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