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Commentate, Charny, Tide Me Over, and More

Greetings, wanderers, and welcome home.

This past weekend on A Way with Words we wrestled with "commentate," "tie me over" vs. "tide me over," long words, and "biweekly" vs. "semiweekly." We also proposed some theories about the history of the new-to-us word "charny," which means "filthy."


We also helped an Indian Indian fellow--an East Indian--learn a little more about "going to see a man about a horse." He's been holding it in for years.

This week our slang contest was a cartoonist--our second in a row, in fact. We welcomed Zack Giallongo, of Providence, Rhode Island. He guessed the meanings of "hat-catcher" and "to go shucks." See some of his work at his web site:


Last week's contestant was Rich Stevens of the comic "Diesel Sweeties," a bit-and-pixel panel strip featuring robots, irony, and a thumb in the eye. Feels great! Check it out here:


This past week we also joined forces with Anne at "The Golden Pencil," a web site for freelance writers, to come up with a new tag line for A Way with Words. Our current one, "Public radio's lively language show," is serviceable but lacks that zing, that pow, that wham, you know? We welcome your ideas here:


You can let yourself be influenced by Anne's persuasive writing at her web site, where we particularly liked her post about "version control"--making sure you're sending the right version of your writing to the right person. See "The Golden Pencil" here:


In last week's newsletter, we included a long riddle. We won't repeat it here, but the short, non-rhyming version is this: what 12-letter word can be divided two ways to make two new phrases, one which is negative and dark, and the other which is positive and light?

The answer is "manslaughter." You can divide it as "man's laughter" and as "man slaughter." Grant thinks that last answer is weak, since it's not much different from the original, whole word. But how can you argue with a riddle that's more than 140 years old?

One of the reference works we regularly refer to on the show is the "Dictionary of American Regional English" (DARE). It's the sort of dictionary that only our people--that means you, you honking big nerd, you--really get into, but it's not the kind of thing you'll be able to find next to the word-search puzzles at the supermarket.

So, imagine our delight a couple of weeks ago when we discovered that Google Books has made much of volume IV of DARE available on its web site. There are many preview pages that show the rich detail that this four-volume (soon to be five-volume) work goes into. Take a peek at DARE here by punching the "preview" button:


We suggest looking up "parking" to see just how differently the same word can be used in different regions of the United States and in different eras.

Wishing you well with pennies in the well,

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

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