Hi from Martha and Grant!
In our latest show, we talk about games that first made us realize that goofing with words and letters is fun. Martha recalls discovering the "F U N E X" word puzzle and Grant describes doing anagrams and cryptograms in the newspaper.
Also this week, we discuss the terms "jitney supper," "graveyard stew," "hang fire," and try to settle a couple's dispute over whether an egregious falsehood is a "bald-faced lie" or a "bold-faced" one.
Speaking of the "F U N E X" puzzle, the trick is to sound out the letters to make words, so that "F U N E X" becomes "Have you any eggs?"
Jan Gartenberg wrote from Dallas to say that this and similar sayings were gathered up in a recently reissued book by cartoonist William Steig called "C D C!" The book's cover features a drawing of someone pointing to the sea, and inside are such examples as "D L F N 8 D A!" ("The elephant ate the hay!") More here:
Also, listener Beth Arnott of Waukesha, Wisconsin, pointed us to a hilarious riff on F U N E X in a YouTube video by the British comedy team, "The Two Ronnies." Check it out:
Speaking of arranging letters, we were amused to see that the 2010 National Spelling Bee drew a handful of protesters this past weekend in Washington, D.C. Their orthographic orthodoxy arises from a belief that the English language is too unruly and should be drastically simplified.
As the Washington Post put it, "If they got their way, 'you' would become 'yoo,' 'believe' would become 'beleev' and 'said' would become 'sed.'" Um, good luck with that. Here's the whole story in the Post, including not-to-be-missed video:
By the way, this year's winner of the spelling bee was 14-year-old Anamika Veeramani of Cleveland, who won by correctly spelling the word "stromuhr," a word of German origin that means "a rheometer designed to measure the amount and speed of blood flow through an artery." Oh right, that thing.
In a three-way finish for second place was Elizabeth Platz of Shelbina, Missouri. Elizabeth also happens to be a frequent commenter on our "A Way with Words" Facebook page (http://facebook.com/waywordradio) Congratulations, Elizabeth! We're glad she knew the word "arsedine," meaning "a copper-zinc alloy used to provide a gold-leaf surface to toys, signs, and lettering" -- even if we didn't.
More about the competition here:
Also this week, we're still cheering for Stephen Colbert's brilliant takedown of those who would like to send the serial comma packing. Watch Colbert read from "The Elements of Style" to the members of the band "Vampire Weekend," in an effort to persuade them to give that little piece of punctuation its proper respect.
For the first time in ten years, the New Yorker magazine is giving readers a heads-up about young writers its editors deem worth watching. The list of 20 promising authors under the age of 40 appears in the double fiction issue that hits the stands this week. More on the list from the New York Times:
Behind the scenes: A warm welcome to our newest underwriter, Park Manor Suites. Park Manor is a historic (not "an historic") Old World-style hotel next to San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park.
Which reminds us, if you're planning a trip to San Diego, put Balboa Park near the top of your to-see list. It's the nation's largest urban cultural park, with 15 major museums, beautiful gardens, performing arts venues, and the San Diego Zoo. In another five years, we'll be celebrating the park's 100th birthday. It's a gem of a public space. See for yourself:
See you after a spell,
Martha and Grant