Everybody has a nickname, and there’s usually a story to go with it. Martha and Grant reveal their own nicknames and the stories behind them. Also, is the expression “heebie-jeebies” anti-Semitic? And is there a better word than “retiree” for someone who moves on from a job late in life?
Download the MP3 here (23.4MB).
Speaking of nicknames, the word “nickname” has an interesting etymology. It’s an example of a word formed by what linguists call “misdivision.” More here. If you have a nickname you’d like to share (and hey, let’s keep it clean, folks!), tell us about it in our discussion forum!
On to our callers:
A cantor from a synagogue in Nyack, New York, says she’s fond of the expression “the heebie-jeebies” but recently began worrying that it might be anti-Semitic. Did the term “heebie-jeebies” originate as a slur against Jews? By the way, the hosts mention a cartoon with the earliest known use of the term. You can see it here.
An adult caller from Phoenix is stung by the memory of losing an elementary school spelling bee when he misspelled the word “dilemma.” He insists that his teachers taught him that the word contains a silent “n.” After all these years, he’s still trying to find out whether “dilemna” is an acceptable spelling.
Recently we discussed the lack of a word in English for the act of trying to do in your offline life something you can only do on a computer, like expecting spellcheck to kick in if you’re scribbling a grocery list, for example. The hosts share suggestions emailed by listeners. How about “e-flex”? Or might “déjà undo” do?
Quiz Guy John Chaneski presents a puzzle about homophones, in this case, words that sound just like participles that have lost their final “g,” like “button” and “buttin’.” The first clue: “Picture Vladimir Putin trying to catch a departing bus.”
A woman and her boss want to resolve a dispute over the words “reoccuring” and “recurring.” Which is correct if you’re talking about something that happens again and again? Grant explains that there is indeed a difference between the two words—and that one of them is almost always the right choice, particularly in the world of business.
When a proper Southern lady fans herself and exclaims, “I do believe I have the vapors,” what vapors is she talking about, exactly? A caller from Austin, Texas wants to know the origin of this term. Just how did it come to apply to a whole range of things, from being flustered all the way to more serious maladies such as depression and hypochondria?
A former sociology professor shares a peeve about the language of political pundits: He’s irked when they say a candidate wants to “replicate” or “duplicate” his win. The professor explains why he thinks they should eschew those words and instead opt for “repeat.”
Cities have nicknames as well, including “Sacratomato” and “Lousyville.” Do you have a better city nickname? Let’s hear it.
This week’s “Slang This!” contestant is from Esquimalt, British Columbia. She tries to guess the meaning of the slang terms “white hat” and “necklace light.” And no, the latter has nothing to do with a “Frankenstein flash.”
A husband and wife are retiring after many years on the job. But they’re keeping their options open for future employment, and don’t want to be called “retirees.” The word “retirees” isn’t enough to connote the more “dynamic and open-ended” way of living they’re anticipating, nor does it take into account the possibility that they might continue to do some kind of paying work. How about “rehirees”? Or . . . ?
What’s the nickname for your hometown newspaper? Do share by emailing us.
A Kentucky listener and her husband wonder about the proper meaning of the word “everloving.” Sometimes they hear it used to express frustration, as in, “Why won’t he pass the everloving basketball?”, but other times they hear it used more positively, as in, “I just want to get in my everloving bed and sleep!” Grant answers her everloving question.
Several small towns in southwest Missouri have nicknames. In the text below, the official name will be in parenthesis.
My brother lives in Pin Hook (Pleasant Hope).
I bought my gas heating stove in Dogtown (March).
Highway 32 goes through Pig Eye (Long Lane).
My wife’s childhood friend lives in Hog Eye (Charity).
I cannot think of any others right now, but a Professor at my alma mater, Dr. Jerry (Gerald Leonard) Cohen has written books about Missouri Place Names. He may have some nicknames in there as well.
“Dilemna” is a Latin word which came up frequently in my Latin readings in high
school. That is the best explanation have for my lifelong belief that the
English word dilemma is a misspelling. My wife feels that same way, and she is
a meticulous speller. Perhaps this is a generational quirk peculiar to those
of us who long ago loved or labored through our required Latin classes.
