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Charismatic Megafauna

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Choosing language that helps resolve interpersonal conflict. Sometimes a question is really just a veiled form of criticism and understanding the difference between “ask culture” and “guess culture” can help you know how to respond. • What words should you use with a co-worker who’s continually apologizing for being late — but never changes her behavior? Finally, charismatic megafauna may look cuddly, but they’re best appreciated from a distance. Plus, in like Flynn, gradoo, champing, pronouncing the word the, pilot episodes, and bless your heart. This episode first aired February 18, 2017.

A Snarky Solution to Late Arrivers

 Following our discussion about how to handle repeated excuses from a perpetually late co-worker, a listener sends a snarky solution from a stylist in her hair salon.

“Bless Your Heart,” A Cutting Phrase

 The multipurpose phrase bless your heart is heard often in the southern United States. Although it sounds polite and solicitous, it often has a cutting edge to it.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

 The phrase loose lips sink ships is a warning to be careful about what you say publicly. It stems from propaganda posters from World War II that proclaimed “Loose Lips Sink Might Sink Ships,” meaning that anything you say could be overheard by an enemy, with literally catastrophic results.

Irish Pennant

 An ex-Marine reports that his commanding officer used to castigate his men for any stray threads hanging from their uniforms, calling those loose threads Irish pennants. That term is an ethnophaulism, or ethnic slur. Other examples of ethnopaulisms include Irish screwdriver for “hammer” and Irish funnies for “obituaries.”

To Bat Wings and Eyes

 In the 17th century, the verb to bate and the likely related verb, to bat, were used in falconry to mean “to flap wildly.” By the 19th century, to bat was also part of the phrase to bat one’s eyelashes.

Periodic Table Word Game

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle is inspired by the periodic table, and involves adding the chemical symbol for an element to one word in order to form an entirely new word. For example, if you take the hat from a baseball fan and add helium to it, it becomes very inexpensive. What’s the new word?

Light Bulbs Mean Ideas

 In comic strips, a bright idea is symbolized by a light bulb over a character’s head. This association between an incandescent bulb and inspiration was popularized in the early 20th century by the cartoon character Felix the Cat, but the notion of an idea being bright goes back as least as far as the writing of Jonathan Swift.

More Things To Say To A Late Coworker

 Listeners weigh in on a call about what language to use with a co-worker who continually apologizes for being late, but doesn’t change their behavior.

“In Like Flynn” Origins

 To be in like Flynn means to be “quickly and easily successful.” The phrase has long been associated with hard-living heartthrob Errol Flynn but was around before his sexual appetites and exploits came up in a trial. Some people use the phrase in like Flint to mean the same thing, a phrase perhaps inspired by the much later 1967 movie In like Flint.

Five Minutes Of Eleven

 If two people are like five minutes of eleven, they’re close friends. The phrase reflects the idea of the position of a clock’s hands at that time.

Where Does “Pilot” in “Pilot Episode” Come From?

 Why is the first episode of a television series often called a pilot?

Timid Question

 As the 19th-century British jurist Charles Darling observed: “A timid question will always receive a confident answer.”

Charismatic Animals

 After researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego discovered a seahorse-like creature called the ruby sea dragon, they described this brilliant red fish as a charismatic species. Many scientists use the word charismatic to characterize animals that humans may find particularly appealing, which makes such animals useful for raising public awareness of biological diversity and environmental concerns. Such fauna — or in the case of pandas and elephants, megafauna — are sometimes called glamour animals or hero species. A hero shot in advertising, by the way, is a photo of a product or service that sums up its appeal to potential customers.

Questions As Veiled Criticisms

 A psychotherapist in Burlington, Vermont, observes that couples in counseling together ask each other questions that are actually veiled criticisms. Such indirect communication was the topic of a spirited conversation on Metafilter. Much has been written about direct vs. indirect communication styles, or as it’s sometimes called, “ask culture” vs. “guess culture.”

Pronouncing The Word “The”

 A Palm Springs, California, listener was taught that when the word the is followed by a vowel, it should be pronounced with a long e, and otherwise with a schwa sound. However, there’s no grammatical basis for such a rule.

Slap-Up Champing

 The Churches Conservation Trust helps maintain and repurpose more than 300 churches in Britain that are no longer used for worship. To raise money for the buildings’ upkeep, the trust now offers visitors the chance to have a sleepover in the sanctuary, which they’ve dubbed champing, a portmanteau that combines the words church and camping. Their promotional materials also offer a slap-up breakfast, slap-up being a Britishism that means “first-rate.”

Gradoo or Gradu

 A Dallas, Texas, listener wonders if his family made up the term gradoo, meaning “grime” or “schmutz.” It’s definitely more widespread than that and may derive from a French term.

Origin of “Bangs” in “Hair Bangs”

 The noun bangs, meaning “hair cut straight across the forehead,” may derive from the idea of the word bang meaning “abruptly,” as in a bangtail horse whose tail is trimmed straight across. The verb curtail, meaning to “cut off,” was first used to mean “dock a horse’s tail,” and then later applied more generally to mean “shorten” or “diminish.”

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

Photo by Matt Wiebe. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

TitleArtistAlbumLabel
House of MirrorsDavid McCallumMusic: It’s Happening Now!Capitol
Nick’s ThemeMagic in ThreesMagic in ThreesGED Soul Records
The SmileDavid AxelrodSongs Of InnocenceCapitol
Look How Far We’ve ComeSoul ScratchPacifiedColemine Records
You’ve Made Me So Very HappyLou RawlsYou’ve Made Me So Very HappyCapitol
The EdgeDavid McCallumMusic: A Bit More Of MeCapitol
Neal’s LamentMagic in ThreesMagic in ThreesGED Soul Records
Get Up Off Your KneesDavid AxelrodHeavy AxeFantasy
Mucho ChuparDavid AxelrodHeavy AxeFantasy
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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