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Everything is Tickety-Boo

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News reports that the makers of Scrabble were changing the rules to allow proper names left some purists fuming. The rumors were false, but they got Grant thinking about idiosyncratic adaptations of the game’s rules. Also this week, the origins of the terms picket lines and hooch, why actors “go up on their lines,” terms for “diarrhea of the mouth,” and what we mean when we say there’s an “800-pound gorilla in the room.” This episode first aired May 15, 2010.

Family Scrabble Rules

 Some families have their own idiosyncratic rules for Scrabble. Grant talks about the rules in his house.

800 Pound Gorilla

 What do we mean when we say there’s an “800-pound gorilla in the room”?


 An Indianapolis listener says her family often refers to strong liquor as hooch, and wonders where that term comes from. The hosts trace the term’s path from an Indian village in Alaska.

Chickpea and Garbanzo Poll

 Grant follows up on his chickpea vs. garbanzo poll, and shares an email on the subject from the U.S. Dry Bean Council.

Initiarithmetic Game

 Quiz Guy Greg Pliska reprises his game called Initiarithmetic. The object is to guess a set of items associated with certain numbers, as in “There are 12 m__________ in the y___________.” Here’s another: “76 t___________ in the b__________ p____________.” If you missed the first Initiarithmetic game, it’s here.

Slang Term “Legit”

 An SAT prep teacher in Santa Cruz, California, hears lots of teen slang in his work, and is struck by a new use of the term legit.

Diarrhea of the Mouth

 What’s a synonym for “diarrhea of the mouth”? A caller swears she heard the word on an earlier episode, but can’t recall it. The hosts try to help. Tumidity? Multiloquence? Logorrhea?


 Several decades ago, the expression tickety-boo was commonly used to mean “all in order,” “correct,” or “just dandy.” Although it’s rarely heard, a caller who once lived in Florida says her boss there often used it. Does it derive from Hindi? If you just can’t get enough of this expression, check out Danny Kaye singing “Everything is Tickety-boo.”

Three Sisters Garden

 Grant quizzes Martha about some odd terms: three sisters garden, weak-hand draw, and strimmer.

Go Up On Lines

 In the theater, actors who forget their lines are said to “go up” or to “go up on their lines.” But why go up?

Listener Riddle and Puzzle

 A listener from Bethel, Maine, calls with a riddle she heard at summer camp: The maker doesn’t want it, the buyer doesn’t use it, and the user never sees it. What is it? She also stumps the hosts with a puzzle: What adjective requires five letters to form the superlative?

Picket Lines

 A Fort Worth listener wonders about a claim she saw in a 1930s magazine. The article said that traditionally, a picket line was an area between the front lines of two opposing armies where soldiers might safely venture out to pick berries without fear of being attacked. Might that be connected to the modern sense of picket line meaning a group of striking workers or protesters?

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

Photo by Randal Sheppard. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

T.L.C.Average White BandPerson To PersonAtlantic
Don’t Hate, CongratulateRobert WalterSuper Heavy OrganMagna Carta Records
GibbousHypnotic Brass EnsembleHypnotic Brass EnsembleHonest Jon’s Records
High Heeled SneakersGrant GreenIron CitySavoy Jazz
Sounds Form The VillageMessage From The TribeMessage From The TribeUniversal Sound
Rabbit HopHypnotic Brass EnsembleHypnotic Brass EnsembleHonest Jon’s Records
AzetaThe Lafayette Afro Rock BandSoul MakossaHi&fly Records
HihacheThe Lafayette Afro Rock BandSoul MakossaHi&fly Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffFred AstaireSteppin Out: Fred Astaire SingsVerve

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