Barbara Kingsolver’s book Demon Copperhead is a retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield set in today’s Appalachia. Martha shares memories of a long-ago visit to Kingsolver’s family farm in Virginia, where they discussed many of the same issues covered in this Pulitzer-winning novel. Plus, how could the Carp River in Michigan have that name long before carp existed in the area? The answer is in the history of immigration. And a high-schooler asks how throwing someone under the bus became a synonym for betrayal. Also: willipus-wallipus, lapslock, Fortune favors the audacious, del año del caldo, nonce words, a brain teaser with rhyming answers, a punning joke about Switzerland, clink, jing, jinglers, and janglers, drop a dime, and You shred it, wheat!
This episode first aired May 20, 2023.
A Willipus-Wallipus Types Lapslock
In the late 19th century, the name willipus-wallipus denoted a legendary monster said to haunt the American South. The term also came to designate “a steamroller” or “any large piece of road equipment.” The term lapslock, popular among fanfic enthusiasts, refers to typing without capitalization, or the opposite of using the caps lock key.
Fortune Favors the Brave, Bold, and Audacious
Janet in Tucson, Arizona, wonders about a phrase she once saw on a business card: Fortune Favors the Audacious. It’s a translation of a saying that goes back to antiquity, with many variations, including “fortune favors the brave” and “fortune favors the bold.” This particular version is a rendering of a line from the Roman poet Virgil: Audentes fortuna iuvat.
Del Año Del Caldo: As Old As Broth
The Spanish idiom del año del caldo describes something exceedingly old. Literally translating as “from the year of the broth,” it suggests the idea that something is “as old as the year soup was invented.” Someone said to be wearing unos pantalones del año del caldo is clad in trousers that are well-worn or out of style.
Drop a Dime on Someone
Mark in Scranton, Pennsylvania, calls about a phrase he heard on an old detective show: drop a dime. It means “to inform on someone” or “tip off the police,” and comes from the practice of literally dropping a dime into a payphone to make a 10-cent call.
You Shred it, Wheat!
In the 1940s, the slang phrase You shred it, wheat! was used to express complete agreement with something, a punning variation of You said it! The phrase was sometimes also used as a retort meaning “Figure it out yourself.”
Rhyming Doublet Word Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has clues to several rhyming pairs of words separated by the word and. For example, what do you call the technique for narrowing the aspect ratio of a wide-screen movie so it will fit on your TV screen?
What’s a Nonce Word?
Lorelei from Wakefield, Virginia, learned the word nonce from the Spelling Bee game in The New York Times. When she looked up the definition of nonce, she saw it described as an adjective that is coined for or used for one occasion. She found this amusing, since the only time she ever sees it is in the spelling bee game. Nonce derives from Middle English words then anes, meaning “the once.” The word frabjous in Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” is an example of a nonce word. Nonce words coined for just one occasion sometimes take on a life of their own. Words that embody what they denote are described as autological. The word polysyllabic is autological because it contains several syllables, as pentasyllabic, which contains five syllables. Other examples of autological words: the noun noun, and the adjectives sibilant and wee.
Love Fridges and Freedges
After our conversation about blessing boxes, those little free pantries stocked with donated food, a listener points out the use of love fridges in Chicago. These community fridges, sometimes called freedges, are springing up in lots of places.
How Could They Name it the Carp River When There Were No Carp?
A Michigan biologist wonders how the Carp River in his home state got its name, considering that the river was so named long before that particular fish was introduced. I turns out, just as in the rest of the Western Hemisphere, Europeans who migrated there applied their own European common names to similar-looking American flora and fauna, even when they weren’t taxonomically correct. For Michigan names before the arrival of Europeans, look to Indian Names in Michigan by Virgil Vogel (Bookshop|Amazon).
“Throwing Someone Under the Bus” Has a Complicated History
A high-schooler asks: Why do we say throw someone under the bus when we’re talking about an act of betrayal.
What’s the Best Thing About Switzerland?
Pun alert: What’s the best thing about Switzerland?
Barbara Kingsolver’s “Demon Copperhead”
Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Demon Copperhead (Bookshop|Amazon) is a modern retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (Bookshop|Amazon). Set in Appalachia, it won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. When Martha interviewed Kingsolver at her rustic family farmhouse in Virginia for a newspaper story years ago, Kingsolver was adamant that Appalachians were among the last groups in America it was still acceptable to make fun of. Longtime listeners of this show will recognize many features of the rich Appalachian dialect, including the “punctual” whenever. Actor Charlie Thurston does a splendid job narrating the audio version of Demon Copperhead.
An Army veteran in Madison, Alabama, wonders about the use of the charrette (sometimes spelled with one R, charette) in the military to mean a gathering to workshop ideas and work through all potential solutions to a problem. The term seems to have migrated into the Army from the world of architecture, where a charrette is an intense period of work by students to meet a deadline, or a gathering to figure out ways to work through all of the outstanding issues that must be resolved before they move on to the next stage of a project. In French, charrette means “little cart,” and among architects, it came to mean the four-wheeled carts architects would use to transport bulky blueprints and drawings. Also spelled charette, this word goes back to Latin carrus, meaning “a kind of chariot,” the source also of carriage, carriageway, cart, car, and chariot.
Did you ever think about the fact that the word onion is ZO-ZO spelled sideways?
British English vs. North American English, “Off Something” vs. “Off of Something”
Jeff in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is married to a woman from Barcelona who grew up speaking British English. She pointed out to him his use of the word of with the preposition off, as in Take the book off of the table or Let’s get off of the highway. She was taught there’s no need for the word of in such expressions. How did this usage diverge?
Going to Dad for Folding Money or Stackola
Ty in Nashville, Tennessee, has fond memories of his dad handing him what he called folding money. This term simply refers to bills, rather than coins. Other versions include folding dough, folding stuff, folding matter, folding green, folding lettuce, and folding cabbage. It’s a slang reference to the physical characteristics of the bills, much like greenbacks is another term for bills. Similarly, clink, jing, jinglers, and janglers refer to coins, and stacking money or stackola refer to either form of currency.
This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.
Books Mentioned in the Episode
|Indian Names in Michigan by Virgil Vogel (Bookshop|Amazon).|
|Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Bookshop|Amazon)|
|David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (Bookshop|Amazon))|
Music Used in the Episode
|Bishop School||Yusef Lateef||Yusef Lateef’s Detroit Latitude 42° 30′ Longitude 83°||Atlantic|
|Eastern Market||Yusef Lateef||Yusef Lateef’s Detroit Latitude 42° 30′ Longitude 83°||Atlantic|
|Brigitte||Freddie Hubbard||Keep Your Soul Together||CTI|
|Belle Isle||Yusef Lateef||Yusef Lateef’s Detroit Latitude 42° 30′ Longitude 83°||Atlantic|
|Russell and Eliott||Yusef Lateef||Yusef Lateef’s Detroit Latitude 42° 30′ Longitude 83°||Atlantic|
|Keep Your Soul Together||Freddie Hubbard||Keep Your Soul Together||CTI|
|Woodward Avenue||Yusef Lateef||Yusef Lateef’s Detroit Latitude 42° 30′ Longitude 83°||Atlantic|
|The Other Side||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Step Down||Colemine Records|
You must log in to post a comment.