What’s in a mascot name? Maybe you’re a fan of the Banana Slugs, or you cheer for the Winged Beavers. Perhaps your loyalty lies with the Fighting Artichokes. There are some strange names for sports team out there. But what’s even stranger is the origin of the word mascot itself. It’s from a 19th-century opera! And: the host of a television show about gardening is tired of using the verb “to plant,” and is desperate for an alternative. But coming up with one is harder than you might think! Plus, a word for that sinking feeling when your favorite restaurant closes. Also, a word quiz based on the party game Taboo, the history of cataract, a begrudging ode to office jargon, and an old children’s song about popping the heads off of flowers.

This episode first aired October 2, 2015.

Download the MP3.

 Come From Away
Come From Away, a new musical about the 7000 passengers whose planes were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, after the September 11th attacks, is not only a fine piece of theater. It’s also a rich trove of Newfoundland language, including “come from away,” and a noun that means “visitor.”

 Etymology of Mascot
Evergreen State College in Washington is certainly in the running for best school mascot, with the Geoduck. But you can’t forget the UC Santa Cruz Fighting Banana Slugs, or the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes. The term mascot itself was popularized by a 19th century French comic opera, called La Mascotte. The word is also related to the Spanish term for “pet,” mascota.

 Dictionary of Newfoundland English
The Dictionary of Newfoundland English offers a look at some intriguing vocabulary from that part of the world, such as the expression “best kind,” meaning “in the best state or condition.”

 Roof and Hoof?
If you pronounce roof to rhyme with hoof, you’re not alone. Millions of people all over the U.S. say it that way, though the pronunciation with the long o sound is more common.

 The Poca Dots
You’re not a true resident of Poca, West Virginia, if you’re not cheering on the local high school, the Poca Dots.

 Taboo Word Game
Quiz Guy John Chaneski brought us a puzzle based on one of his favorite party games: Taboo. If he gave you a series of terms that all match up with a certain word — like car, clock, burglar, and siren — what word would you say goes with them?

 Variations on “To Plant”
We got a call from Nan Sterman, host of the public television gardening show A Growing Passion, who writes so much about plants that she’s looking for some alternatives to the verb “to plant.” But what to say if you don’t want to sound pretentious or stilted? What about variations such as “Stick that little guy in the soil,” or “Bury that gem in a pot?”

 Newfoundland Good Luck
“Fair weather to you, and snow to your heels,” is one way for Newfoundlanders to wish each other good luck.

 Fibber McGee Junk Drawer
The Fibber McGee drawer is that essential place where you quickly shove a bunch of junk when you need to clean up fast and don’t have the time or care to organize anything. It comes from the old radio comedy, Fibber McGee and Molly, which featured a running gag in which Fibber had a closet crammed with junk that fell cacophonously to the floor whenever he opened it.

 Wacky School Mascots
The high school in Hoopeston, Illinois, calls its teams the Hoopeston Area Cornjerkers, and in Avon, Connecticut, the Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers are a beloved hockey team. In case you’re shopping for school districts.

 Origin of Cataract
A cataract is not only an eye condition, it’s also a waterfall. And the two uses of the word are related, in the sense that in the ancient world, a cataracta was one of those iron gates that hung outside a city, such as Pompeii, to protect against invading hoardes.

 Circle the Wagons
A chemist who spent years working in the pharmaceutical industry sent us an amusing sendup of corporatespeak that begins, “It is what it is, so let’s all reach out and circle the wagons…” Although his jargon-laden riff wonderfully satirizes such cliched writing, it’s worth noting that many find the phrase “circle the wagons” objectionable.

 Biting the Bit
“Biting the bit,” akin to champing at the bit, means someone’s raring to go, or out of control.

 Litote Understatements
Expressions like, “I don’t not like that,” or, “You can’t not like being out,” are versions of litotes, a rhetorical device used for expressing understatement.

 Positively and Negatively Wonderful
In Newfoundland, the word wonderful is often used as an intensifier for both positive and negative things. For example, a Newfoundlander might refer to something as a wonderful loss.

 Its Head Popped Off
There’s an old children’s ditty that goes, “Mama had a baby and its head popped off,” which you sing while popping the top off of a dandelion or similar flower.

Is there a word for when your favorite restaurant closes? What about goneappetit?

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

Photo by Randy Heinitz. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Miracles New Mastersounds Keb Darge Presents Deep Funk
Hot Dog New Mastersounds Keb Darge Presents Deep Funk
Coffee Providers New Mastersounds Keb Darge Presents Deep Funk
Easter Parade Jimmy McGriff Step One Solid State
Drop It Down New Mastersounds Keb Darge Presents Deep Funk
Bondo Sama New Mastersounds Keb Darge Presents Deep Funk
Step One Jimmy McGriff Step One Solid State
So Many Pies New Mastersounds Keb Darge Presents Deep Funk
Rockfort Rock New Mastersounds Keb Darge Presents Deep Funk
Every Day A Dream Menahan Street Band The Crossing Dunham

  1. Sergio Moraes says:

    Great episode as always!

    I was wondering if we could get a transcription of the office jargon email you guys received.
    Thank you.

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