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College Slang Party

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Ever been to an ABC party? How about a darty? The hosts discuss these and other slang terms heard around campus. They also talk about mulligrubs and collywobbles, take a shot at a puzzle for celebrity couples, potions that make childbirth a pleasure, and they check-up on old spelling bee champs. And to set the record straight, a preposition as a sentence-ender is something up with which we shall most definitely put! This episode first aired October 1, 2011.

ABC Party

 What would you wear to an ABC party? Hint: the letters stand for “Anything But Clothes.” Any guesses what you’d wear to a tight-and-bright party? Martha gives a taste of the college party terminology from a slang collection compiled by Penn State student Emily Grier.

Come With

 Are you left hanging by the invitation “Do you want to come with?” A Milwaukee native is proud of this regionalism, which means “Do you want to come along?” Grant explains that it may be related to the German verb mitkommen, a single word that literally means to “come with.”

Beautiful Silence

 If what you’re going to say isn’t more beautiful than silence, don’t say it. Martha shares this proverb, translated from the original Arabic.


  you suffer from restless nights of tossing and turning, you may have a case of the mollycobwobbles. A listener shares this hand-me-down term from her grandmother. Grant explains she may well have combined two English terms dating about 150 years back: mulligrubs and collywobbles. The aptly named affliction usually consisted of the jitters, the shakes, or even the yips.


 That little basket that your strawberries and blueberries come in? It’s called a punnet. Just so you know.

Odd Couples Word Puzzle

 Quiz Guy Greg Pliska addles our brains with a puzzle called Odd Couples. See if you can figure out these strange celebrity pairings who share last names. “Anyone? Bueller, Bueller, Bueller” and “Bueller is Bueller is Bueller,” for example, forms the odd couple of Ben and Gertrude Stein. And who else could hit home runs in the bedroom like Babe and Dr. Ruth?

Miracle-Potion Pitch

 Looking for something that curls your hair, cleans your teeth, and makes childbirth a pleasure? A listener’s mother used that saying in reference to every miracle potion from WD-40 to vinegar. Grant explains that the first known version of this in print dates back to 1919 in Mrs. Lucretia Graves’ Exits from the Pearly Gates, where the advertisements for opium-type substances had less cheek and more sincerity. Grant notes that Google Books has a wealth of examples of old ads that took the saying and used even more elaborate versions to promote everything from tequila to hypnosis.


 Is boughten a past tense form of to buy? Grant gives his blessing to its use in informal conversation, but when it comes to formal writing, the word you want is bought.


 What are the college kids up to these days? Apparently, they’re busy at darties, or “day parties.” Martha shares this collegiate portmanteau from Emily Grier’s list.

Prepositions at the Ends of Sentences

 Can sentences end with a preposition? Yes! Grant assures a listener that all experts, including the most conservative of linguists and lexicographers, agree that a preposition as the last word in a sentence is something up with which we shall put.

Monroe Piercing

 Tell your Mom the sterling silver stud above your lip isn’t “that dumb thing.” It’s called a Monroe piercing, in honor of Marilyn’s famed beauty mark.

Spelling Bees

 Though the Spanish language, among others, has its quirks and foreignisms, the English language really can’t be touched when it comes to complicated and irregular spelling. Thus, spelling bees are primarily an English-language phenomenon. Grant mentions a few “where are they now?” stories about past Scripps Bee winners. The common thread? If these kids had the discipline to compete in such a high-pressure event, they tend to carry those traits beyond the spelling arena and into their successes later in life.


 If something is mathematical, is it cool? According to a mother of two middle-schoolers, that’s exactly what it’s come to mean among the younger set. Then again, irony is also pretty hip. But could her kids be using a piece of ironic slang with confused sincerity? Ahh! Meta-irony! So cool!

His Balloon Has Lost Its String

 If someone’s balloon has lost its string, it means “they’ve come unmoored”. Something unusual or odd has come about in their character. Patrice Evans used the illustration in his description of Tracy Morgan in an article for Grantland (no relation to our show’s co-host).

Old Witticisms

 He thinks he’s a wit, and he’s half right. Though some might attribute the quote to Shakespeare, it’s nowhere to be found in the concordances. Grant explains how many of these witticisms have been tumbled about by old newspaper columnists, humorists, and vaudeville performers. Though their origins are muddled, they can still be a joy to hear and say.

Sentence-Initial So

 So, can a sentence begin with the word so? Which ones? So is oftentimes used in place of therefore to conclude an explanation, but more people are using it as a general sentence-starter, in the same vein as well. Grant notes that while it may be grating to the ear, it’s not wrong, and it’s more productive not to peeve about it, but instead to record it and add it to the rest of the data we collect about our language. Ultimately, we learn about each other by doing so.


 Martha shares a British article that begins, “Boffins have discovered a strange new type of spongy mushroom.” But what, you may ask, is a boffin? The word boffin denotes an intellectual with a specific expertise and general lack of social aptitude. Grant adds anorak to the list of terms for nerds with minimal aptitude for cocktail-party conversations. Here’s to you, boffins and anoraks!

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Exits from the Pearly Gates by Lucretia Graves

Music Used in the Episode

Anger ManagementShawn Lee and Princess SuperstarSave The Music – A Compilation For Record Store DayUbiquity Records
TaurusDennis CoffeyGoin’ For MyselfMax Cat
Impressions OfDennis CoffeyEvolutionMax Cat
Oxygene (Part III)Jean-Michel JarreOxygenePolydor
Party TimeRoger Hamilton SpottsTongue SoundtrackChocolate Cities
K-JeeThe Nite-LitersGolden ClassicsCollectables
Astro BlueLord Newborn & The Magic SkullsLord Newborn & The Magic SkullsUbiquity Records
Oxygene (Part IV)Jean-Michel JarreOxygenePolydor
Johnny’s Gone To VietnamCal GreenJohnny’s Gone To Vietnam 45rpmMutt and Jeff Records
YouShirley Scott and The Soul SaxesShirley Scott and The Soul SaxesAtlantic
Trippin’Cal GreenTrippin’ 45rpmMutt and Jeff Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings the George & Ira Gershwin Song BookUMG Recordings, Inc

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