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Flee Fly Flo

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Wrapping up 2016 with words from the past year and some newsy limericks. Bigly and Brexit were on lots of lips this year, as well as an increasingly popular Danish word that means “cozy.” Also, Quiz Guy John Chaneski sums up the year in newsy limericks about movies, science, and the Nobel Prize. Finally, an old term takes on new currency: To gaslight someone means to make them doubt their own perceptions. This term for malevolent manipulation was by inspired 1944 film about a psychologically abusive husband. Also, Flee Fly Flo, Latinx, woke, alte kacker, boodler, and to be honest with you. This episode first aired December 31, 2016.

Words of the Year 2016

 Words of the year for 2016 include bigly, a mishearing of big-league; hygge, a Danish word that has to do with coziness; and Brexit, a portmanteau that denotes the exit of Britain from the European Union.

Flee Fly Flo Camp Song

 Flee Fly Flo is a camp song, and like other songs passed along orally, it has lots of variations, and often includes rhythmic hand-clapping. In her book Camp Songs, Folk Songs, Patricia Averill suggests the roots of this camp favorite may be in scat singing.


 The term Latinx, pronounced Lah-TEEN-ex, gained traction in 2016 as a gender-neutral, non-binary alternative to Latino and/or Latina. A variant is Latin@.

To Be Honest With You

 What does a person really mean when she starts a statement with “to be honest with you”? It’s important not to take such expressions too literally.


 Unfortunately, one word of the year candidate for 2016 is Zika, the name of the mosquito-borne virus linked to devastating birth defects.

Year-End Limerick Quiz

 What’s an end-of-the-year episode without Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s limericks about words in the news?


 A listener in Tampa, Florida, was discussing the 2016 presidential election when the term gaslighted came up. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which victims are manipulated into doubting their own perceptions. The term was popularized by the 1944 movie Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Berman, in which a creepy husband makes his wife doubt what she’s seeing with her own eyes, including the dimming and brightening of gas-powered lamps in their home.

Being Have

 A caller who grew up in rural Pennsylvania remembers being asked as a child, “Are you being have?” instead of “Are you behaving?” Being have, with a long a sound, results from what linguists call reanalysis. It occurs when someone incorrectly determines the roots and divisions of words.

Stay Woke

 The slang term woke, as in stay woke, arose among African-Americans to refer to being aware of social injustice or racism, and then doing something about it in one’s own life.

What To Call a Parent Who Loses a Child

 Although in English we have the terms orphan, widow, and widower, our language lacks a one-word term that means “bereaved parent.” A few other languages have a word for this, including Hebrew sh’khol and Sanskrit vilomah.


 Listeners respond to our earlier conversation about ending a telephone call with mmm-bye.

Barrow Pit

 A caller in Fort Laramie, Wyoming, refers to a roadside ditch as a borrow pit, as if the dirt dug from it was “borrowed” to form the raised surface of the road. It’s a misinterpretation of the original term, barrow pit, deriving from barrow, meaning “mound.”

Six and Eight

 A San Diego, California, listener recalls that when asked “How’s it going?” his father would often respond “same old six and eight.” It may be a variation of the British expression “same old seven and six,” meaning “seven shillings and sixpence,” a once-common total for the cost of some types of government-issued licenses.

Holiday, A Missed Spot

 Holiday is an old term for a spot missed when painting or wiping a surface. It’s mentioned in Grose’s 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.


 Responding to our conversation about concluding a phone call with mmm-bye, a listener offers an example of a humorous telephone greeting: “Nyello!”

Alte Kacker, Old Cocker

 A Tallahassee, Florida, listener heard an interview in which actor William H. Macy referred to old cockers, apparetly meaning “old fellows.” Although one meaning of cocker is “pal,” Macy was probably alluding to the Yiddish alte kacker, or alter kacker, meaning “old man.” It’s sometimes abbreviated AK, and literally translates as “old person who defecates.”


 A boodler is someone involved in political graft or corruption. The word likely derives from Dutch boedel, meaning “property.”

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

Photo by Stephen Pierzchala. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
Camp Songs, Folk Songs

Music Used in the Episode

You’ve Made MeO’Donel LevyBlack VelvetGroove Merchant
I Wanna Be Where You AreO’Donel LevyDawn Of A New DayGroove Merchant
Make The Road By WalkingMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
Bad Bad SimbaO’Donel LevySimbaGroove Merchant
Never Can Say GoodbyeO’Donel LevyBreeding Of MindGroove Merchant
Tired Of FightingMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDunham Records
We’ve Only Just BegunO’Donel LevyBreeding Of MindGroove Merchant
Nigerian KnightsO’Donel LevySimbaGroove Merchant
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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