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.

Download the MP3.

 Poetic Afghan Graffiti
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.

 Good Doobees
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.

 Dime Out
To dime someone out is to nark or tattle, common in the days when it cost ten cents to use a pay phone and snitch. Of course, that’s when pay phones were used at all.

 A Tilted Load Proverb
Here’s an Afghan proverb about honesty: “A tilted load won’t reach its destination.”

 Etymology of Khaki
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.

 Every Plate Proverb
“Every plate that is made, breaks.” This Afghan proverb means that all things come to an end.

 Grand Numbers Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a number game about things so grand, words like forever become five-ever.

 Doggy Bags
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 listener from San Diego, California, sent us two terms: pawburst, which happens when a cat reaches out to stretch, and head-to-hat ratio, or the number of jobs one person has to juggle.

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.

 What is This, a Joke?
A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender says, what is this, a joke? Yep.

 Softening Imperatives with Maybe
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.”

 Breath and Britches
Here’s a great Southernism: “If someone’s nothing but breath and britches, and means they don’t amount to much.”

 Average Age of Library Patrons
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.

 Beef vs. Cow
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.

 Unshaved Heads Proverb
“He has soaked a hundred heads but hasn’t shaved one.” This Afghan proverb refers to someone who doesn’t finish what they start.

Kyarn is an Appalachian regional pronunciation of carrion, as in a roadkill carcass.

 Five Fingers Proverb
Here’s another Afghan proverb: “Five fingers are brothers, but they’re not equals.”

 Cycling Freds
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.

 Origin of Bisque
The shade of tan called bisque derives its name from the color of a biscuit.

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.

Photo by Jace Curtis. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
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

  1. hearthstone says:

    bisque 3
    biscuit ( def 4 ) .
    Also called biscuit ware. vitreous china that is left unglazed.
    having the color bisque.
    1655–65; short for biscuit
    The color of “bisque ware” ?

    See “Bisque” at http://pottery.about.com/od/potterygloassary/g/bisque.htm

    Thanks, Hearthstone.

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