What’s in YOUR spice rack? Say you’re cooking up a pot of chili, and you need to add more of that warm, earthy, powdered spice. Do you reach for a bottle of KOO-min? KYOO-min? Or are you going to add KUMM-in? The pronunciation given in dictionaries may surprise you. Also: some people have a problem with using the word issue instead of problem. And if you’re talking to a group of men and women, be careful about using the term you guys. Plus, sharp as a “marshmallow sandwich,” the phrase “of an evening,” what your paycheck has to do with salt, and tips for breaking bad grammar habits.
This episode first aired October 25, 2014.
Cumin, a spice often used in chili powder, is easy to think of as an exotic ingredient with an equally exotic pronunciation. But many dictionaries insist that its pronunciation rhymes with “comin’.”
If you’re talking to group of people of mixed genders, it’s fine to address them as “You guys.” After all, English lacks a distinctive second-person plural. Still, if the usage offends someone, it’s best to address them in whatever way makes them feel comfortable.
Moonglade and Sunwake
The gold or silver light you see shimmering on the water at night is called moonglade or moonwake. Similarly, the sun shining on the water is called sunglade or sunwake.
Word Olympics Game
What word is both a verb meaning “to make shiny and clean” and a demonym for the people of an Eastern European country? Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski asks this and other questions in his game, Word Olympics.
Dutch people are no more prone than anyone else to splitting the bill at a restaurant, so why is that practice called “going Dutch”?
Whitewater Rafting Lingo
Listener K.C. Gandee, a whitewater rafting guide from Bethel, Maine, tipped us off to lingo from his world. Dead-sticking is when the guide is doing all the paddling and no one else is. A lily dipper is someone who barely paddles while everyone else works hard. Dump-trucking is when the raft nearly capsizes and everyone in it gets thrown out.
Singing to Improve Grammar
When you have a habit of using a particular bit of poor grammar, rote exercises like writing out a script to practice may help you get past it. Practicing the correct usage by singing to yourself may work, too.
Of an Evening
To sip a mint julep on the veranda of an evening may be a distinctly Southern activity, but the phrases “of an evening” or “of a morning,” meaning “in the evening” or “in the morning,” go back at least to the 1600s and the Diary of Samuel Pepys.
Etymology of Salary
If you’re making a salary, be grateful that it’s paid out in dollars and not salt. In antiquity, salt was a valuable commodity, and the term salary comes from the Latin salarium, the portions of salt paid to Roman soldiers.
Misplaced Foreign Inflections
Open your kitchen cupboard or a cookbook, and chances are you’ll come across a lot of spices and peppers with recognizable names that you still can’t pronounce properly, like turmeric, cayenne, and habanero. We often give foreign-sounding inflections to foreign-looking words, and many times we’re wrong.
Origin of Slang “Solid”
To “do me a solid” or “do someone a solid,” meaning “to do someone a favor,” may be related to the slang term solid meaning “a trustworthy prison inmate.”
An Issue with “Issue”
A listener from Madison, Wisconsin, has an issue with the word issue. She doesn’t like it being used as a synonym for problem. But the American Heritage Usage Panel has come around to accepting the new use of issue, so if that’s a problem, take issue with them.
Proper Noun Tautologies
Tautologies in names are pretty funny, like the Sahara Desert, which basically means “Desert Desert,” or the country of East Timor, which in Malay means “East East.”
Youth is Wasted on the Young
Let’s settle this once and for all: George Bernard Shaw is responsible for the sentiment behind the quote, “Youth is wasted on the young.” But Fred Shapiro’s Yale Book of Quotations indicates that the history of the saying isn’t so simple.
Photo by EmsiProduction. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Yale Book of Quotations by Fred Shapiro|
|The American Heritage Dictionary Online|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|OGD||Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery||Further||Verve|
|Besame Mucho||Wes Montgomery||This Is Wes Montgomery||Riverside Records|
|Musicawi Silt||The Daktaris||Soul Explosion||Desco|
|Cariba||Wes Montgomery||This Is Wes Montgomery||Riverside Records|
|Wes’s Tune||Wes Montgomery||This Is Wes Montgomery||Riverside Records|
|Don’t Ever Leave Me||J.C. Davis||A New Day!||Cali-Tex Records|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|