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Hell’s Half Acre
Grant Barrett
San Diego, California
Forum Posts: 1532
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Hundreds of years ago, the word girl didn’t necessarily mean a female child — in the 14th and 15th centuries, it could refer to a child of either sex. Only later did its meaning become more specific. • Some people think that referring to a former spouse as an ex sounds harsh or disrespectful. So what do you call someone you used to be involved with? • The story behind the real McCoy. This term for something “genuine” has nothing to do with the famous feud nor an inventor. • Also, hairy at the heels, Spanglish, nose out of joint, punctuating abbreviations, and gaywater.

This episode first aired March 25, 2017.

Download the MP3.

[Image Can Not Be Found] More Names for a Dad-Focused Baby Shower
Listeners respond to our discussion about what to call a baby shower for the dad-to-be, suggesting Huggies and chuggies, beer shower, beer for diapers, diaper kegger, baby boot camp, and Baby Fat Tuesday.

[Image Can Not Be Found] The True Origins of “the Real McCoy”
Why do we describe something that’s genuine or authentic as the real McCoy? It has nothing to do with trains or an inventor!

[Image Can Not Be Found] Hell’s Half Acre Expression
The expression hell’s half acre denotes a small patch of land or a place that’s otherwise undesirable. It has been around for a century and a half.

[Image Can Not Be Found] Hairy at the Heel
A Courtland, Alabama, woman wonders about the phrase hairy at the heel. Along with hairy-heeled, hairy about the heels, and hairy about the fetlocks, this snobby term describes someone who is considered ill-bred. It derives from the fact that non-thoroughbred horses often have tufts of hair above their hooves.

[Image Can Not Be Found] Hip Hop Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a fill-in-the-blank puzzle about famous hip-hop rhymes. For example, from Run DMC, there’s the verse: “I’m the king of rock / There is none higher / Sucker MC’s should call me _________.”

[Image Can Not Be Found] What’s a Better Name for an Ex?
A man in Carlsbad, California, contends that the word ex for “a former partner” or “a former spouse” sounds too harsh. Is there a better term besides wasband?

[Image Can Not Be Found] Another Name for a Dad-centric Baby Shower
Responding to our discussion about what to call a baby shower for a dad-to-be, one listener suggests the term bro bath.

[Image Can Not Be Found] Spanglish at the Border
A man who divides his time between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, wonders if linguistic mixtures similar to Spanglish arise at other borders. Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language by Ilan Stavans, offers a look at this phenomenon.

[Image Can Not Be Found] Hindi Strength Proverb
A Hindi proverb that means “unity is strength” literally translates as “one and one make eleven.”

[Image Can Not Be Found] Periods in Acronyms?
Why, when writing out an abbreviated name like NATO for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, don’t we use periods between the letters to form the acronym or initialism?

[Image Can Not Be Found] Name for the Place Where You Scatter Ashes
When someone’s buried in a cemetery, you can visit their grave. But what do you call the place where you go to visit someone’s scattered ashes? Listeners ponder that question on our Facebook group.

[Image Can Not Be Found] “Girl” Used to Mean Either Gender
Hundreds of years ago, the word girl could refer to a child of either gender, and the word boy applied specifically to a servant. The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary is a useful resource for understanding which terms were in common use during what period.

[Image Can Not Be Found] Yet Another Baby Shower for Dad Name
A listener suggests a sartorial twist on our conversation about baby showers for dads-to-be.

[Image Can Not Be Found] Nose Out of Joint
Why, when someone’s unhappy about something, do we say someone’s nose is out of joint or out of socket?

[Image Can Not Be Found] Wetting a Baby’s Head
A man in Devon, England, notes that where he lives, wetting the baby’s head is a term for celebrating the birth of a baby, and involves taking the man out to a pub for copious amounts of beer.

[Image Can Not Be Found] Chop Chop Wiki Wiki
A San Diego, California, guy says his high school history teacher used the phrase chop chop wiki wiki meaning “Hurry up!” The first part of this phrase comes from similar-sounding Cantonese words — the source also of the chop in chopsticks — and the second half comes from a Hawaiian word that means “quick,” the same as found in the name of the online reference that can be edited quickly, Wikipedia.

[Image Can Not Be Found] Gaywater
Gaywater is not the opposite of conversion therapy. It’s a southern American term for whiskey, especially the illegal kind.

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

Photo by Bureau of Land Management. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language
The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
The In Crowd The Ramsey Lewis Trio The In Crowd Argo Records
Nose Job James Brown Ain’t It Funky King Records
Slippin’ Into Darkness The Ramsey Lewis Trio Upendo Ni Pamoja Columbia
Listen Here Gene Harris Gene Harris of The Three Sounds Blue Note
Wade In The Water Ramsey Lewis Wade In The Water Cadet
Funky Drummer James Brown Funky Drummer King Records
Summer Breeze Ramsey Lewis Solar Wind Columbia
Tensity Cannonball Adderly The Cannonball Adderly Quintet and Orchestra Capitol Records
Black Messiah Cannonball Adderly Black Messiah Capitol Records
Volcano Vapes Sure Fire Soul Ensemble Out On The Coast Colemine Records
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Concerning “Hell’s Half-Acre”, my grandfather and his brother had a land dispute that went to court. The judge’s solution was for both of them to back off five feet from the disputed line and each build their own fence. The only use that land saw for a long time was my mother riding her horse on the “Devil Land”. Since then, the current landowners decided to clear out the brush and fences and put up a new one. They may be violating the 80- or 90-year-old court order. But, since neither is contesting it, everything is currently fine.

Concerning “Hairy at the Heel”, when our family showed horses 40 to 45 years ago, we trimmed the hair off of their lower legs including the fetlocks. We also trimmed their forelocks and the portion of their mane under the bridle. In the quarter-horse breed, they sometimes completely cut the mane off–a “roach”.

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