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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Photo by Stephen Pierzchala. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue|
|Camp Songs, Folk Songs|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|You’ve Made Me||O’Donel Levy||Black Velvet||Groove Merchant|
|I Wanna Be Where You Are||O’Donel Levy||Dawn Of A New Day||Groove Merchant|
|Make The Road By Walking||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|Bad Bad Simba||O’Donel Levy||Simba||Groove Merchant|
|Never Can Say Goodbye||O’Donel Levy||Breeding Of Mind||Groove Merchant|
|Tired Of Fighting||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham Records|
|We’ve Only Just Begun||O’Donel Levy||Breeding Of Mind||Groove Merchant|
|Nigerian Knights||O’Donel Levy||Simba||Groove Merchant|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|