Home » Episodes » Fickle Finger of Fate

Fickle Finger of Fate

Play episode

A young woman wants a family-friendly way to describe a statement that’s fraudulent or bogus, but all the words she can think of sound old-fashioned. Is there a better term than malarkey, poppycock, or rubbish? Also, listeners step up to help a caller looking for a succinct way to explain that a brain injury sometimes makes it hard for her to remember words. Also in this episode: you may remember the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate awarded on the television show Laugh-In. It turns out that the phrase fickle finger of fate is decades older than that! This episode first aired November 19, 2016.

Language of Elevators

 Door dwell, hoistway, and terminal landing are all terms from the jargon of elevator design and maintenance.

Jumbo Bologna

 If you hear someone use the word jumbo for “bologna,” it’s a good bet they’re from Pittsburgh or somewhere nearby in southwestern Pennsylvania. A regional company, Isaly’s, sold a brand of lunchmeat with that name.

It’s Academic at this Point

 Why do we say something is academic when referring to a question or topic that’s theoretical?

Boy’s Life Humor

 The “Think and Grin” section of Boy’s Life magazine has some pretty silly humor, especially in issues from the 1950’s.

Steam that Blows the Whistle Never Turns the Wheel

 A listener in Burlington, Vermont, remembers being punished as a youngster for talking during class. His teacher forced him to write out this proverb dozens of times: “For those who talk, and talk, and talk, this proverb may appeal. The steam that blows the whistle will never turn the wheel.” Translation: If you’re talking, then you’re not getting work done.

PRE Quiz

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle requires misreading words that begin with the letters P-R-E. For example, the word preaching could be misread as having to do with “hurting beforehand” — that is, pre-aching.

A Better Word for Malarkey

 A young woman from Portland, Oregon, seeks a noun to denote something fake or otherwise dubious. She doesn’t want an obvious swear word, but also doesn’t like the ones she found in the thesaurus. She thinks malarkey, poppycock, and flim-flam sound too old-fashioned and unnatural for a twenty-something to say. Fraud, fake, hoax, janky, don’t sound quite right for her either. The hosts suggest chicanery, sham, rubbish, bogus, or crap.

Revert, Meaning Get Back To

 A San Diego, California, listener is curious about a colleagues’ use of “I’ll revert” to mean “I’ll get back to you.”

Bob Marley Quote

 Regarding suffering caused by others, singer Bob Marley had this to say: “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”

Put Up Your Dukes

 “Put up your dukes!” means “Get ready to fight!” But its etymology is a bit uncertain. One story goes that it’s from Cockney rhyming slang, in which dukes is short for Dukes of York, a play on the slang term fork, meaning “hand.” But the phrase more likely originated from or was influenced by a Romany word involving hands.

Goobers are Peanuts

 Why do we call a peanut a goober? The word comes from the Bantu languages of East Africa.

An Ephelis is a Freckle

 If you need a synonym for freckle, there’s always the word ephelis, from ancient Greek for “nail stud.”

Explaining Why Words Won’t Come

 Listeners step up to help a caller from an earlier show who was seeking a succinct way to explain that a brain injury sometimes makes it difficult for her to remember words.


 Primarily in the southern United States, the word haint refers to a ghost or supernatural being, such as a poltergeist. Haint is almost certainly a variant of haunt.

Pretty Adverb

 The word pretty, used to modify an adjective, as in pretty good or pretty bad, has strayed far from its etymological roots, which originally had to do with being “cunning” or “crafty.”

Penny for Your Thoughts

 Here’s something to think about the next time somebody says “A penny for your thoughts.”

Fickle Finger of Fate Origins

 The television show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” popular in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, was famous for awarding its goofy trophy, the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate. But the term fickle finger of fate is actually decades older than that.


 Tunket is a euphemism for “hell,” as in, “Where in tunket did I put my car keys?” No one knows its origin or where your keys are.

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

Music Used in the Episode

Rise Of The EastSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records
Balboa ParkSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records
Ain’t She SweetRoger Rivas and The Brothers Of ReggaeLast GoodbyeRivas Recordings
Baja NorteSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records
Tche!Sure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records
Heading WestRoger Rivas and The Brothers Of ReggaeLast GoodbyeRivas Recordings
Sunny Santa AnaSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records
Jeannie’s GetdownSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More from this show

Episode 1626

Highway Robbery

Secret signals on the job: Waitresses at some 19th-century restaurants ensured speedy drink service by communicating with a non-verbal code. One server took orders, then placed each customer’s cup to indicate exactly what the customer wanted...

Episode 1521

Spill the Tea

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...