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Blue Streak

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How long can a newly married woman be called a bride? Does bride apply only as long as her wedding day, or does it extend right on through the couple’s silver anniversary and beyond? Plus, insightful advice about writing from a Pulitzer winner: Observe carefully, find what you’re uniquely qualified to say, and give voice to your own astonishment. And names of minor-league baseball teams are often a playful combination of nearby industries and a formidable animal. For example, where do the locals root for the Iron Pigs? Also, frunk and froot, left in the lurch, a riddle from Leonardo da Vinci, an onomastic puzzle, Pepper Alley, grocery store vs. food store, get the goody out, and lots more.

This episode first aired August 13, 2022.

Junk in the Frunk

 In an electric car, the trunk is in the front, not the back. Automotive engineers refer to this part of the vehicle as the frunk, a portmanteau of front and trunk. For a while, the Jaguar company, which is based in the UK, instead called it the froot, a combination of front and boot.

How Long is a Bride a Bride?

 Candace from Berea, Kentucky, got married a few weeks ago and wonders: At what point does a person start being a bride? When, if ever, do they stop being a bride?

Left in the Lurch

 A restaurant manager in Kokomo, Indiana, had an employee who failed to show up for work. This left him wondering about the phrase left in the lurch. It probably derives from an old game similar to backgammon called lourche, the object of which is to one’s opponent behind on the board, or in other words, to leave them in the lurch. In Old French, lourche means “deceived,” “embarrassed,” “trapped,” or “duped,” and also came to mean “a place where hunters lie in wait.”

Da Vinci Riddle

 In Leonardo da Vinci, biographer Walter Isaacson notes that da Vinci was fond of riddles, including this one: Winged creatures will support people with their feathers.

Minor-League Baseball Team Word Game

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski pitches a puzzle about the names of minor-league baseball teams. For example, which team’s name might refer either to a type of weather phenomenon or a wooden roller coaster on the Coney Island boardwalk?

Is a Gaming “Die” Etymologically Related to a Metalworking “Die”?

 When Julius Caesar chose to cross the Rubicon River and march against his rival in Rome, he supposedly said Alea jacta est, or “The die is cast,” indicating that at that point, there was no going back. The phrase is a reference to rolling a die, but does that kind of die have anything to do with modern-day metallurgy and in which one casts a die?

I’m the One Milking This Duck!

 If you need a way to urge someone to butt out of your business or stop telling you how to do something, you can always retort, I’m the one milking this duck!

A Blue Million

 Ian in Clyde, North Carolina, is puzzled when a colleague uses the term blue million, meaning “a large amount.” Along with words like zillion and gazillion, this expression functions as an indefinite hyperbolic numeral. Sometimes the word blue serves as an intensifier, as in true blue, meaning “steadfastly loyal” and blue streak, which, when used in reference to cursing, suggests a large quantity of coarse language. Similarly, the blue fires of hell intensifies the expression the fires of hell.

Hind Wheels of Destruction

 You look like the hind wheels of destruction means “You look terrible!” An earlier version is the hind wheels of bad luck.

Q: “Could I Be A Writer?” A: “Do You Like Sentences?”

 In 1975, Annie Dillard won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction for her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Amazon|Bookshop). A few years later, she wrote an essay in The New York Times with advice for writers and artists, calling on them to observe the world attentively and write with urgency.

Where Do People Call a Grocery Store a “Food Store”?

 Polly from Issaquah, Washington, grew up in Washington, D.C., where she and her family used the term food store to mean “grocery store.” However, a friend from the Midwest teases her about this. Does anyone else call a grocery store a food store? Based on research from the Linguistic Atlas Project, plus anecdotal evidence in response to her question on our Facebook group, it’s clear that food store is used more often by people from the East Coast of the United States down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Pepper Alley

 A kindergartener misunderstands the name of an event at his school, insisting to his mother that he attended a pepper alley, not a pep rally. Let’s hope that’s the case, because pepper alley is actually 19th-century boxing slang for being peppered with punches, but also possibly a reference to London’s Pepper Alley, notorious for brawls and debauchery.

Get the Goody Out

 Amelia in Arlington, Virginia, was surprised to hear her wife, who is from Iowa, use the phrase getting the goody out to describe someone sporting a well-worn pair of sweatpants, indicating that they were continuing to get the most out of that raggedy piece of clothing. Since the 18th century, the term goody has referred to “the edible part of a nut,” and can also denote other desirable things that take a little bit of extra effort to pry loose, such as crabmeat or the yolk of an egg.

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

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (Amazon|Bookshop)

Music Used in the Episode

TitleArtistAlbumLabel
Ba Ba Ba BoomMoney MarkMark’s Keyboard RepairMo Wax
No FightingMoney MarkMark’s Keyboard RepairMo Wax
Cheat and Start A FightBlack Market BrassUndying ThirstColemine
Sunday Gardena Blvd.Money MarkMark’s Keyboard RepairMo Wax
N.B.T.Black Market BrassUndying ThirstColemine
The GradeMoney MarkMark’s Keyboard RepairMo Wax
The Other SideStep DownSure Fire Soul EnsembleColemine Records

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