Home » Episodes » English Down Under

English Down Under

Play episode

This week, Martha and Grant discuss terms from Australia, including aerial ping-pong, pumpkin squatter, and…kangarooster? They explain the connection between stereotypes and stereos, and why we call the person clearing tables in a restaurant a busboy. Also, what’s the plural of moose? Meese? Mooses?

This episode first aired October 11, 2008.

Australian National Dictionary Online

 Great news for language fans: The Australian National Dictionary is now available online for free. It’s full of fascinating words from Down Under. Contrary to what you might think, for example, kangaroosters are pouchless and feather-free, and a pumpkin squatter isn’t a trendy thigh-reducing exercise.

Faunching Around

 Ever been accused of faunching around? A San Diego listener says her family used this expression to describe the act of squirming fussily or impatiently, the kind of thing that happens when a toddler gets a haircut. She asks if the word is unique to her family.

Plural of Moose

 Say there’s one moose, and then another comes along. Now there are two…what? Meese? Mooses? Moose? A Denver man wants to know the correct plural term for moose. The hosts offer news you can use about moose.


 If Grandma thinks you’re coming down with the epizootic, she’ll probably want to put you to bed and bring you a bowl of soup. But what’s an epizootic, anyway? And does being diagnosed with it make you feel better or worse?

Blank the Blank Puzzle

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski presents a puzzle called “Blank the Blank” or “Verb the Noun,” about three-word phrases with a “the” in the middle. It’s harder than you might think, so play along and see if you can “blank” the “blank.”

Saddle My Nag

 How about the phrase “saddle my nag”? No, this phrase isn’t some obscure bit of jargon from world of finance. It’s an expression familiar to Aussie schoolchildren. Martha explains what it means.

Axe You a Question

 If the word is spelled a-s-k, why do so many people pronounce ask as “axe”? Grant has a surprising answer, one that goes all the way back to, believe it or not, the time of Chaucer.

Three Sheets to the Wind

 If a tippler has one too many, he’s said to be “three sheets to the wind.” But why three? And why, of all things, sheets?

Wet Birds Don’t Fly at Night

 A Wisconsin listener remembers a boss who used to use an odd expression whenever he wanted to change the subject of a discussion. The boss would say, “Well, wet birds don’t fly at night,” then switch to another subject. Grant explains what the term likely means. Hint: Not much!

Aerial Ping-Pong

 Aerial ping-pong: Is it a new Olympic sport? A less intense version of tonsil hockey? Martha reveals the meaning of this Australian English term.

Vigorish on Slang This!

 In this week’s installment of “Slang This!” a contestant from the National Puzzlers’ League tries to guess the meaning of the term vigorish. And no, it’s not a Viagra-laced anise liqueur. He also guesses the meaning of the phrase “how we roll.”

Etymology of Stereotype

 Everyone knows the term stereotype, but did you ever stop to wonder what the word has to do with stereos? Not much, really. But it does derive from the world of printing.


 Why do we call the fellow clearing the dishes and silverware a busboy? A Chicago listener isn’t satisfied with the answer, “Because he’s bussing the table.” Grant reveals the terms likely Latin roots.

Meet Yourself Coming Back

 You’re going to “meet yourself coming back.” A New York City woman who’s always used this expression is surprised when a friend is puzzled by it. Is it really that unusual? Grant assures her that it’s been around for quite a while.

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

Photo by Robert Young. Used under a Creative Commons license.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More from this show

Diamond Dust

Diamond dust, tapioca snow, and sugar icebergs — a 1955 glossary of arctic and subarctic terms describes the environment in ways that sound...

Recent posts