I was very excited to hear the discussion on the spelling of dilemma. I, too, was eliminated from a 1970s spelling bee after spelling dilemma as dilemna. I accepted the correction, but I’ve always wondered why I had been so sure of the way I spelled it. I must have seen it in print that way somewhere. When I told a neighbor, who had won the bee the previous year and represented our region in the national bee, what word I missed, he correctly guessed how I had misspelled it. That made me feel better, and hearing on your show that I have company also makes me feel better even now!
I grew up in central Indiana and pretty much any city south of us we changed its suffix to -tucky. Edinburgh became Edintucky, Bargersville became Bargertucky etc. It was meant to imply the (ahem) bucolic nature of these locales. In urban circles, Indianapolis is known as Naptown. This is often a more accurate nickname than any of would like to admit.
A couple of ideas for the state of “not really retired”:
Renascence: I borrowed this word from one of my favorite Edna St. Vincent Millay poems. I actually thought of renaissance first, but was worried about the confusion with the well-known period of European history that carries that name. Dictionary.com cites one of the meanings of renaissance (lower case initial) as “a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth; revival: a moral renaissance.”
Some word of phrase that captures the idea of a sabbatical: a period of time in which one removes oneself from one’s job or profession to rest, renew oneself, and perhaps discover new opportunities in which to apply oneself when returning to work.
Funny that the “dilemma/dilemna” discussion came up. I was planning to post about this one over the last few days.
In a previous life, I was a proofreader for newspaper ads, and one particular ad contained this word. My supervisor (who created the ad) used “dilemma”, and I corrected it. She called me on it, and went by the dictionary.com spelling, which is of course, “dilemma”. To this day, I still feel I am correct.
So for the past few years (yes, I obsess), I have been wracking my mind trying to think of the word I must have been confusing with “dilemna”. The only word I have been able to come up with is “condemn”. Whie it has the same “emn” grouping, and the same silent-n pronunciation, I never felt as though this was the word I was looking for.
So it’s very reassuring to hear that others have had this same dilemna as I.
Oh, in addition (upon hearing the remainder of the episode), the newspaper was the Daily Union Democrat, or DUD.
I have to pick some nits with your Slang This quiz this week.
You said “Once the white hat set up the honeypot computer, all the script kiddies and wannabe hackers attacked it, that’s how he figured out how they operated.”
This initial sentence isn’t bad. “honeypot computer” is a somewhat awkward construction, much like if you said “pick-up truck automobile”. The word computer is extraneous.
My more significant criticism is for your definition, “a computing expert who tries to catch hackers and online criminals.” In fact a “white hat” is simply a security expert who applies his expertise for good instead of evil.
This usually means that the “white hat” is attempting to find and protect vulnerabilities (much like a sheriff), but these white hats are extremely unlikely to care who it is that is attempting to break in, nor are they likely to try to catch them.
I think “everloving” is a double-euphemism which can be explained as follows: “everloving” > “motherloving” > “motherf-cking”. I could be wrong, though. But I think that when you’re too tired for politeness you may love your bed but you’re like, “YAWN! I’m gonna get in my damn bed and sleep…” I’ve even heard a biker refer to his Harley as “my goddamn motorcycle”; if he really loved it would he consider it goddamned? … Hm.
Man, I love English…
“Honeypot computer” is a somewhat awkward construction, much like if you said “pick-up truck automobile”. The word computer is extraneous.
Kevin, I worked in IT for more than 15 years for a variety of companies big and small here in New York City and I know of at least two other kinds of “honeypots”: honeypot networks and honeypot routers. So, the specification of “computer” was necessary to make clear what I was talking about.
My more significant criticism is for your definition, “a computing expert who tries to catch hackers and online criminals.” In fact a “white hat” is simply a security expert who applies his expertise for good instead of evil. This usually means that the “white hat” is attempting to find and protect vulnerabilities (much like a sheriff), but these white hats are extremely unlikely to care who it is that is attempting to break in, nor are they likely to try to catch them.
In my experience, “white hats” take on a variety of tinges and shades. Some indeed are as you describe, but some are more as I described it. I think my definition is more encompassing of the many types and was, therefore, more appropriate for the slang quiz.
