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Dust Bunnies

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Is it cheating to say you’ve read a book if you only listened to it on tape? Over the centuries, the way we think about reading has changed a lot. There was a time, for example, when reading silently was considered strange. Plus, what do you call those soft rolls of dust that accumulate under the bed? Dust bunnies? Dust kitties? How about house moss? And the surprising backstory to every man’s favorite accessory—the cummerbund. Also: saucered and blowed, skinflint, sporty peppers, tips for proofreading, and the Great Chai Tea Debate. This episode first aired March 21, 2014.

“Reading” an Audiobook

  Is it cheating to say you’ve read a book when you’ve really just listened to the audiobook?

Chai Tea Redundancy

  Chai tea is not redundant—just tasty. But that doesn’t stop people from debating the question.

Traditional Southern Names

  Long live Southern names! Classics like Henry Ritter Emma Ritter Dema Ritter Sweet Potatoe Creamatartar Caroline Bostick go way back, but the tradition is still alive and well.

“Apps” Word Puzzle

  Our Quiz Master John Chaneski could make a fortune with some of the Apps he’s created for this game.

Original Use of Cummerbunds

  If you thought cummerbunds served no purpose today, wait until you hear of their original use.

Rage Quitters

  Don’t be that kid who grows so frustrated with a neighborhood game that he takes the ball and storms home—you know, a rage-quitter.

Evolution of Alphabets

  Considering that the first alphabet goes back as far as 1600 BC, it’s pretty remarkable how little has changed. Robert Fradkin, a classics professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert Fradkin illustrates this point with helpful animations on his Evolution of Alphabets page.

Authors Against Adjectives

  Oh, adjectives. Sometimes you are indeed the banana peel of the parts of speech.

Skinflint

  Skinflint, meaning stingy or tight-fisted, comes from the idea that someone’s so frugal they would try to skin a piece of the extremely hard rock called flint.

House Moss

  You might refer to those soft rolls of dust that collect under your bed as dust bunnies, dust kitties, or woolies, but in the Deep South they’re sometimes called house moss.

Nobel Prize Literature Translated to English

  Chances are you’re not familiar with most of the books that win the Nobel Prize in literature because most of them aren’t translated into English. Fortunately, Words Without Borders is doing something about that.

“Saucered and Blowed” Idiom

  Saucered and blowed is an idiom meaning that a project is finished or preparations are complete, but it’s not that odd—Bill Clinton’s used it. It derives from the rustic practice of spilling boiling-hot coffee into a saucer and blowing on it to cool it down.

Sport Pepper

  What do you think the chances are that Sporty Spice has tried a sport pepper?

Proofreading Tricks

  Proofreading is a skill to be learned, but you can start with tricks like printing out the text, reading aloud, or moving down the page with a ruler, one line at a time.

History of Reading Silently

  As Alberto Manguel points out in his book A History of Reading, there was a time when reading silently was considered a strange habit.

Susurrous

  Susurrous, meaning “having a rustling sound,” derives from Latin susurrous, “whisper.”

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

Photo by Gabby Canonizado. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

Music Used in the Episode

TitleArtistAlbumLabel
CathedralGalt MacDermottShapes of Rhythm / Woman Is SweeterKilmarnock
Walking PapersBooker T. JonesThe Road From MemphisAnti Records
BathtubGalt MacDermottShapes of Rhythm / Woman Is SweeterKilmarnock
Alive In Dar-Es-SalaamGalt MacDermottShapes of Rhythm / Woman Is SweeterKilmarnock
Spanish NightsGalt MacDermottShapes of Rhythm / Woman Is SweeterKilmarnock
Moving ClothesGalt MacDermottShapes of Rhythm / Woman Is SweeterKilmarnock
CrazyBooker T. JonesThe Road From MemphisAnti Records
Radio RockGalt MacDermottShapes of Rhythm / Woman Is SweeterKilmarnock
I’m Through With YouGalt MacDermottShapes of Rhythm / Woman Is SweeterKilmarnock
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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