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Brown as a Berry

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It used to be that you called any mixed-breed dog a mutt. But at today’s dog parks, you’re just as likely to run into schnugs, bassadors, and dalmadoodles. Also, if someone has a suntan, you might say he’s brown as a berry. But then, when’s the last time you saw a berry that was brown? The story behind this phrase goes all the way back to Chaucer. And do you want your doctor practicing preventive medicine—or preventative? Plus, at bay, buy the farm, hand-running, all intents and purposes vs. all intensive purposes, silly Bible jokes, and hilariously useless lines from foreign language phrasebooks.

This episode first aired April 25, 2014. It was rebroadcast the weekend of August 17, 2015.

Dog Breed Portmanteaus

  Don’t call these dogs mutts: they’re bassadors, schnugs and dalmadoodles.

Keeping At Bay

  Keeping something at bay comes from the baying sound that hunting dogs make when they’ve got their prey in a standoff.

Expression from The Canterbury Tales

  Brown as a berry goes back to Chaucer and the 1300’s, when brown was the new dark purple.

Intensive Purposes

  For all intents and purposes, the phrase all intensive purposes is just plain wrong. It’s an example of what linguists call an eggcorn.

Let George Fly The Plane

  When aviators speak of George flying the plane, they mean it’s on autopilot.

Phrases with “O” Quiz

  Our Quiz Master John Chaneski has a game that’s all about the letter O.


  Gawpy is an old term for “foolish,” and refers to the image of a person gaping stupidly.

Preventive vs. Preventative

  The term preventive is much more common than preventative, particularly in American English, but it’s just a matter of preference. No need to get argumentative about it.

Put the Chairs in the Wagon

  One folksy way to take leave after a visit is to say, It’s time to put the chairs in the wagon.


  If the word consecutively doesn’t feel exciting enough, there’s always hand-running.

The Big Inning

  God is a baseball fan, according to one of our listeners. It’s right there in Genesis, where it talks about what happened in the big inning.

Useless Foreign Language Phrases

  My postillion has been struck by lightning is one of many lines found in foreign language phrase books that have no real purpose. Mark Twain complained about the same thing in his essay, “The Awful German Language.”

Whole Nother

  A whole nother may feel right to say, at least informally, and you will find it in dictionaries, but it’s better to avoid it in formal writing and speech.

Origin of “Buy the Farm”

  The idiom buy the farm, meaning to die, could’ve originated from similar phrases, like bought the plot, as in the plot where one is buried.


  Sorry, travel industry PR people: honeyteering, as in “doing volunteer work on your honeymoon,” won’t catch on as a term. At least we hope not.

A Bird in this World

  As members of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club know, Andy sometimes shook his head and declared, You’re a bird in this world, meaning that someone was unique or otherwise remarkable. The expression appears to have originated with the show’s writers or perhaps with Griffith himself.

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

Photo by Liz West. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
“The Awful German Language” by Mark Twain

Music Used in the Episode

Changeline TransmissionDJ ShadowEndtroducingMo Wax
You Mess Me UpThe New MastersoundsOut On The FaultlineOne Note
Building Steam With A Grain Of SaltDJ ShadowEndtroducingMo Wax
What Does Your Sould Look Like Part 4DJ ShadowEndtroducingMo Wax
Way Out WestThe New MastersoundsOut On The FaultlineOne Note
The Number SongDJ ShadowEndtroducingMo Wax
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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