Martha and Grant discuss advertising slogans and product names supposedly botched in translation. They also recommend an eclectic mix of books for the word-lover on your holiday list, from military slang to Yiddish. Plus a slang quiz on the words blue-bird and corpsing, and a caller from San Diego has a friendly disagreement with friends about the phrase bald-faced lie vs. bold-faced lie.

This episode first aired December 15, 2007.

Download the MP3.

 Biting the Wax Tadpole by Elizabeth Little
It’s the wacky title of a new book by language enthusiast Elizabeth Little which has Martha and Grant talking about whether Coca-Cola and Chevy ran into cultural translation problems when selling products abroad. Did the Chevy Nova really sell poorly in Latin America because “No va” means “don’t go” in Spanish? You can find more information about it in Dave Wilton’s book Word Myths.

 Enough Money to Burn a Wet Dog
A caller wants help understanding a phrase he saw in Sports Illustrated: enough money to burn a wet dog.

 Origin of Biffy
A San Diego listener has a weird word on her mind: biffy (meaning “toilet”).

 Gedunk Sundae
A caller wonders about the origin of gedunk, which means “ice cream” or “a snack bar” where you might buy sweets.

 Elements of Smile Word Quiz
Greg Pliska has a quiz about chemical names that should exist but don’t.

 45 Letter Lake Name
A caller asks about how lakes get named, and we talk about a lake with a 45-letter Indian name that may or may not translate as, “You fish on your side, I fish on my side and nobody fishes in the middle.” It’s Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. If you want to know how to pronounce that, here’s the helpful song Martha mentions on the show. It was written by Stephen Willey of the band Shades of Grey.

 Book is the New Cool
A caller from Indiana wonders if the T9 text-messaging function has led to the term book being a new term for “cool.”

 Books for Gift Giving
Grant recommends two books that are great for giving as gifts. FUBAR: Soldier Sland of World War II by Gordon Rottman looks at the language of soldiers from different armies. Also, Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin by Nicholas Ostler, which looks at the history of Latin in the countries where it originated.

 Blue-Bird and Corpsing
This week’s slang contestant learns about the slang terms blue-bird and corpsing.

 Fixing to Tune Up
A New York caller is incensed by the verb incent and a California listener is puzzled when his Southern relatives observe that his new baby is fixing to tune up whenever she’s about to start crying.

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

Photo by NOAA Photo Library. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Word Myths by Dave Wilton
FUBAR: Soldier Sland of World War II by Gordon Rottman
Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin by Nicholas Ostler
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