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Frozen Rope

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Where would you find a sports commentator talking about high cheese and ducks on a pond? Here’s a hint: both terms are part of what makes America’s pastime so colorful. • A government official in New Zealand proposes a new, more respectful term for someone with autism. • The roots of that beloved Jamaican export, reggae music. Also, hang a snowman, goat rodeo, jimson weed, work-brickle vs. work-brittle, banana bag, and okay.

This episode first aired October 7, 2017. It was rebroadcast the weekend of August 19, 2019.

Baseball Lingo

 Ducks on the pond, frozen rope, tumblebug, and high cheese are baseball slang. Ducks on the pond means runners on base, frozen rope is a line drive, a tumblebug is a fielder who makes a catch and adds theatrical flair, and high cheese is a fastball high in the strike zone. The definitive reference book on baseball slang is The Dickson Baseball Dictionary.

OK vs. okay

 A San Antonio, Texas, middle-schooler has observed that when she and her friends are texting, they use different spellings to indicate agreement. Her friend types OK, but the caller prefers okay. Either is correct. For an engaging, thorough history of the word, however you spell it, check out Allan Metcalf’s OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word.

Baseball Yakker

 In baseball, a yakker is a curveball with a big break. The term apparently derives from yawker, a kind of bird that has the same kind of swooping flight.

Origin of the Word Reggae

 A New York City listener enjoys the music played between segments of our show, particularly the reggae tunes, and wonders about the origin of the word reggae. This musical form was popularized by the Jamaican band Toots and the Mayfield, and may be related to the Jamaican patois term streggae, meaning “a loose woman.” A great resource for learning about the English spoken in Jamaica is the Dictionary of Jamaican English.

Hang A Snowman

 In baseball, to hang a snowman is to score eight runs in one inning, inspired by the shape of the numeral 8.

Take Off A Letter Word Game

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a “takeoff” quiz, in which the letter C is removed from a word to yield a rhyming two-word phrase. For example, if someone wanted to find out how old an animal enclosure is, what would they be trying to find?

Giggle Weeds

 A woman in Indianapolis, Indiana, says her father regularly used the phrase out in the giggle weeds, meaning out in the middle of nowhere or off the beaten path. Giggle weed is slang for both marijuana and jimson weed, a naturally growing highly dangerous and hallucinogenic plant which resembles morning glory.

Can You Not?

 A Montreal, Canada, caller says that when he does something annoying, his wife will say simply, “Can you not?” He wonders if that construction is grammatically correct.

Origin of Jimson Weed Name

 The plant jimson weed has dangerous hallucinogenic effects. The weed takes its name from Jamestown, Virginia. In 1676, settlers there ingested the weed, and its poisonous effects were vividly described a few years later in a volume called The History and Present State of Virginia.

Banana Bag

 A caregiver in Calais, Vermont, says an elderly client insists on saying banana bag to mean a fanny pack. Banana bag is a term used by horseback riders to refer to a pouch that hangs by a saddle.

New Maori Words

 A government official in New Zealand has devised a new Maori-based glossary to replace some of the English words used by the government for talking about mental health, disability, and addiction. For example, he proposes replacing the word autism with takiwatanga, which translates as “in his or her own time or space.”


 How did the acronyms POTUS, FLOTUS, and SCOTUS for President of the United States, First Lady of the United States, and Supreme Court of the United States come about?

Typing Punctuation on Old Typewriters, The Hard Way

 Some of us can remember when typing an exclamation mark required hitting four different keys: the shift key, the apostrophe, the backspace, and the period!

As Disorganized as a Goat Rodeo

 Goat rope, goat roping, and goat rodeo describe a messy, disorganized situation. Grant wrote about these terms in his book The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English.

Kid Cheater

 Kid cheater and child cheater are synonyms for spatula, because when you’re baking a cake, a spatula is so efficient for removing the remnants of a sweet mixture from a bowl that there’s little left for a kid to lick off.


 A Indianapolis, Indiana, woman remembers that her Kentucky-born grandfather used to say that a lazy person wasn’t very work-brickle. The dialectal term work-brickle is a variant of work-brittle, which, in the late 19th century, described someone who was industrious. Over time, work-brittle also came to mean lazy, perhaps because of associating the word brittle with the idea of being delicate or fragile. The use of work-brittle in the positive sense of being energetic and eager to work is especially common in Indiana.

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

Photo by Sean Winters. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

The Dickson Baseball Dictionary
OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word
Dictionary of Jamaican English
The History and Present State of Virginia
The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English

Music Used in the Episode

Charlie’s ThemeJimi Entley SoundApache 7″Espionage Disk
Hair RaiserKeith PapworthHard HitterMusic De Wolfe
Love, Love, LovePugh RogefeltWe Can Fly 2Past and Present Records
Moon CabbagePolyrhymicsLibra StripesKEPT Records
Hamp’s HumpLou DonaldsonEverything I Play Is FunkyBlue Note
ChingadorPolyrhymicsLibra StripesKEPT Records
JambuJungle FireJambuNacional Records
Minor BashLou DonaldsonEverything I Play Is FunkyBlue Note
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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