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Politicians have to repeat themselves so often that they naturally develop a repertoire of stock phrases to fall back on. But is there any special meaning to subtler locutions, such as beginning a sentence with the words “Now, look…”? Also, a peculiar twist in Southern speech may leave outsiders scratching their heads: In parts of the South “I wouldn’t care to” actually means “I would indeed like to.” Finally, how the word nerd went from a dismissive term to a badge of honor. Also, “dog in the manger,” “crumb crushers,” hairy panic, “pink slips,” “make a branch,” and “horning hour.”
This episode first aired April 8, 2016.
[Image Can Not Be Found] Bacon Seed
A listener in Weathersfield, Vermont, remembers going on car trips as a young child and wondering why, toward the end of the day, her parents would be on the lookout for motels with “bacon seed.”
[Image Can Not Be Found] Dog in the Manger
Someone who is likened to “a dog in the manger” is acting spitefully, claiming something they don’t even need or want in order to prevent others from having it. The story that inspired this phrase goes all the way back to ancient Greece.
[Image Can Not Be Found] Bricks in the Sky
A listener in Ellsworth, Michigan, shares a favorite simile from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.
[Image Can Not Be Found] Plum-Crushers
A San Antonio, Texas, listener is puzzled about a story in The Guardian about Mavis Staples speculating about her romance with Bob Dylan: “If we’d had some little plum-crushers, how our lives would be. The kids would be singing now, and Bobby and I would be holding each other up.” Plum-crushers? Chances are, though, that the reporter misheard a different slang term common in the African-American community.
[Image Can Not Be Found] Nerd Amelioration
Nerd used to be a term of derision, connoting someone who was socially awkward and obsessed with a narrow field of interest. Now it’s used more admiringly for anyone who has a passion for a particular topic. Linguists call that type of softening amelioration.
[Image Can Not Be Found] “I Wouldn’t Care To”
A man who moved to Kingsport, Tennessee, was puzzled when he offered one of his new neighbors a refill on her beverage. She said “I wouldn’t care to have any,” which he understood to be a refusal. What she meant was that she did want another glass. Turns out in that part of the country “I wouldn’t care to” can mean “I would like to,” the key word being care, as in “mind” or “be bothered.”
[Image Can Not Be Found] Off Like a Dirty Shirt
“We’re off like a dirty shirt” indicates the speaker is “leaving right away” or “commencing immediately.” Similar phrases include “off like a prom dress” and “off like a bride’s nightie.” All of them suggest haste, urgency, and speed.
[Image Can Not Be Found] Hairy Panic
“Hairy panic” is a weed that’s wreaking havoc in a small Australian town. The panic in its name has nothing to do with extreme anxiety or overpowering fear. Hairy panic, also known as panic grass, in the scientific genus Panicum, which comprises certain cereal-producing grasses, and derives from Latin panus, or “ear of millet.”
[Image Can Not Be Found] Horning Hour
A woman in Bozeman, Montana, wonders if any other families use the term “horning hour” as synonym for “happy hour.” The term’s a bit of a mystery, although it may have something to do with horning as in a shivaree, charivari, or other noisy celebration in the Old West.
[Image Can Not Be Found] Fishhooks in Your Pocket
One way of saying someone’s a tightwad or cheapskate is to say he “has fishhooks in his pocket,” meaning he’s so reluctant to reach into his pocket for his wallet, it’s as if he’d suffer bodily injury if he did. In Australia, a similar idea is expressed with the phrases “he has scorpions in his pocket” or “he has mousetraps in his pocket.” In Argentina, what’s lurking in a penny-pincher’s pocket is a crocodile.
Photo by duncan c. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Book Mentioned in the Broadcast
|The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Zion Gate Dub||King Tubby||Loving Memory Dub||Burning Bush|
|Cork Ball Dub||Prince Fatty||Mad Professor meets Prince Fatty in “The Clone Theory”||Evergreen Recordings|
|Walking Papers||Booker T. Jones||The Road From Memphis||Anti Records|
|Idi Amin Dub||Prince Fatty||Mad Professor meets Prince Fatty in “The Clone Theory”||Evergreen Recordings|
|Crazy||Booker T. Jones||The Road From Memphis||Anti Records|
|Dub On Fire||African Brothers / King Tubby||African Brothers Meet King Tubby in Dub||Nature Sounds|
|The Border||King Tubby||Dub Forever||Delta Blue|
|Take Five||King Tubby, The Aggrovators, and Bunny Lee||Bionic Dub||Culture Press|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|