Hyperbolic Headlines Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity!!!! Or maybe not. You’ve seen those breathless headlines on the internet, like “You Won’t Believe What This 7-year-old Said to The President!” They’re supposed to lure you to another webpage–but now there’s a backlash against such clickbait. Plus, the most beautiful word in the Icelandic language. And if being disgruntled means you’re annoyed, does being gruntled mean you’re happy? Plus, gleeking, balloon juice, belly stretchers, scared vs. afraid, peruse, belting out a song, acknowledging the corn, To Whom It May Concern, and that awkward silence in elevators.
This episode first aired February 14, 2014.
The Most Beautiful Icelandic Word
In Icelandic, the term for “midwife” literally translates as “light mother.” Icelanders voted it the most beautiful word in their language. Similarly, in Spanish, the phrase for “give birth,” dar a luz, translates literally as “give to light.”
Words Without Antonyms
Disgruntled means “unhappy,” and gruntled means the opposite, although you almost never hear the latter. Playing with such unpaired words can be irresistible, whether you’re a poet or an essayist for The New Yorker.
A century or so ago, balloon juice was college slang for “empty talk.”
Scared vs. Afraid
An Indianapolis caller wonders if there’s any difference in meaning between the words scared and afraid.
Why did the chicken cross the basketball court? Spoiler alert: the answer is a groaner.
Last Syllable Word Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a puzzle involving expressions that pair famous people with the last syllables of their names. For example, what kind of drinking vessel might a mustachioed genius named Albert use?
Conflicting Meanings of “Peruse”
The word peruse is such a confusing term that it’s best to avoid it entirely. Some English speakers were taught it means “to read casually,” while others were taught exactly the opposite.
If you take a job at an airline, beware if your new co-workers ask you go find them a belly stretcher—they’re playing a practical joke on you.
The elevator doors close, and there’s that awkward silence while you and your fellow passengers wait for the doors to reopen. Is there a word for that silence?
Confess the Corn
To confess the corn or acknowledge the corn is to admit that you are, or were, drunk.
Style Guide Echo Chamber
A former copydesk chief points out the circular nature of dictionaries using citations from newspapers that in turn consult dictionaries and the AP Styleguide for questions of usage.
A lunch hook, in college slang from a century ago, meant “a hand”–as in, “I’m going to hook my finger through this doughnut hole.”
We’re so jaded by the clickbait titles directing us to sites like Upworthy that the site Downworthy is doing something about it. And imagine what it’d be like if serious literature got the same treatment.
Origin of Musical Verb “Belt”
To belt out a song onstage probably derives from the idea of belting your opponent in the boxing ring.
Capitalization in Formal Addresses
There’s no hard-set rule about whether to capitalize the phrase To Whom It May Concern, though it may also be worth figuring out who you’re addressing, and writing to them instead.
Freeze Your Caboogies Off
A Somerville, Massachusetts, listener wonders about a phrase her family uses, freeze your caboogies off. Its origin is unknown, and it’s unclear whether it’s related to another term for the backside, bahookie.
Photo by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Book Mentioned in the Broadcast
|AP Stylebook Online by Associated Press|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|The Traitor||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Montego Sunset||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Make The Road By Walking||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Super Strut||Deodato||The Roots of Acid Jazz||Sony|
|The Contender||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Tired of Fighting||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Birds||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Sideman||Lonnie Smith||The Roots of Acid Jazz||Sony|
|Karina||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Home Again||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|