also used to describe a courtship ritual where two people on either sides of a thin partition get to flirt with each other. William Charles Baldwin talks about it in his book, African Hunting, From Natal to Zambesi.

See-Saw vs. Teeter-Totter

 What do you call the piece of playground equipment with a long board and spots for a kid to sit on either end and make it go up and down? A see-saw? A teeter-totter? A flying jenny, or a joggling board? The term you’re most familiar with likely has to do with where you grew up.

Ledged Out

 When hiking off-trail, it’s important to keep an eye on where you’ve been as well as where you’re going. Otherwise, you run the risk of what experienced hikers call being “ledged out”, which means you’ve descended to a point where you can’t go any farther, but you’ve slid down so far that you can’t go back up and try a different route. It’s a good metaphor for life as well.


 A “trade-last,” also known as a “told-last,” is a compliment that’s relayed to the intended recipient by someone else.

What Keeps You Busy?

 We’ve spoken on the show before about conversation openers that differ from the often dreaded “What do you do?” and we heard from one listener who prefers “What keeps you busy?”

To Beat the Band

 “Beat the band,” as in, “it’s snowing to beat the band,” or “he’s dressed to beat the band,” is an idiom that’s mainly used as a positive intensifier. It evolved from “shouting to beat the band,” meaning someone is talking so loudly they can be heard over the music.


 Billennials, or bilingual millennials, is a new term being bandied about by marketers and television programmers who’ve realized that young Americans who grew up in Spanish-speaking homes don’t necessarily care for the traditional telenovela style shows on Spanish language networks.

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.

Photo by João Lavinha. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

African Hunting, From Natal to Zambesi by William Charles Baldwin

Music Used in the Episode

I’ll TryJackie MittooJackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio OneAttack
911 BeatTimmy TimelessTimeless TakeoverTimeless Takeover
Full UpSound DimensionDub The DancehallSnapshot
Pretty PleaseJackie MittooJackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio OneAttack
Simmer DownBob Marley and The WailersSongs of FreedomIsland Records
Loving YouJackie MittooJackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio OneAttack
Tom vs. GaltTimmy Timeless35th and AdamsTimeless Takeover
In Love With YouJackie MittooJackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio OneAttack
I’ll Be HappyJackie MittooJackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio OneAttack
EverywhereJackie MittooJackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio OneAttack
MesotheliomaMagic In ThreesMagic In ThreesG.E.D. Soul

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