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Dust Bunnies and Ghost Turds

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Feeling fankled? It’s a Scots English word that means “messed up” or “confused.” In this week’s episode, Grant and Martha also discuss a whole litter of synonyms for dust bunny, a slew of different terms for the piece of playground equipment you slide on, and the proper way to refer to a baby platypus.

This episode first aired November 22, 2008.


 Feeling fankled? It’s a Scots English word that means “messed up” or “confused.”

Sliding Board

 When you were growing up, what did you call that piece of playground equipment that you climb up and then slide down? A former New Jersey resident recalls that when her family moved to Indiana, her playmates were startled when she called it a sliding board. They called it simply a slide. So is sliding board a regional term? Yes, indeed. Depending on where you grew up, you might have spent your childhood whooshing down a sliding pon, a sliding pond, or a sliding pot. Then there’s the British name for it, chute, the Yiddish glistch, and the Australian slippery dip.


 You know the type: Those guys whose everyday wardrobes are the fashion equivalent of oatmeal, with nothing fancier than khaki pants and knit shirts. One such fashion minimalist wonders if there’s a specific terms for guys like him. He puts the question this way: “What’s the opposite of a clothes horse?” Martha and Grant try to come up with a suit-able term. Label-agnostic, maybe?

Creative Terms for Dust Bunnies

 That stuff under your bed—what do you call it? Dust bunnies? House moss? Beggar’s velvet? Ghost turds? Those fluffy little puffballs go by lots of different names. But a caller is perplexed by his mother’s term for those ever-multiplying dustwads: slut’s wool.

Three’s a Charm Word Puzzle

 Quiz Guy Johnny C—a.k.a. John Chaneski—works his magic with a new puzzle called “Three’s a Charm.” The object of the game is to figure out the one word that can be placed in front of each of three other words to form three new, understandable terms. Like this: What one word fits before the words “surgery,” “history,” and “exam”? We thought “rectal” might work, but turns out it didn’t.

Origin of “On the Ball”

 How about the phrase “on the ball”? A listener wonders if its origin derives from a landing maneuver on aircraft carriers. Does his theory hold water?

Hit Me Up

 If you’re of a certain age, you may be surprised when someone asks you “hit me up”—and even more so when it turns out he’s asking you to call him on his cell phone. Grant explains how “hit me up” began to take on a new meaning.


 If someone calls you a notorious singer, should you be flattered or insulted? An Indiana caller says he’s hearing the word notorious used in a positive way, and wonders whether this adjective be reserved for describing things in a negative way, as in “a notorious criminal.”

Slang This! with Greg Pliska

 For this week’s episode of Slang This!, we turn the tables on our other Quiz Guy, Greg Pliska. Greg has to figure out the difference between dusting and simping, and between johnny pump and reverse toilet. Those last two sound like things you definitely wouldn’t want to confuse.

Platypus Puggles

 A biology student at Stanford University has a question that’s surely on the minds of many listeners: Is there’s an official term for “baby platypus”? He’s heard the term puggle used to denote these cute little critters, but is unsure if “puggle” is a legitimate scientific term.

North-South Bi-Coastal

 Martha reports on some listeners’ neologisms for the north-south equivalent of bicoastal. So far, their suggestions for people who make those long, longitudinal commutes have been limited to the left coast, including: No-Cals, Yo-Cals, Bi-Vivants, and Verti-Cals.

Etymology of Measure Fathom

 “Full fathom five thy father lies…” When the Bard wrote these immortal words, he was talking about the word fathom as a measure of distance. But a Chicago caller can’t quite fathom the meaning of the verb “to fathom.” The hosts help him get his arms around this term.

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

Photo by Astrid Westvang. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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