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Cool Beans

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If you speak a second or third language, you may remember the first time you dreamed in that new tongue. But does this milestone mean you’re actually fluent? And a couple’s dispute over the word regret: Say you wish you’d been able to meet Albert Einstein. Can you regret that the two of you never met, or is there a better word for a situation over which you have no control? Can the word regret include simply longing for something? Plus, a sixth-grader wonders about a weird word on her spelling bee study list. It’s spelled X-Y-L-Y-L — and it’s not just for Scrabble players. Plus, hot as flugens, to play Box and Cox, twack and twoc, a quiz for canine lovers, an eloquent appreciation of libraries, a widow’s moving thank-you note, a punny gardening joke, a funny newspaper correction, a trick with a hole in it, and lots more. Cool beans!

This episode first aired May 29, 2021.

Ramon/Nomar and Eldeen/Needle Name Reversals

  Following up on our conversation about anadromes, those words that form another word when spelled in reverse, two more examples: Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who is named for his father Ramon, and a woman called Eldeen, a name inspired by her mother’s passion for sewing.

“Cool Beans” History and Origins

  Martita in San Antonio, Texas, is curious about the expression cool beans! meaning “that’s great!,” or “excellent.” This phrase was commonly used in the 1980s, and although the TV show Full House may have helped popularize it, the phrase is older than the show and didn’t originate there.

Loof Lirpa, the Ledendary Norwegian

  Pat from Bishop, California, shares a story about a college history professor who gave a detailed lecture about a heroic Norwegian named Loof Lirpa. Only after taking extensive notes did the students realize that the professor was lecturing on the first day of April, and the hero’s name is actually an anadrome.

Xylyl Meaning and Origins

  Olivia, a sixth-grader in Somerville, New Jersey, says she and her classmates were flummoxed by a word on their spelling-bee study list: xylyl. It’s a term from chemistry, referring to a group of atoms derived from a liquid called xylene. One source of xylene is wood tar, which inspired this chemical’s name, because in ancient Greek, xylon means “wood.” The same root appears in the English word xylophone, literally, “voice of wood.”

Let’s Go Twocking and Joyriding

  In Britain, the word twoc means “car theft,” and to go twocking means “to go joyriding in a stolen car.” It’s police slang derived from the acronym for the phrase Taking Without Owner’s Consent or TWOC.

Quizzical Canine Conundrums

  Quiz Guy John Chaneski unleashes some quizzical canine conundrums. For example, if you playfully tap a dog on the nose, you boop him. Change one letter and you have the doggolingo term for what happens when dogs stick out their tongues but then forget to draw them back in.

Can You Regret Not Doing Something It Was Impossible to Do Anyway?

  A husband and wife from San Antonio, Texas, disagree over the meaning of the word regret. Is it possible to say you regret that you never met Albert Einstein or heard Freddy Mercury in concert? Is regret a matter of having remorse for something you did or failed to do, or does it also apply to situations that were always beyond your control?

Box and Cox

  To play Box and Cox means to participate in an arrangement in which you and someone else take turns occupying the same space at different times. This British expression derives from Box and Cox (Bookshop|Amazon), an 1847 farce by John Maddison Morton, in which a London landlord leases an apartment to two men, unbeknownst to each other. By day, the apartment is occupied by John Box, and by night it is leased to a fellow named James Cox.

Hot as Flugens

  Squire in Murray, Kentucky, wonders about the expression hot as flugens, meaning “really hot.” The term flugens serves as an emphasizer or making money like flugens or ran like flugens or even cold as blue flugens. In the 1830s, many newspapers in the United States reprinted a story that defined flugens as “fire” or “kindling.” So it may well be a euphemism for hell.

Why Libraries are Indispensible

  Vartan Gregorian, the academic, philanthropist, and indefatigable fundraiser, raised millions to support the New York Public Library, and eloquently described why libraries are an indispensable, inspiring part of any community.

How Grief Bangs One About

  A 1952 thank-you note from then recently widowed Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is a moving description of how grief “bangs one about until one is senseless,” and the comfort that the gift of a book can provide.

The One About the Forgetful Husband

  What happened when a husband couldn’t remember what his wife asked him to plant in the garden? Prepare for a pun!

Dreaming in a Second Language

  A woman who immigrated from the Philippines to the United States wonders: If you’re studying a second language and start dreaming in it, does that mean you’ve reached the point of fluency? English has adopted several words from her native language, Tagalog, including boondocks, from Tagalog bundok, or “mountain,” and yo-yo, the term that replaced an older name for that round toy on a string, bandalore.

A Scrimption

  A scrimption is “something tiny,” or as described in a 19th-century newspaper article, “the minutest atom, the little end of nothing sharpened.”

A Trick with a Hole in It

  Theora from Hinesburg, Vermont, has long puzzled over something her mother used to say when they were making something together: Would you like me to show you a little trick with a hole in it? By that, her mother apparently meant that she could show her daughter a faster, better way to accomplish something.

A Brown Bear but Not a Brown Bear

  A hilarious news story about a pair of heroic terriers that chase off a bear from a California home leads to an equally hilarious correction about the difference between black bears and brown bears. Big ups to Squirt and Mei Mei!

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

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Box and Coxby John Maddison Morton (Bookshop|Amazon)

Music Used in the Episode

TitleArtistAlbumLabel
The Hen Pt 1Louis ChachereThe Hen 45Paula Records
Cumbia LocaConjunto Miramar, Hector QuinteroCumbias Con El MiramarDiscos Fuentes
BoboPolyrhythmicsLibra StripesKEPT
Is It Really That Bad?Everyday PeopleSuper Black 45Athens of The North
Cumbia Sobre el MarFlowering InfernoDog With A RopeTru Thoughts
Skin The FatPolyrhythmicsLibra StripesKEPT
NeverTony Allen, Hugh MasakelaN.E.P.A.Mercury
SimioloDengue Dengue DengueLa Alianza ProfanaAuxiliar
Born BlackChrissy Zebby TemboWelcome to Zamrock! Vol. 1Now-Again Records
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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