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Dog and Pony Show

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Remember getting caught sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G? Grant and Martha wax nostalgic on some classic schoolyard rhymes. What do you call your offspring once they’ve grown up? Adult children? How about kid-ults? Plus, is there really such a thing as a dog-and-pony show? What does a dog chewing waspers look like? Also, the reason the words valuable and invaluable aren’t opposites. This episode first aired September 29, 2012.

Schoolyard Rhymes

 What’s your favorite schoolyard rhyme? Maybe it’s the singsong taunt that goes, “Girls go to college to get more knowledge, boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.” Or the romantic standby about two lovebirds sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Some playground chants are rude, others are crude, and many involve figuring out that whole business about the birds and the bees.

What Should Grown Children Be Called?

 If you’re an empty nester, you’ve probably wondered about a term for one’s grown offspring. Do you use the term adult children? How about kid-ults? Since the 1960’s, the term has also been used in the marketing and advertising world. There, kid-ults often refers to, for example, the kind of grownup who enjoys reading Harry Potter. This term combining the words kid and adult is an example of a portmanteau word, or what linguists call a blend.


 How do you pronounce ogle? Is it oh-gle? Oogle? By far the best pronunciation is the first but older slang dictionaries do include the verb oogle. All of these words connote the idea of looking on with desire, often with an up-and-down glance.

Backward Journey Lithe

 It’s time for a round of Name that Tune! What familiar song, translated into Shakespearean English, begins “Oh, proud left foot that ventures quick within, then soon upon a backward journey lithe”? There’s much more to these overwrought lyrics, which come from Jeff Brechlin’s winning entry in a 2003 contest sponsored by The Washington Post. The newspaper asked readers to submit familiar instructions in the style of a famous writer.

Academy Awards Word Puzzle

 Just in time for the new movie season, Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game involving one-word movie titles that have won Best Picture Academy Awards. For example, which Oscar-winning film is titled with a man’s middle name that means “for the love of God”?

Can Facts Be False?

 Does a statement have to be true to be a fact? When it comes to the difference between facts and opinions, some may argue that facts are merely claims that can be proven true or false. Most dictionaries, however, assert that in order for an assertion to be a fact, it must be true.

Dog Chewing Waspers

 What does it mean to look like a dog chewing waspers? Or like a possum eating persimmons? And what does it mean when someone says, “He was grinning like a mule eating briars”? These idioms, which have been recorded in Kentucky and Virginia, refer to people chewing with their mouths open in a less-than-civilized fashion. In all of these examples, the one who’s masticating is showing lots of teeth — rather like a beagle trying to eat a sliding glass door.

Fancified Traditional Song

 Time for more Name that Tune: What song, often sung in rounds, inspired this high-falutin’ first line? “Propel, propel, propel your craft, progressively down the liquid solution.”

Prefix in-

 Why does the prefix in- sometimes make a synonym rather than an antonym? In the case of invaluable, the prefix is still a negation, since it suggests that something’s value is incalculable. Michael Quinion‘s website affixes.org shows how in- prefixes have changed over time.

Hokey Pokey

 Yikes! Come to think of it, what if the hokey pokey IS what it’s all about?

More on Learning Cursive

 Do children still need to learn cursive? Following in our first discussion of whether cursive should be taught, many listeners now in their twenties say they didn’t learn cursive in school and have trouble reading it. Others view it as a lost art, akin to calligraphy, which should be learned and practiced for its aesthetic value.

Dog and Pony Show Origins

 What is a dog-and-pony show? This disparaging term goes back to the 1920s, when actual dog and pony shows competed with far more elaborate circuses. Many times the dog-and-pony offerings served as a front to hoochie-coochie shows or tents serving illegal alcohol. Over time, in the worlds of politics, business, and the military, the term was transferred to perfunctory or picayune presentations.

No Ideal

 Is it correct to say “I have no ideal” instead of “no idea”? In Kentucky, this use of ideal is common across education and socioeconomic lines. Flustrated, a variant of frustrated that connotes more anger and confusion, is also common in the Bluegrass State. Grant explains the liquidity of the letters L and R, the sounds of which are often confused in English.

Mary Had a Little Problem

 “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was black as ink, it chewed the paper off the walls and spit it in the sink.” There’s a variation you probably missed on the playground!

Agreeance vs. Agreement

 What’s the difference between agreeance and agreement? While agreeance is a word, it hasn’t often been used since the 19th century, whereas agreement is both correct and common. Best to go with agreement.

Photo by Nerissa’s Ring. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

Troubles of The WorldMorris NantonSoul FingersPrestige
PicturesMyCoy TynerThe GreetingFantasy Records
Onsaya JoyGroove HolmesOnsaya JoyFlying Dutchman
Sea GrooveBig Boss ManSea Groove 45rpmBlow Up Records
Funky PantsOceanlinersFunky Pants 45rpmBlue Candle
Sexy Coffee PotTony Alvon & The BelairsSexy Coffee Pot 45rpmOctopus Breaks
NaimaMyCoy TynerThe GreetingFantasy Records
A Blade Won’t Cut Another BladeThe Funk ArkFrom The RooftopsESL Music
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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  • When I was a kid, I learned this variation on the old nursery rhyme:

    Mary had a little lamb
    Its fleece was black as soot
    And everywhere that Mary went
    His sooty foot he put.

    I love the way the last line feels when recited. 🙂

  • Is there a place on this site to see written transcripts of the radio discussion re. The way with words?

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