In this week's archive episode, do you know the term "bike-shedding"? How about "tohubohu"? The former refers to being inappropriately focused on the minutiae of a project instead of the bigger picture (handy, that), and the latter means "a mess" or "state of confusion." We discuss these terms, as well as the origin of the expression "swan song," alternatives to the word "retirement," whether the word "criteria" is singular or plural, and more. Listen here:
Remember a few episodes ago when a caller was puzzled by the instructions “Call up to 24 hours in advance to make a reservation”? She assumed they meant she could call to make a reservation "until" 24 hours before the deadline. But the receptionist informed her that the instructions actually mean that she should call "within" 24 hours of the deadline. We emphatically agreed with her.
However, Michael Gordon wrote from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to say he'd run into the same problem: "I was reminded of something I saw just last week at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida airport. A sign was placed at the Delta Airlines check-in counter stating that "luggage check-in [was] available up to 2 hours before departure." I arrived just 90 minutes before my flight, and when checking in, I asked the agent what would happen to my luggage since it was past the two hour deadline. He clarified that they could only accept luggage starting at two hours before the flight, but that I had arrived in plenty of time for my luggage to be accepted. Maybe this nonsensical use of the phrase "up to" is more prevalent than we realize!" Oh dear. We hope not!
By the way, one of us here at AWWW is particularly squeamish about violence in movies, but she's finally worked up the resolve to go see the hit Swedish movie "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." She knows the film's received great acclaim, but she's been worried about having to squint through the grisly scenes. What pushed her over the edge, though, was an email from listener Marla Wallace. Marla writes:
"One of the many delights of your show is hearing your answers to questions that have plagued me for years. I first noticed the Irish tendency toward the pulmonic ingressive when I first visited in 1988. I had no idea what to call it, and when I tried to describe the phenomenon to others, I sounded like a whacko. I was thrilled when your caller from Texas called in to describe the same phenomenon!"
If you missed the episode where we talked about the gasping sound heard among speakers of other languages such as Irish and Swedish, our discussion of the pulmonic ingressive is here:
Marla continues, "The reason I mention this is that I think the pulmonic ingressive is about to go mainstream! The female lead in the film "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" uses the PI quite often. In fact, the message board on the Internet Movie Database has a thread devoted to this!"
Well, thanks, Marla! That promise of watching the PI through an entire hit movie is more than enough for the wimpy one of us to overcome her wimpitude and hie herself to a theater.
In other news this week: We're counting the days until next year's publication of "Slab-Z." No, it's not a book based on a futuristic video game. It's the final volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). In the latest Newsweek, DARE editor Joan Houston Hall offers a brief but entertaining look at some of the expressions therein, including "golden birthday," "the puckerbrush," and "the willywags." No wonder Tom Wolfe called DARE his "favorite reading."
Correction: Several of you wrote to tell us that we'd given you a bad link to the story about the oddly named monorail line at San Diego's Wild Animal Park. Thanks, and here's the correct link:
Behind the Scenes: Yippee! We're just about through with our summer hiatus, which means we'll be heading back into the studio in a week to start a new season, this time recording face-to-face in the very same studio now that Grant's moved to San Diego. We couldn't be more excited about this -- and you'll be able to hear new epsiodes starting in late September. Yeehaw!
Martha and Grant