Some countries have strict laws about naming babies. New Zealand authorities, for example, denied a request to name some twins Fish and Chips. • Halley’s Comet seen centuries before English astronomer Edmund Halley ever spotted it. That’s an example of Stigler’s Law, which says no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. Funny thing is, Stigler didn’t come up with that idea. • Anagrams formed by rearranging the letters of another word. But what do you call anagrams that are synonyms, like enraged and angered? There’s a word for that, too. • Flip side, over yonder, kyarn, old-fashioned script, avoiding adverbs, and another country heard from.
This episode first aired November 4, 2017.
Synanagrams: Synonymous Anagrams
Anagrams are words formed by rearranging the letters of another word, such as star and arts. As Paul Anthony Jones points out on his site Haggard Hawks, some words can be anagrammed to a synonymous word, such as enraged and angered, or statement and testament. Such pairs are known as synanagrams.
On the Flip Side
A New York City listener wonders about the origin and literal meaning of the phrase catch you on the flip side. It’s a reference to the B side of vinyl records. It was popularized as part of truckers’ CB lingo in the 1970s.
A San Diego, California, man wonders about the meaning and distribution of the directional phrase over yonder.
Lawyer Up Word Puzzle
Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle features variations on the phrase lawyer up, in which the answers are a verb followed by the word up. For example, if someone’s in his car and trying to change gears, but getting a little verklempt about it, what’s he about to do?
Baby Name Laws
The former student of a Spanish teacher in Valdosta, Georgia, will soon give birth in her homeland, the Czech Republic, one of several countries that have strict naming laws. The mother-to-be would like to name her son Lisandro, but needs official evidence that Lisandro a legitimate baby name. There is, by the way, a dictionary of Guatemalan Spanish edited by a Lisandro Sandoval. A good source for names mentioned by the Bard is The Shakespeare Name Dictionary. Most Czech parents chose baby names from a book with a title that translates as “What is Your Child Going to Be Called?”
Why Did They Write the Letter “s” Like “f”?
A Montreal, Canada, woman wonders why sometimes in old manuscripts the letter s looks like the letter f. A great resource on this topic is Andrew West’s blog Babelstone.
New Zealand Baby Name Laws
New Zealand also has strict naming laws, but somehow the Violence, Number 16 Bus shelter, Midnight Chardonnay, and twins named Benson and Hedges all passed muster. However, the proposed names Stallion, Yeah Detroit, Sex Fruit, and Fish and Chips didn’t make the grade.
Stigler’s Law is states that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. Halley’s Comet, Fibonacci numbers, the Pythagorean theorem, and the Bechdel test all bear the names of people who didn’t discover or formulate them. The funny thing is, Stephen Stigler, the University of Chicago statistics professor credited with this law of eponymy, wryly claims that sociology professor Robert K. Merton was the first to come up with it.
Should You Really Cut Adverbs From Your Writing?
Author Stephen King’s book On Writing is an excellent guide to the craft. In it, he warns that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Much other writing advice also says to cut adverbs, and even adjectives. But is that truly good advice? Grant and Martha don’t think so. Also, check outthe work of Oliver Kamm, grammar columnist for the Times of London, who has found hypocrisy all over the place when it comes to writing advice.
An antigram is a variety of anagram, in which the letters of one word are rearranged to create its opposite. Examples of antigrams include united and untied, and the word forty-five, which anagrams to over fifty.
Kyarn or Cyarn
A listener calling from the public library in Chowan County, North Carolina, says her father used the word kyarn to describe something unpleasant or repulsive, as in describing something that isn’t worth a kyarn or stinks like kyarn. Also spelled cyarn, this dialectal term derives from the word carrion, which means dead or rotting flesh.
Another Country Heard From
A grandmother in Ferndale, California, wonders about a phrase her own grandmother used. If one of the grandchildren walked into a room and joined a conversation already taking place, she’d exclaim, “Oh! Another country heard from!” Although her grandmother used the expression affectionately, traditionally, it’s had a more dismissive sense. It derives from an older expression, another county heard from, a reference to the days when election results could take days or even weeks to come in.
This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|The Shakespeare Name Dictionary|
|Accidence Will Happen: A Recovering Pedant’s Guide to English Language and Style|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Yekermo Sew||Mulatu Astatke||New York Addis London||Strut|
|Mulatu||Mulatu Astatke||New York Addis London||Strut|
|Wings||Peter Thomas||Sound Music Album 5||Golden Ring Records|
|Emnete||Mulatu Astatke||New York Addis London||Strut|
|Yegelle Tezeta||Mulatu Astatke||New York Addis London||Strut|
|Electric Cats||Peter Thomas||Sound Music Album 5||Golden Ring Records|
|Yekatit||Mulatu Astatke||New York Addis London||Strut|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|