Take a look back at some notable words and phrases from 2017: Remember path of totality? How about milkshake duck? Also, a committee has to choose a new mascot for a school’s sports teams. They want to call them the Knights, as in the fighters in shining armor. But is the word knight gender-neutral? • A Spanish-speaking man tries in vain to correct peoples’ mispronunciation of his first name. But should he bother? • Also, daylighting, a grammagram, an anagram, serendipity, fidget spinner, sports dictionaries, and brand spanking new.

This episode first aired December 16, 2017.

Download the MP3.

 2017 Words of the Year
Grant reviews notable words and phrases from 2017. One is path of totality, meaning the part of the earth completely covered in shadow when the moon blocks the sun. Another is milkshake duck, which arose from a tweet by Australian cartoonist Ben Ward. Milkshake duck encapsulates the idea that in the age of social media, people can become suddenly famous and admired, only to suffer a swift fall when unsavory information about them swiftly comes to light. Ward’s popular comic strip is called “One Giant Hand.”

 Is “Knight” Gender-Neutral?
A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, woman serves on a committee that is choosing a new school. Some members propose calling their sports teams the Steel Knights. But is the term knight gender-neutral?

 Daylighting Rivers
Daylighting refers to uncovering built-over rivers and streams and reintegrating them into the urban landscape.

 Bullseye Origin
An eight-year-old from San Diego wonders about the origin of the term bullseye.

 Britney Spears Anagram
The name Britney Spears anagrams to the name a certain Protestant denomination.

 Band or Short Story? A Word Game
Great news! You have a 50 percent chance of getting all of the answers to Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s “Band or Short Story?” puzzle. For example, is “My Life with The Thrill Kill Kult” an electronic industrial rock band or the title of a short story?

 Are There Such Things as Perfect Synonyms?
Can words ever be perfect synonyms? No. Words can have approximate synonyms, but there are always shades of implicit and explicit meaning. Consider, for example, the terms butt and derrière. Although both refer to the same part of the anatomy, they carry different connotations.

 MT Means Empty
A winemaker in Suttons Bay, Michigan, reports that he and his coworkers indicate that a vat contains no wine by marking it with the letters MT, which when pronounced together, sound like the word empty. Such a combination of letters is a kind of rebus known as a grammagram or gramogram.

 What Does “Souge” Mean?
A North Carolina man moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, and encountered puzzlement when he used the word souge to mean plunge into water or immerse abruptly. More often spelled souse, this term is more likely to be heard in the Southern U.S.

 Gas Station Serendipity
A lexical lagniappe at a gas pump leads to a discussion of the word serendipity, coined by 18th-century writer Horace Walpole.

 The Spanking in Brand Spanking New
The spanking in the phrase brand spanking new has been used as an intensifier since the 16th century and may be related to a Danish word meaning to strut.

 Suggestions for a Word Meaning “Nervous Anticipation”
Listeners write in with suggestions for a young caller’s request for a single term to describe someone in a state of nervous anticipation. They propose aflutter, atwitter, nervousited, happrehensive, and a noun form, antrepidation.

 Should You Correct People Who Mispronounce Your Name?
A Corpus Christi, Texas, man named Luis is exasperated when people insist on pronouncing his name LOO-iss rather than loo-EES, which is the way he prefers and which reflects his Spanish-speaking heritage. He’s well within his rights to correct them.

 “Fidget Spinner” for Word fo the Year?
One term that rose to prominence in 2017: fidget spinner.

 Sports Dictionaries for Radio Readers
The KPBS Radio Reading Service provides audio recordings of daily newspapers for the visually impaired. A volunteer who reads for the service has trouble understanding some of the jargon from the sports pages. Good references for the language of sports include The Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson, the Dictionary of Sports and Games Technology by Adrian Room, and A Dictionary of Sports Studies by Alan Tomlinson. In addition, OneLook dictionary search lets you search several dictionaries at once.

 Joe Moore Mojo
A listener in Enterprise, Alabama, recalls that when a storm was approaching his grandfather would say “It’s going to come up a Joe Moore.” The slang term Joe Moore comes from the word mojo, meaning a magic spell or magic power. By metathesis, which is what linguists call the transposition of letters or sounds in a word, mojo became jomo, and ultimately Joe Moore.

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

Photo by Emilio Küffer. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

The Dickson Baseball Dictionary
A Dictionary of Sports Studies
Dictionary of Sports and Games Technology

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
I Remember You Ponderosa Twins Plus One 2+2+1 = Ponderosa Twins Plus One Horoscope Records
Father, I Stretch My Hands Pastor TL Barrett Do Not Pass Me By Gospel Roots
Bound Ponderosa Twins Plus One 2+2+1 = Ponderosa Twins Plus One Horoscope Records
Crossfire The Cabildos Cross Fire Vroommm
Don’t Pass Me By Pastor TL Barrett Do Not Pass Me By Gospel Roots
Cisco Kid Reuben Wilson The Cisco Kid Groove Merchant
Barrio Bueno The Cabildos Cross Fire Vroommm
Superfly Reuben Wilson The Cisco Kid Groove Merchant
Volcano Vapes Sure Fire Soul Ensemble Out On The Coast Colemine Records
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