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Crusticles and Fenderbergs

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A second-generation Filipino-American finds that when he speaks English, his personality is firm, direct, and matter-of-fact. But when he speaks with family members in Tagalog, he feels more soft-spoken, kind, and respectful. Research shows that when our linguistic context shifts, so does our sense of culture. • Why do we describe movies that are humorously exaggerated and over-the-top as “campy”? This type of “camp” isn’t where your parents sent you for the summer. It derives from slang in the gay community. • If someone looks after another person, do you call them a caregiver or a caretaker? • Plus crusticles, screenhearthing, growlery and boudoir, krexing, delope, and go do-do. This episode first aired February 10, 2018.

Zoning Out at the Computer Until the Only Light is Your Screen

 Is there a word to describe focusing so intently on your computer that you don’t notice the sun has gone down and the only light in your room is from your computer screen? A Twitter user suggests the neologism screenhearthing. Or is there a better word? Screensetting, perhaps? The English word focus, by the way, derives from Latin focus, meaning hearth or fireplace.

Wheel Well Ice Chunks

 A deckhand on the Lake Champlain ferry in Burlington, Vermont, wonders if there’s a word for those accumulated chunks of ice in the wheel wells of cars. He calls them crusticles, but as we’ve discussed before, they go by lots of names, including snow snot, fenderbergs, carsicles, slush puppies, and kickies.


 Charles Dickens is credited with the first known use of the term growlery to mean a person’s private sitting room or a place to retreat when one is in a bad mood. Long before that, the French were using the term boudoir for something similar. Boudoir comes from bouder, meaning to sulk.

Slammed Meaning Busy

 A worker in Montgomery, Alabama, doctor’s office reports that when the office is extremely busy, she and her colleagues will say “We’re slammin‘” or “We’re slammed.” It’s a common expression in the restaurant business.

Altered Signs

 Members of our Facebook group have been sharing stories of signs altered in funny ways, such as the one that someone with a can of spray paint changed from “No Logging Allowed” to “No Flogging Allowed.”

Milk or Sugar Coffee Cup Quiz

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s “coffee cup” quiz requires the addition of the letters M (as in milk) or S (as in sugar) to a word to form another word that fits a clue. For example, if the original word is cap, but what he’s looking for is a place to pitch his tent, which letter would you add?

Are We Different People When We Speak Different Languages?

 A New York City man who grew up speaking both English and Tagalog reports an experience common to bilinguals: his behavior and emotions tend to shift when he’s speaking one language as opposed to the other. Two good books on the topic: Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism by Francois Grosjean and Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez.

A Rising in My Leader

 A Huntsville, Alabama, physical therapist notes that patients with a hamstring cramp will sometimes say “I’ve got a rising in my leader.” Rising is a dialect term for swelling, and leader is a dialect term for tendon or muscle, perhaps inspired by the old use of the term leader for the ropy stalk of a plant. Another dialectal term for a medical condition is the sugar, which means diabetes.

Caregiver vs. Caretaker

 What’s the difference, if any, between a caregiver and a caretaker? Generally in the United States, a caretaker is someone who tends property; a caregiver looks after a person. The term caregiver is far more recent.

Even More Grammagrams

 Our discussion about grammagrams prompts listeners to send in several more stories from their workplaces. A high-school drama teacher in Arlington, Texas, reports that in the theater world, the letter Q is scribbled in scripts to mean cue.  A plumber points out that pipes that are Y-shaped are called wyes. A Virginia man who works in a shipyard that refuels nuclear submarines says that because the abbreviation for bill of materials is BOM, he and his colleagues joke about exploding nuclear BOMs. It’s not really a grammagram but we like it!

Origins of “Camp” and “Campy”

 The noun camp and the adjective campy refer to movies, theater, or a style or an exaggerated manner of creative or personal expression that combines high and low elements of culture. These terms were first used in the underground gay community, and may have originated from French se camper, which means to strike a pose. Camp was introduced into mainstream discourse by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp.”


 Delope is a term used in duelling that to throw away one’s shot. Incidentally, before taking office, elected officials in Kentucky, including notary publics, must swear they have never fought in a duel.

Calling a Criminal or a Suspect “Gentleman”

 A listener in Richmond, Virginia, is bothered by the overuse of the word gentleman, as when media outlets report that police have apprehended the gentleman suspected of committing a heinous crime.

Go Do Do in Louisiana

 A new arrival to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is curious about a phrase used by her husband’s family: go do-do /DOH-doh/, for go to sleep. It’s from French dormir, to sleep. Grant recommends the Dictionary of Louisiana French: As Spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Indian Communities.


 Krex is a dialectal term, probably from German, that means to grumble or complain.

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

Photo by Kate Brady. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism
Hunger of Memory
Dictionary of Louisiana French: As Spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Indian Communities

Music Used in the Episode

Crash CourseKeith MansfieldVivid UnderscoresKPM Music
Beat GenerationI Mark 4I Mark 4Nelson Records
Police CarDave RichmondDramaKPM Music
Miami HeatRalph Benatar and Lionel McCormick Beat-ActionRKM
Coming On StrongDuncan LamontLinks, Bridges, and StingsKPM Music
Just For LoveJohn SlusznyBeat-ActionRKM
Corsa MortaleI Mark 4I Mark 4Nelson Records
Suoni ModerniI Mark 4I Mark 4Nelson Records
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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