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Who is Chester Drawers?

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Some of the world’s most famous writers had to support themselves with day jobs. Martha and Grant discuss well-known authors who toiled away at other trades. Also this week Eskimo kisses, the frozen Puerto Rican treat called a limber, how the word fail ended up as a noun, the phrase I’m efforting that, and where you would throw a houlihan. And what’s a chester drawers? This episode first aired October 16, 2010.

Great Writers’ Day Jobs

 Some of the world’s greatest writers had to do their work while holding down a day job. William Faulkner and Anthony Trollope toiled as postal clerks. Zora Neal Hurston trained as an anthropologist. Vladimir Nabokov was a lepidopterist who curated a butterfly exhibit at Harvard. Literary historian Jack Lynch tells the stories of these and others in his new book, Don’t Quit Your Day Job: What the Famous Did That Wasn’t.

I’m Efforting That

 An Indianapolis newspaperman complains about his colleagues’ use of the phrase I’m efforting that.


 A woman in Racine, Wisconsin, says her father and his fellow bus drivers always pronounced the word schedule as “skeh-DOO-lee.” Is that an accepted pronunciation?

Beltway Slang

 Todd Purdum’s recent Vanity Fair article on the presidency contains intriguing beltway slang, including gaggle and full lid.

Word Search Quiz

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game called “Word Search.”

Puerto Rican Limber Dessert

 A woman of Puerto Rican descent wonders about limber, the name of the savory frozen treat popular in her homeland. Was it really named in honor of aviator Charles Lindbergh?

Epic Fail

 A man in Huntington Beach, California, ponders his teenager’s frequent use of the words fail and epic fail. Grant explains what this has to do with semantic bleaching, and discusses some funny fails on failblog.org.

Latvian Vista

 Martha has an example of a linguistic false friend: In Latvian, the word vista means “chicken.”

In the Loop

 On a recent episode of Mad Men, a character said “keep me in the loop.” Was that phrase really around in the 1960s?

The Future is Here Proverb

 Everyone knows old ones, but what about modern proverbs? Here’s an aphorism attributed to William Gibson: “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.” The hosts discuss some others.

Eskimo Kisses

 After a San Diego man used the term Eskimo kiss with his preschooler, they both wondered about its origin.

I Ride An Old Paint

 An Indiana woman is puzzled about a phrase in the old western song, “I Ride An Old Paint”: “I’m goin’ to Montana to throw the houlihan.” What’s a houlihan? You’ll find one version of the lyrics here. Here are different interpretations of this cowboy classic by Johnny Cash and Woody Guthrie.

Farsi Pronunciation of “Barf”

 On an earlier show, Martha mentioned the Middle Eastern detergent called Barf. Martha shares email from listeners who say that although the word spelled the same as English barf, the Farsi pronunciation is somewhat different.

Terms for Wooden Dressers

 Ever hear anyone refer to a wooden dresser as a chester drawers? A woman who grew up in St. Louis only recently learned that not everyone uses this term. Two of the best pieces of information about chester drawers and others can be found in these two articles by Allison Burkette: The Story of Chester Drawers and The Lion, The Witch, And The Armoire: Lexical Variation In Case Furniture Terms.

Surf Lingo

 Martha reports that, during her recent attempt at learning to surf, she picked up lots of surfing lingo in between wipeouts. Such terms included tombstoning and pearling, both of which she did quite a bit.

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

Photo by Daniel Dudek-Corrigan. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: What the Famous Did That Wasn’t by Jack Lynch

Music Used in the Episode

KnuckleheadThe Sound StylisticsGreasin’ The WheelsP-Vine Japan
Beyond The Bleak HorizonThe New MastersoundsPlug and PlayOne Note Records
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt 1Jimmy SmithWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Verve
Soul DynamiteThe Sound StylisticsPlay Deep FunkPhantom
Grape Nuts and Chalk SauceBlockheadUncle Tony’s Coloring BookNinja Tune
John Brown’s BodyJimmy SmithWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Verve
I Ride An Old PaintJohnny CashKoncert V PrazeSupraphon, CBS
Groovin’Willie MitchellSolid Soul & On TopHi Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla Fitzgerald and Louis ArmstrongThe Best of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis ArmstrongVerve

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