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Busted Melon

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When writing textbooks about slavery, which words best reflect its cold, hard reality? Some historians are dropping the word slave in favor of terms like enslaved person and captive, arguing that these terms are more accurate. And raising a bilingual child is tough enough, but what about teaching them three languages? It’s an ambitious goal, but there’s help if you want to try. Plus, a class of sixth-graders wonders about the playful vocabulary of The Lord of the Rings. Where did Tolkien come up with this stuff? Also, funny school mascots, grawlixes, “that melon’s busted,” attercop, Tomnoddy, purgolders, and dolly vs. trolley vs. hand truck.

This episode first aired December 4, 2015. It was rebroadcast the weekends of October 3, 2106, and June 4, 2018.

Macon Whoopie

 In an earlier episode, we discussed funny school mascot names. Listeners wrote in with more, including the Belfry Bats (the high school mascot of Belfry, Montana) and the Macon Whoopie hockey team, from Macon, Georgia.

Pronouncing Gymnast

 A Fort Worth, Texas, couple disagrees about how to pronounce the word gymnast, but both JIM-nist and the more evenly stressed JIM-NAST are fine.

Grammar of Grawlixes

 A musician from Youngstown, Ohio, is designing an album cover for his band’s latest release. He wants to use a grawlix, one of those strings of punctuation marks that substitute for profanity. “Beetle Bailey” cartoonist Mort Walker coined the term, but is there a grammar of grawlixes?

Attempted Trademarks Word Quiz

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a puzzle about words and phrases that people have tried to trademark, including a two-word phrase indicating that someone’s employment has been terminated, which a certain presidential candidate tried unsuccessfully to claim as his own.

Raising Multilingual Children

 He’s a native English speaker who’s fluent in Spanish. She grew up in Cameroon speaking French. They’re planning a family, and hoping to raise their children to speak all three. What are the best strategies for teaching children to speak more than two languages? The Multilingual Children’s Association offers helpful tips.

Sacred Heart Breakers

 Offbeat mascot names from Montana include the Powell County Wardens (so named because the high school is in the same county as the Montana State Prison), and the Missoula Loyola Sacred Heart Breakers.

Seen From a Galloping Horse

 Growing up in Jamaica, a woman used to hear her fashion-designer mother invoke this phrase to indicate that something was good enough, even if it was flawed: “A man on a galloping horse wouldn’t see it.” Variations include “it’ll never be seen on a galloping horse” and “a blind man on a galloping horse wouldn’t see it.” The idea is that the listener should relax and take the long view. The expression has a long history in Ireland and England, and the decades of Irish influence in Jamaica may also account for her mother’s having heard it.

Etymology of Cameroon

 The country of Cameroon is so named because a 15th-century Portuguese explorer was so struck by the abundance of shrimp in a local river, he dubbed it Rio dos Camaroes, or “river of shrimp.”

Slave vs. Enslaved

 The organization Historic Hudson Valley describes the African-American celebration of Pinkster in an exemplary way. It avoids the use of the word slave and instead uses terms such as enslaved people, enslaved Africans, and captives. It’s a subtle yet powerful means of affirming that slavery is not an inherent condition, but rather one imposed from outside.

The Language of Tolkien

 A sixth-grade teacher from San Antonio, Texas, says he and his students are reading The Lord of the Rings. They’re curious about the words attercop, which means “spider” (and a relative of the word cobweb) and Tomnoddy, which means “fool.”  Grant recommends the book The Ring of Words, as well as these online resources: Why Did Tolkien Use Archaic Language? and A Tolkien English Glossary.

That Melon’s Busted

 If you’re in the Ozarks, you might hear the expression that means the same as water under the bridge or spilled milk: “that melon’s busted.” The idea in all three cases is that something irrevocable has happened, and there’s no going back.

Dolly vs. Trolley

 A listener from Abilene, Texas, recounts the incredulous reaction he got when he was in England and asked some burly fellows for a dolly, meaning a wheeled conveyance for moving heavy loads. He asked for a two-wheeler, then a hand truck, and finally learned that they were expecting him to ask for a trolley.  

The Madison Purgolders

 Madison East High School in Madison, Wisconsin, is the proud home of the Purgolders. That school mascot resembles a golden puma in purple attire, with a portmanteau name that combines those two colors.

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

Photo by mwillms. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Ring of Words by Peter Gilliver

Music Used in the Episode

Drop A DimeThe ZouKills Part TwoHepplewhite Records
The CylinderMilt JacksonThe Ballad Artistry of Milt JacksonAtlantic
Orange PeelReuben WilsonBlue Break BeatsBlue Note
Ronnie’s BonnieReuben WilsonBlue Break BeatsBlue Note
BusrideReuben WilsonBlue Break BeatsBlue Note
Makin’ WhopeeMilt JacksonThe Ballad Artistry of Milt JacksonAtlantic
Love BugReuben WilsonBlue Break BeatsBlue Note
Blue ModeReuben WilsonBlue Break BeatsBlue Note
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleUnreleasedColemine Records

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