Nicknames, let me count the ways.
I grew up in a family with nicknames for everyone. My father (James Euel) was Porky, mom(Vileta Anise) was Bug (Aunt Bug to all of the nieces and nephews, mama Bug to the grandkids), my sister Christy was Blackout and my sister Gail became the “Little Gray Haired Lady” at Auburn University.
My mother’s side of the family her brothers and sister were as follows: Winfred Quentin was Bill, Louise was Lits, Larkin Johnson was Jay, William Elisha was Pete, and Harvey Lee was “Buddy Pat”
My dad’s side of the family only the brothers had nicknames, his sister was spared. Ulyess Virgil became Red and Howard Eugene was always Bud to me.
Now me, being named after my father, James Euel, Jr. the family needed a nickname for me, but our family doctor came up with one before I was born. He was a huge fan of the comic strip Bringing up Father, with its characters: Maggie and Jiggs. Since they did not know what sex I was to be, Maggie was out. Our doctor started calling me Jiggs before I was born and it stuck. My family, my friends from high school, fraternity brothers and fellow Kiwanis members call me that.
Also, you mentioned nicknames of cities where we lived. Among the ones where I’ve lived are as follows:
Birmingham, AL – Magic City Huntsville, AL – Rocket City USA Nashville, TN – Music City
Roanoke, VA – Star City Columbus, MS – Possum Town Tuscaloosa, AL – T’Town
Memphis, TN – Blues City Louisville, KY – Lou-a-val Elizabethtown, KY – E’town
Blacksburg, VA – Hokie Town Christiansburg, VA – C’burg
Columbus, MS has the Commercial Dispatch is known ad the Commercial Disgrace.
In Blacksburg, VA and Christiansburg, VA I worked for a Newspaper company.
James E. “Jiggs” Haynes
Perhaps it’s possible to run a honeypot that consists of a single computer, but it’s hard to see how. Generally speaking the honeypot will consist at a minimum of a target (possibly a computer), a specially configured router/switch/bridge, and a second machine which analyzes the traffic flows that are sent from the upstream networking device.
I’ll grant that the target computer in such a setup could be called a “the honeypot computer” but it’s more than just that computer that makes the analysis possible, and that whole system is generally referred to as “the honeypot”.
As for the second item, I continue to think it was a mischaracterization of the goals of a “white hat”. In my experience “white hats” do the following as common tasks:
- Search security infrastructures for known vulnerabilities
- Install honeypots and tripwires to watch for invasion through unknown means
- Test security infrastructures, to see if the results are in line with expectations
- Do basic security research to find possible improvements (fixed bugs, better processes, etc.)
I have never in my life met a “white hat” whose actual job involved attempting to track down the specific individuals behind an attack and “catch” them, or otherwise hold them to justice, but your definition makes it sound like that is the most common task.
As such, we’ll have to agree to disagree, but I wanted to get my objections and proposed clarifications noted someplace near your proposed definitions.
Regarding nicknames of things, I grew up in Kansas City. I was born on the Missouri side, but lived on the Kansas side, so we used to always say, “I was born in Misery,” which drives many Missourians nuts.
I also went to school in Manhattan, KS, which is the “Little Apple” (as opposed to the “Big Apple” in New York), but my husband and I would always put “Manhappiness” for our return address on letters.
The last on I wanted to mention is the newspapers. I currently live near Dallas, TX and the (sort-of) rival paper in Fort Worth is the Star-Telegram. We like to call it the Startle-Gram, which just makes me giggle, but I’ve now heard other people use that nickname as well.
With regard to the origin of “Heebie Jeebies” I would like to point out a source that might escape word smiths, but is quite familiar to the jazz-babies in your audience. Namely, a discography.
Many Dixieland bands and swing orchestras have recorded the tune “Heebie Jeebies” but the earliest recording I have is of the Louis Armstrong Hot Five dixieland group dated 26 February 1926.
Heebie-jeebies was a familiar expression in Nawlins during the 1920’s, lending further credence to the idea that it is NOT an anti-Semitic expression and might have originated in the African-American or Creole communities of New Orleans at the dawn of the Jazz Age.