We all misspeak from time to time, but how about when we mangle words on purpose? Do you ever say fambly instead of family, perazackly for exactly, or coinkydink for coincidence? When Grant recently wrote a newspaper column about saying things wrong on purpose, the response was enormous. Why do many people find such wordplay hard to resist?

This episode first aired May 10, 2008.

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 Saying Things Wrong on Purpose
We all misspeak from time to time, but how about when we mangle words on purpose? Do you ever say fambly instead of family, perazackly for exactly, or coinkydink for coincidence? When Grant recently wrote a newspaper column about saying things wrong on purpose, the response was enormous. Why do many people find such wordplay hard to resist?

 Robin Hood’s Barn
A Pennsylvania minister is curious about a phrase her family uses: “by way of Robin Hood’s barn” or “around Robin Hood’s barn,” meaning a long, circuitous route.

 Beaux Arts
How do you pronounce the architectural term beaux arts? (Yep, Grant accidentally left of the final S when he spelled the term on the air.) Is it pronounced boh-ZART, boh-ART, boh-ZAR, or boh-ZARTS? We settle a dispute between a New Jersey woman and her nephew.

 Oddest Book Titles
Martha shares the winners of a contest for Best Book Titles of the Year. Or would that be Oddest Book Titles of the Year?

 Takeoffs Word Puzzle
Quiz Guy John Chaneski presents a puzzle in which we remove the first letter of a phrase to yield another with a different meaning. Try one: originally it was a boxing film starring Robert De Niro. Now it describes a head of cattle that’s perhaps getting on in years.

 Natural Path
A Wisconsin woman is trying to remember a term for paths in the grass created by pedestrians taking shortcuts. Grant has an answer for her, straight from the jargon of urban planning professionals. The caller also wants recommendations for a good thesaurus. The hosts’ response may surprise you.

 Military Slang Term “Jody”
A caller is curious about a slang term she hears from her friends in the military. The word is Jody, and it means someone who steals a soldier’s girlfriend. Grant tells the colorful story behind this bit of military slang, as well as the songs it inspired. Here’s a sample of Jody calls from the Vietnam war in Of Uncommon Birth: Dakota Sons in Vietnam by Mark St. Pierre, and War Dawgs: Kulbes’ Mongrels in Korea, 1950-1951 by Franklin D. R. Kestner and James Livingston.

 Target vs. Tar-Zhay
Grant and Martha share more intentional mispronunciations, including tar-ZHAY instead of Target.

 Slang This! with WordGirl
This week’s Slang This! contestant is not just any word nerd. She’s Dorothea Gillim, creator of the animated PBS series WordGirl. Dorothea tries to guess the meaning of the odd terms pelican crossing and zanjero. The new season of WordGirl starts Monday, May 26th, and airs Mondays through Fridays.

 Etymology of “Janky”
What is janky? A Chattanooga caller uses it describe something inferior or bad.

 Big Box Stores
A Wisconsin man wonders about the use of the term big box store to denote the stores of big retail chains like Wal-Mart. Is big box a reference to the size and shape of the stores, or the fact that they sell huge appliances that come in, well, big boxes? Here’s a silly song from JibJab about bix box stores.

 An Outraged Letter
A Pittsburgh man is bothered by people who would say someone wrote an outraged letter. Can a letter really be angry and indignant or is it really the writer who’s upset? Martha answers his question and seizes the opportunity to talk about the four-syllable word, hypallage.

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

Photo by James Nash. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Of Uncommon Birth: Dakota Sons in Vietnam by Mark St. Pierre
War Dawgs: Kulbes’ Mongrels in Korea, 1950-1951 by Franklin D. R. Kestner and James Livingston
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