Home » Episodes » Going All-City

Going All-City

Play episode

On the menu: necessity mess, potato bargain, and other tasty regional foods that won’t break the bank. Plus, what’s a doomaflatchie? And what do you have to do before you rest on your laurels? Grant and Martha share idioms, proverbs, and paraprosdokians, those sayings that take a sudden, unexpected turn. Plus cryptic crosswords, graffiti slang, and new ways to read your best long writing. This episode first aired October 8, 2011.

Playful Regional Food Names

 Dining on a budget? Just whip up some necessity mess or a potato bargain. That’s a pork, onion, and potato stew popular in Eastern Massachusetts. Or how about some Georgia ice cream? It’s a North Florida term for grits. Martha shares a generous serving of fun food names from the Dictionary of American Regional English (on Twitter as @darewords).

Rest On Your Laurels

 If you’ve accomplished something, go ahead and rest on your laurels. Martha traces this idiom back to Ancient Greece, where victors were crowned with a wreath of bay leaves from the bay laurel tree. In the 16th Century, to retire on one’s laurels referred to “resting after an accomplishment.” Like many inherited idioms, it’s often said today with a tongue in one’s cheek.

Set the Soup Outside

 The old Brooklyn Dodger Roy Campanella really knew how to set the soup outside! A baseball fan recalls this overheard phrase from a game in the 60s between the Cardinals and the Dodgers, when Campy smacked one over the fence. Grant speculates this usage of “soup” comes from the old slang term for nitrous oxide, a component in souping up cars. Over time, soup came to refer to any enhanced display of muscle or strength.

Regional Term Pitch-In

 What would you bring to a pitch-in? An Indiana transplant shares this newly acquired term for a potluck dinner. Martha points out that the Dictionary of American Regional English has a map showing the distribution of the term, and it’s limited almost exclusively to Indiana.

Crossword Clue Word Quiz

 Our Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a game of cryptic crossword clues called Double Definition. For example, if the clue is “trim a tree,” the answer is “spruce.” Or try this one: “crazy flying mammals.” Did you come up with “bats”?

Gronk the Data

 What does it mean to gronk the data? A listener from the medical device business wonders about the techie word “gronk,” which first popped up in Robert Heinlein’s 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Grant also mentions Jeff Prucher’s Brave New Words, a dictionary of science fiction terms that have made their way into the English language.


 New York seems to have a doguero on every street corner. Grant shares this Spanglish term for “a hot dog vendor.”

Apologetic Apostrophes

 What’s it called when saying becomes sayin’? It’s not a trick question; it’s simply called an abbreviation. Grant and Martha settle an English major’s confusion about the possibility of a trickier term. With words like “o’er,” a shortening of “over,” the apostrophe can also be called an apologetic apostrophe, but it’s still just an abbreviation.


 The old Yiddish word bupkis, referring to something of little or no value, has of late been split up for dramatic effect. As in, “that’s worth all of a bup and a kis!”


 What’s a doomaflatchie? A listener shares this alternate for doohickie, thingamajig, doodad, or any other one of those whatchamacalits. Here’s the Tim McGraw song about his doomaflatchie.

Listener Paraprosdokians

 “If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.” Listeners share some of their favorite paraprosdokians. It’s not the first time Martha and Grant discussed paraprosdokians.

Reading Long Material Online

 As ubiquitous as social media and blogs have become, people are still reading long form journalism! Grant shares some great ways Twitter has enabled the spread of long essays from sources like The Atlantic and Wired. In addition, services like Readability, Instapaper and Longreads have streamlined the distribution of articles to our myriad devices.

Street Art Slang

 It takes some work for a writer to go all-city— a graffiti writer, that is. An art supplies dealer from Dallas shares some vocabulary from the world of street art. For example, the old act of photographing trains from benches gave birth to the term “benching,” and the act of tagging or doing graffiti is also known as “bombing.” Grant discusses the related term “going all-city“.

Tang as a Main Course

 Everyone knows about Tang as that orange kick in a glass, but could it also be an entree? A listener from Plano, Texas, found an elderly relative’s plan for family meals from 1947, which lists “tang with molasses” as a main course. If you’ve heard of tang the food, shoot us a message.

Meaning of “Pushed Back”

 If a meeting gets pushed back, does it get postponed to a later time or rescheduled for a sooner one? Grant explains that push back is generally understood to mean “reschedule for a later date,” but Martha recounts a scenario where the opposite definition caused a debacle with deadlines. As always, when in doubt, seek clarification.

Modern Proverbs from Listeners

 “Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” Thank you to our listeners for this and other modern proverbs.

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

Photo by Ian Ransley. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Dictionary of American Regional English
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Brave New Words by Jeff Prucher

Music Used in the Episode

The ContinentalCal Tjader SextetThe ContinentalFantasy
Spear For Moondog, Part 2Jimmy McGriffElectric FunkBlue Note
A Phase Shifter I’m Going ThroughLord Newborn & The Magic SkullsLord Newborn & The Magic SkullsUbiquity Records
Underneath It AllMoney MarkPush The ButtonMo’ Wax
OranCal TjaderSoul BurstVerve
CryMoney MarkMark’s Keyboard RepairMo’ Wax
Deeper And DeeperJackie MittooStudio One Musik CitySoul Jazz Records
Ba Ba Ba BoomMoney MarkMark’s Keyboard RepairMo’ Wax
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More from this show