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.

Download the MP3.

 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.

 Skehdoolee
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 Broadcast

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

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Knucklehead The Sound Stylistics Greasin’ The Wheels P-Vine Japan
Beyond The Bleak Horizon The New Mastersounds Plug and Play One Note Records
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt 1 Jimmy Smith Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Verve
Soul Dynamite The Sound Stylistics Play Deep Funk Phantom
Grape Nuts and Chalk Sauce Blockhead Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book Ninja Tune
John Brown’s Body Jimmy Smith Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Verve
I Ride An Old Paint Johnny Cash Koncert V Praze Supraphon, CBS
Groovin’ Willie Mitchell Solid Soul & On Top Hi Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong The Best of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Verve
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2 Responses

  1. Saturnine says:

    I just listened to the podcast of this show and I think I can help with the strange pronunciation of “schedule”. When I heard her saying it I couldn’t help but think that it may be an amalgamation of “skidoo” (as in twenty three) or “skidaddle” and “schedule”. This would actually make sense as a bus schedule has a timeline that must be strictly adhered to and the meaning of twenty three skidoo is something akin to hurry up and leave.

    It may also be of interest that if you google “skidooly”, as of the time I’m writing this, the third entry down is a Fly Fishing forum where someone used the word in a context that could easily be replaced with schedule.

    Of course, this may be a coincidence, but it sounds like a possibility to investigate if anyone is interested.

    -Madeline

  2. robsamui says:

    Following on from Saturnine I want to say that  I’m particularly aware of various regional intonations and I am  compelled  to say that Martha’s presence here is a delight – considering the context.

     

    For me one of the most irritating inflexions comes from one part of America (can anyone tell me what part?) that is  characterised  by the rolling together of double-R sounds – ie saying “hoar” instead of “horror” and “tare” instead of “terror”. (Mr. Smith in “The Matrix” was an exemplary exponent of the blurred Rs.)

     

    Martha has a strong regional accent, in which the T-sound is spoken as a “D”. “Hardy” instead of “hearty” , “pardy” and not “party” etc.

     

    And so, on a radio program on word, phrase and  expression  usage and abusage, it is simply spiffing to hear her talking about the gradest riders. Can these be the best riders? The riders who have made the grade? Or are they merely the best ones at riding up steep inclines? (Or would that have been the gradiest riders of all time?)

     

    I’ve just come across this droll and fascinating webside and I shall be redurning in anticipation! There is a whole show within a show here – maybe an idea for you when you run out of topics!  

     

    Happy nooyur,

     

    R