Why call it a doggy bag when it’s really for your husband? Grant and Martha talk about the language of leftovers and why we eat beef and not cow. And how old is the typical public-library patron? Plus, in Afghanistan, proverbs are part of everyday conversation — like the one about how every proud porcupine coos to its baby, “Oh, my child of velvet!” Also, the origin of the word khaki, the cycling term Fred, and how to pronounce calliope and kyarn. This episode first aired October 5, 2013.
In Afghanistan, proverbs and poetry are part of everyday conversation. When Martha spoke with Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and And the Mountains Echoed, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, he told her about graffiti in Kabul, which sometimes includes verse from the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi.
There are doobies, and then there are good doobees. A caller from Traverse City, Michigan, says her husband refers to himself as a good doobee whenever he’d clean the house or pay the bills. The phrase goes back to Romper Room, a children’s television series, where the Do Bee bumblebee taught kids lessons like, do be a plate cleaner, don’t be a plate fussy.
In American English, khaki has come to connote “business casual,” but it comes from the Farsi word for “earthy.” In the 1840s, the British picked it up in the north of India as a descriptor for their sturdy soldiers’ pants that matched the color of dust.
Do you still take your leftovers in a doggy bag? The term used to refer to a bone or shank the chef would give a guest to take home to their dog. Nowadays, there’s no shame in keeping your leftovers, and that parcel goes by other names, like to-go box.
A calliope — that organ often found on steamboats or at circuses — ends like Penelope, not cantaloupe. The word originally comes from the Greek muse of eloquence and epic poetry, though the sound of a calliope today is associated more with carnival sideshows.
When someone says maybe, are they suggesting an option, or merely being polite? A caller from Anna, Texas, met a Canadian who used the word maybe to soften his imperatives. The same effect is often achieved with conditional phrases: “Would you mind moving your car?” sounds better than, “Move your car, please.”
How old is the typical library patron? Grant shares a study that says Americans ages 16-29 are considered more likely to read actual printed library books and search the databases, and to spend more time at the libraries themselves.
We eat chicken and fish, but not cow. Instead, we use terms like veal, beef, mutton, and pork to refer to red meat. It’s largely the result of the Norman invasion of the British Isles, when French started to meld with English.
In cycling, a Fred is a chubby poseur who’s bought a fancy bike and a fancier outfit but can’t even pedal up a hill.
Photo by Jace Curtis. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Episode
Music Used in the Episode
|Home Cooking, Part 1||The Soul Investigators||Home Cooking, Pt 1||Timmion Records|
|Mo Hash||The Soul Investigators||Mo Hash||Timmion Records|
|Easter Parade||Jimmy McGriff||Step One||Solid State|
|El Toro Poo Poo||Charles Kynard||Charles Kynard||Mainstream Records|
|Little Old Money Maker||The Meters||Look-Ka Py Py||Josie Records|
|Art||The Meters||Look-Ka Py Py||Josie Records|
|Pungee||The Meters||Look-Ka Py Py||Josie Records|
|Step One||Jimmy McGriff||Step One||Solid State|
|Sophisticated Sissy||The Meters||Look-Ka Py Py||Josie Records|
|Borro||The Meters||Look-Ka Py Py||Sundazed Music|
|Micro Popcorn||Micro Popcorn||V.||Timmion Records|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|