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Feeling Gruntled

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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.”


 Gleek doesn’t just mean “a fan of the TV show Glee.” It’s also a verb meaning to shoot a stream of saliva out from under your tongue.

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.

Balloon Juice

 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.

Fowl Pun

 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.

Belly Stretchers

 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.

Elevator Silence

 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.

Lunch Hook

 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.”

Hyperbolic Headlines

 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.


 Did your teacher ever make you write a sentence over and over as punishment? That task is called a pensum.


 Wedding guests lip-sync to a song which is later set to music in the wedding video, forming a word combining marriage and karaoke: marryoke.

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.

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

Photo by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

AP Stylebook Online by Associated Press

Music Used in the Episode

The TraitorMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
Montego SunsetMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
Make The Road By WalkingMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
Super StrutDeodatoThe Roots of Acid JazzSony
The ContenderMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
Tired of FightingMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
BirdsMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
SidemanLonnie SmithThe Roots of Acid JazzSony
KarinaMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
Home AgainMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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