Sometimes it’s a challenge to give a book a chance: How many pages should you read before deciding it’s not worth your time? There’s a new formula to help with that decision — and it’s all based on your age. • Have you ever noticed someone mouthing your words as you speak? That conversational behavior can be disconcerting, but there may be good reasons behind it. &bulll A punk rock band debates the pronunciation of homage: is it OM-ij, OH-mazh, or something else entirely? Plus: chevrolegs, on fleek, hornswoggle, twenty-couple, coinkydink, and the correct way to say Nevada.
This episode first aired September 29, 2018. It was rebroadcast the weekends of May 18, 2020, and June 24, 2023.
When you say, “I’ll get a ride with Pat and Charlie” or “I’m going to go with Pat and Charlie,” you’re talking about walking somewhere. Other colloquial ways to describe traveling on foot include getting there by shank’s leg, shank’s mare, chevrolegs, going with Tom and Jerry, or saying “I’ll use my pegs” or “I’ll use my ponies.”
The punk band Sacred Cash Cow in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, is planning a tribute to another local band that’s breaking up, so they called to ask how to pronounce homage. Usually, if you’re paying homage to something (using the verb), you stress the first syllable. If you’re referring to an homage (using the noun), you stress the second the syllable.
There’s a story in the African-American folktale tradition about two tired mules named Pat and Charlie. Here’s a version from American Negro Folktales by Richard Dorson.
Judy from Indianapolis, Indiana, remembers her great-aunt Fanny using the expression take a jaybird, meaning take a sponge bath. She explained it as when you wash under your wings and your tail feathers, and maybe polish off your beak. Great-aunt Fanny may have been thinking of the term naked as a jaybird. There are many other terms for these quick cleanups, including Dutch bath, wipe-off, G.I. bath, Marine shower, and Georgia bath. We’ve talked before about another euphemized expression about bathing thatinvolves washing one’s possibles.
In the American South, you might indicate you’re going to walk instead of drive with the expression, “I’m going to take my foot in hand and walk.” A variation is “I’m going to take my foot in my hand.” Either way, you’ll be walking there.
For this week’s brain-stretching puzzle, our Quiz Guy John Chaneski invents some new sports by changing the first letter of a familiar pastime, then changing the rules. For example, in what new favorite sport are you allowed to punish an error by shocking the shortstop or center fielder with 50,000 volts?
Stephanie, a social worker in Tallahassee, Florida, talks with people all day long, and she’s noticed that sometimes when she’s talking to a client, that person starts silently mouthing Stephanie’s words. This may be a form of echolalia, the repetition of someone else’s vocalizations, or palialia, a language disorder involving the involuntary repetition of words, phrases, or syllables. It might also simply be a matter of mirroring the other person as the result of intense focus, or anticipating what they’re going to say in order to be ready to respond.
Scott in Billings, Montana, wonders about the word hornswoggle, meaning to swindle, bamboozle, deceive, or trick. This verb found its way into American English during the 1820’s, when there was a fad among newspaper editors and writers for inventing words as funny as they were pretentious-sounding. Among these were words like goshbustified, skedaddle, absquatulate, snollygoster, and discombobulate. A similar thing happened in the 16th century when learned people created what came to be known as inkhorn terms.
Brannon, a high-schooler in Dallas, Texas, wonders about the meaning of slang term on fleek, meaning perfect or just right. Peaches Monroee popularized this expression in a Vine where she was proud of having eyebrows “on fleek.” She later explained that what she was really saying was on flick, as in “on point.”
How many pages of a book should you read before deciding it’s not worth your time? We’ve talked before about this question, but now there’s a new formula to help with that decision based on your age.
How do you pronounce the name of the state Nevada? Steven, a Nevada native now living in Baltimore, Maryland, says he’s forever encountering people who pronounce the name of his home state incorrectly, with an ah sound in the middle. The a in that second syllable is short, meaning the second syllable should rhyme with dad or glad.
Rose works at a trailer shop south central Pennsylvania and often hears her co-workers adding the element -couple to a round number to indicate an indefinite amount, such as “bring me twenty-couple screws,” in the same way that others might say “bring me twenty-odd screws.” It’s not all that common, but it’s out there. More well-established for indefinite quantities are the terms couple-three, couple-few, and a couple-two-three.
In June 2018, we appeared in San Antonio, Texas, to support San Antonio Youth Literacy in conjunction with Texas Public Radio. While there, Martha picked up the term blowin’ and goin’, a rhyming compound that means extremely busy, booming, or thriving.
Thomas in Bahama, North Carolina, says his father used to say “You can’t hang around the barbershop and not get your haircut,” which seems to be a warning about being influenced by the company you keep. Similar ideas are expressed by the sayings “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes,”
If you wrestle with pigs you get dirty and the pig likes it,” and “Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.”
Sundance from Dallas, Texas, says his family uses the word coinkydink for coincidence. It’s an intentional malapropism, like the playful pronunciation of schedule as skeduly and difficulty as difulgaty. Coinkydink has been around since at least the 1940s.
This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.
Photo by Ian Sane. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Music Used in the Episode
|Kool Is Back||Funk Inc||Funk Inc||Prestige|
|Bowlegs||Funk Inc||Funk Inc||Prestige|
|Smoking At Tiffany’s||Funk Inc||Hangin’ Out||Prestige|
|Comencemos||Jungle Fire||Tropicoso||Nacional Records|
|The Bird Wave||Jimmy McGriff||Electric Funk||Blue Note|
|Tokuta||Jungle Fire||Tropicoso||Nacional Records|
|Chicken Lickin’||Funk Inc||Chicken Lickin’||Prestige|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|