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Care Package

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Sending someone a care package shows you care, of course. But the first care packages were boxes of food and personal items for survivors of World War II. They were from the Committee for American Remittances to Europe, the acronym for which is CARE. Also: Montgomery, Alabama, is home to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice. This profoundly moving structure commemorates the thousands of African-Americans lynched between 1877 and 1950 in acts of racial terror. The word lynch itself goes back another century. And: a tender term in Arabic that celebrates the milestones of life. Plus high and dry, bought the ranch, neighbor spoofing, afghan blankets, bumbye, gauming around, barking at a knot, taking the ten-toed mule, and a brain-teaser.

This episode first aired November 10, 2018. It was rebroadcast the weekend of September 2, 2023.

Care Package Origin

 We send care packages to show others that we care, of course. Originally, though, a CARE package was a shipment of supplies from the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, a group of civic, social, religious, and labor organizations that banded together to help survivors struggling to rebuild their lives after World War II.

Who Decides Decade Names?

 Danielle in Los Angeles, California, wonders: If we call the 1960s the Sixties, what will we call the decade we’re now in? And will the next decade be the 2020s? How do these names get decided anyway?

“Shingles” Comes from Latin

 The painful condition called shingles takes its name from Latin cingulum, meaning belt, because the inflammation often appears as a belt-like band around the torso. The Latin root of cingulum, cingere, meaning to gird, is also the source of cinch, a strap across the belly of a horse, and precinct, an area encircled on a map.

High and Dry Meaning

 Six-year-old Aya in Virginia asks about the expression high and dry. Her family member had worried about some relatives in the path of a storm, and phoned to ask if they were high and dry. This puzzled Aya because she had heard that it’s a bad thing to leave someone high and dry. She discovers that it’s an example of a phrase that can mean two very different things.

Shoelace Express

 Sarah in Fairbanks, Alaska, has a term to add to our discussion about colloquial terms for traveling on foot, like shank’s mare, chevrolegs, and getting a ride with Pat and Charlie: taking the shoelace express.

Cat-Lover Brain Teaser

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a puzzle for fellow ailurophiles, also known as cat lovers. All the answers start with the letters CAT. Try this one: Cats are really stuck in the 20th century, they don’t even order merchandise from websites. They get their clothes from where?

Buy the Farm Origin

 Adair in Fort Worth, Texas, says that her mother said that when traveling a dangerous stretch of road she and her husband almost bought the ranch, meaning they came close to having a fatal wreck. The more common phrase is bought the farm. Originating around the time of World War II, the phrase he bought it or he bought a packet referred to a pilot in a deadly crash. The phrase to buy the farm most likely refers to the plot of land that is one’s final resting place.

Neighbor Spoofing

 Neighbor spoofing occurs when a scammer makes a fake number similar to the recipient’s number show up as a call’s origin, which increases the odds the recipient will pick up because the call appears to be from someone nearby. The word spoof itself was popularized by 19th-century British comedian Arthur Roberts.

An Arabic Term of Endearment

 Lacy from Virginia Beach, Virginia, says her Lebanese in-laws often use the expression ya’aburnee when addressing an adorable child. Literally it translates as “may you bury me,” the idea being that the child is so precious one would be unable to live without them. A similar phrase in Arabic translates as “may my last day dawn before yours.” Translating Happiness: A Cross-Cultural Lexicon of Well-Being by Tim Lomas is an exploration of positive words and phrases used around the world that reflect similar bonds within loving relationships.

Gauming Around

 When Matt was growing up in western North Carolina, he heard the word gaum, also spelled gom, meaning a mess. Someone misbehaving might be described as gauming around, or something was gaumed up, meaning messed up, or a person was dismissed as simply a gaum. He also heard the exclamation They! used to mean Wow! Most likely this use of the word they, along with the exclamations “They Lord!” and “They God!,” is a variation of “There!,” which is used for emphasis.

Take the Ten-Toed Mule

 Andrea from Reno, Nevada, submits yet another term for traveling by foot: taking the ten-toed mule.

Etymology of “Lynch”

 A trip to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit The Legacy Museum chronicling the African-American experience, the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University, and the profoundly moving National Memorial for Peace and Justice prompts Martha to delve into the etymology of the word lynch. This term for killing by a mob to punish individuals and terrorize communities is likely an eponym deriving from the name of Captain William Lynch, who led vigilante groups during the American Revolution. In later years, between 1877 and 1950, more than 4400 African-Americans were lynched in the United States.

Hawaiian “Bumbye”

 Joseph in San Diego, California, says that during high school he lived in Hawaii, where he picked up the word bumbye which means sooner or later or eventually. It’s probably a version of by and by. For a closer look at the language of Hawaii, Grant recommends Da Word by Lee Tonouchi and Joseph recommends Pidgin to Da Max.

Bark at a Knot

 To bark at a knot means to engage in foolish or futile activity, like a dog yapping at a knothole on a tree.

Afghan Blanket Origins

 Malia in San Diego is of Afghan descent, and wonders why crocheted blankets are referred to as afghans. There is a long, rich history of textile weaving in Afghanistan with repeated geometric designs, and the term afghan was probably borrowed to apply to the blankets consisting of lots of stitched yarn squares.


 If someone is garrulous, you might say they’re talkative. If they like to amble about, you can describe them as walkative. In fact, there’s a Walkative Society in England.

Lay an Egg Origins and Meaning

 Kieran in Huntsville, Alabama, wonders about the term laid an egg meaning performed badly. The expression to lay an egg goes back at least as far as cricket matches in the 1860s, where duck’s egg referred to a zero on a scoreboard. Later in the United States, the term goose egg denoted the same thing. The metaphor was extended to the notion of laying an egg, and not just any egg, but a rotten one, suggesting a performance was bad.

Help Pronounced as “Hope”

 Joe in Huntsville, Alabama, says an elderly friend consistently says hope to mean help. For more than a century, some speakers in parts of the Southern United States drop the L sound before another consonant in words, which then affects the adjacent vowel.

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

Photo by Dennis Jarvis. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Translating Happiness: A Cross-Cultural Lexicon of Well-Being
Da Word
Pidgin to Da Max

Music Used in the Episode

More Than MemoriesJr. Thomas and The VolcanoesBewareTruth and Soul
Pricilla’s ThemeRoy AyersCoffyPolydor
Water No Get EnemyFela KutiExpensive ShitKnitting Factory Records
Make The Road By WalkingMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham
Liquid LoveRoy AyersThe Funk and Soulful Side of Roy AyersMukatsuku Records
Tired of FightingMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham
Coffy BabyRoy AyersCoffyPolydor
AragonRoy AyersCoffyPolydor
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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