The slang coming out of Victorian mouths was more colorful than you might think. A 1909 collection of contemporary slang records clever terms for everything from a bald head to the act of sidling through a crowd. Plus, how to remember the difference between CAV-al-ry and CAL-va-ry. And: what’s the best way to improve how introverts are perceived in our society? For starters, don’t bother asking for help from dictionary editors. Also, collieshangles, knowledge box, nanty narking, biz bag, burn bag, yuppies, and amberbivalence.
This episode first aired September 25, 2015.
Passing English of the Victorian Era
“Mind the grease” is a handy phrase to use when you’re trying to sidle through a crowd. It’s found in 1909 volume of English slang called Passing English of the Victorian Era. Speaking of greasy, in those days something extravagant might be described as “butter upon bacon.”
If you’re telling a story involving someone with an accent, and while relaying what so-and-so said, you imitate that person’s accent, is that cool? If your retelling starts to sound offensive or gets in the way of good communication, best to try paraphrasing rather than performing.
Collieshangles is an old Scottish term for a quarrel, possibly deriving from the notion of two collie dogs fighting.
We’ve previously discussed the term “going commando,” meaning “dressed without underwear.” It first appears in print in 1974, but likely goes back further than that. The scene in a 1996 episode of Friends, wherein Joey goes commando in Chandler’s clothes, likely popularized the saying.
A Chicago-area listener suggests that approaching to a yellow traffic light and deciding whether or not to go for it might be described as amberbivalence. It’s somewhat like that decision you face when coming toward what you know is a stale green light—do you gun it or brake it?
Apt Email Address Word Game
Quiz Guy John Chaneski wasn’t savvy enough way back when to snag an email address like email@example.com, but he was clever enough to come up with a game about apt email addresses that serve as a pun on the word at. For example, a prescient lawyer might have claimed firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cavalry vs. Calvary
What’s the difference between cavalry and calvary? The first of these two refers to the group of soldiers on horseback, and is a linguistic relative of such “horsey” words as caballero, the Spanish horse-riding gentleman, and cavalcade, originally a “parade of horses.” The word calvary, on the other hand, derives from the Latin calvaria, “skull,” and refers to the hill where Jesus was crucified, known in Aramaic as Golgotha, or “place of the skull.”
Definition of Introvert
An introvert in Baltimore, Maryland, is unhappy with an online definition of introvert, and is speaking up about wanting it changed. The definition describes an introvert as someone preoccupied with their own thoughts and feelings—such as a selfish person, or a narcissist. The problem is, Google’s definitions come from another dictionary, and dictionary definitions themselves come from perceived popular usage. So the way to change a definition isn’t to petition lexicographers, but to change the popular understanding of a term.
Ann Patchett Writing Advice
Ann Patchett, the author of This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, among other books, has some great advice about writing. She says the key is to practice writing several hours a day for the sheer joy of getting better, and find the thing that you alone can say.
Yuppies and Dinks
Betamax players and hair metal bands may be trapped in the 1980’s, but the term yuppie, meaning young urban professional, is alive and well. Dink, meaning dual income, no kids, is also worth throwing around in a marketing presentation.
Mau It Down
A listener from Santa Monica, California, says he’s going to “mow something down,” as in, he’s going to eat a huge amount of food really fast. But when he writes it, he spells mow as mau, and pronounces it to rhyme with cow. Ever heard of this?
Photo by Vs Heidelberg Photos. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Passing English of the Victorian Era by James Redding Ware|
|This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Heavy Stakeout||Shawn Lee||New York Trouble / Electric Progression||Tummy Touch|
|Street Freedom||Shawn Lee||New York Trouble / Electric Progression||Tummy Touch|
|Narrow Escape||Souls of Mischief||There Is Only Now||Linear Labs|
|A Man And A Woman||David McCallum||Music – It’s Happening Now||Capitol Records|
|Womack’s Lament||Souls of Mischief||There Is Only Now||Linear Labs|
|Another Part of You||Souls of Mischief||There Is Only Now||Linear Labs|
|Rototom Foolery||Shawn Lee||Psychedelic Percussion||Pedigree Cuts|
|If I Were A Carpenter||David McCallum||Music – It’s Happening Now||Capitol Records|
|Light Stakeout||Shawn Lee||New York Trouble / Electric Progression||Tummy Touch|
|Cool, Not Cold||Shawn Lee||New York Trouble / Electric Progression||Tummy Touch|
|Hong Kong Hang||Tim Love Lee||New York Trouble / Electric Progression||Tummy Touch|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Unreleased||Unreleased|