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Everything is Tickety-Boo

Hello from your friends at AWWW!

In our latest episode, we talked about idiosyncratic rules for Scrabble, the origins of the terms "picket lines" and "hooch," plus why actors "go up" on their lines and what we mean when we say there’s an "800-pound gorilla" in the room.


By the way, while researching the gorilla, we came across many references to the sad story of Gargantua, the gorilla whose presence pretty much saved the Ringling Bros. circus from financial ruin during the Great Depression. It's a wrenching story but shouldn't be forgotten.


On a happier note, many of you emailed to try to help Gayle, the caller trying to remember a term for "diarrhea of the mouth." We'd tried to jog her memory with synonyms like "logorrhea," "tumidity," and "multiloquence," but those didn't work.

Lynn from Tallahassee offered "verborrhea." Michelle from San Diego wrote to suggest "tosis"; she says it's a shortening of "halitosis," and she and her friends use to denote excessive talk. On Facebook, Shelley Murrell suggested "cacoethes loquendi," which means "an uncontrollable urge to talk." James, another San Diegan, reminded us of a quaint phrase for a talkative person: "he must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle."

Though we're not sure why, quite a few of you suggested "glossolalia." This word usually refers to the act of "speaking in tongues," the babbling that occurs in certain kinds of religious fervor or a trance state. ("Glossolalia" from the Greek for "tongue," a relative of "glossary" and "polyglot.")

Also this week, Cathy emailed from Dallas. She was trying to recall the word that means "a morbid fear of clowns." It's "coulrophobia," from the Greek word "kolobathristes," meaning "the one who walks on stilts." Here's a BBC story about it:


If you love Latin American literature, you'll enjoy this discussion in The Believer magazine, which features three noted Latino novelists on how they decide whether to write in Spanish or in English.


What journalistic cliche in the morning news makes you want to toss your breakfast cereal across the room? "Outpouring of support"? "Concerned residents"? A former journalist digs through newspaper databases and comes up with what he believes is the worst offender…wait for it…"at the end of the day."


Behind the scenes: We're glad to report that Grant's visit to Southern California is going swimmingly and we're looking forward to recording the show in the same studio for a change this week. Whoopee! Which reminds us, Martha appreciates all the emails from all of you who suggested where she could purchase a whoopie cushion for the occasion. She especially liked this one from Joan, which features a brain-shaped model. Seemed appropriate.


Call or write us any time with your thoughts about words and how we use them. And don't let the penny dogs bite!

Martha and Grant

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Further reading

Spill the Tea (episode #1521)

If someone urges you to spill the tea, they probably don’t want you tipping over a hot beverage. Originally, the tea here was the letter T, as in “truth.” To spill the T means to “pass along truthful information.” Plus...

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