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Good Vibrations

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Asthenosphere, a geologist’s term for the molten layer beneath the earth’s crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece to the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Plus: What the heck is a dogberg? It’s when a dog runs into you and knocks you over. This bit of slang was inspired by a professional wrestler who finished off his opponents in a similar fashion. And, if you’re vibing with someone, you’re getting along just great. The idea of vibing goes way back in history, and is well worth the effort to suss out. All that, pretty eggs, Rhode Island dressing, how to pronounce biopic, multiple modals, Mr. Can vs. Mr. Can’t, jawn, moded, a brain teaser for movie lovers, and more.

This episode first aired October 24, 2020. It was rebroadcast the weekend of November 27, 2021.


  If a big dog knocks you over, the joking term for that mishap is dogberg, a bit of slang inspired by the name of professional wrestler Bill Goldberg, who liked to finish off his opponents with his signature move called the spear, which involved charging at them and knocking them off their feet.

So Sus! Sussing Out Suss

  The verb to suss out means “to investigate” or “to get to the bottom of” something. In British police jargon, a suss or sus is “a suspect.” This slang term is older than the video game “Among Us.” In fact, it’s older than all video games.

Pretty Eggs

  Our conversation about dressed eggs serving as a euphemism for deviled eggs prompts Kim from Spooner, Wisconsin, to share that her mother and grandmother called them pretty eggs for the same reason.

How Do You Pronounce “Biopic”?

  Kate from Arlington, Massachusetts, and her boyfriend disagree about how to pronounce biopic. The confusion arises in part because the -opic at the end looks like the ends of words like myopic and microscopic. It’s actually a shortening of the term biographical picture, so the accent goes on the first syllable. Biopic emerged from Hollywood jargon of the 1940s.

More Clever Bookstore Names

  Liz Cooksey of Portland, Oregon, fondly remembers two bookstores with clever names: The Novel Experience of San Luis Obispo, California, and the Title Wave, which sold discounted materials retired from the Multnomah County Library.

Give New Plots to Movies By Changing One Letter in Their Titles

  Quiz Guy John Chaneski is dreaming up new plots for movies by changing one letter in an existing movie title. For example, if you change one vowel, what hilarious classic comedy becomes the tale of a rebellious, spiky-haired animal found in mosh pits?

Origin and Meaning of “Jawn”

  When Audrey was growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the late 1990s, it seemed that everyone around her used the word jawn as an all-purpose substitute for other words, as in I took my jawn to the jawn and we had a bunch of jawns. Philadelphians proudly claim jawn as a local product, but in fact this term originated in New York City in the 1920s as joint, as in “a place where two people come together.” By the 1970s this sense of joint had morphed into “something that people do together,” as in the way movies by Spike Lee are described as a Spike Lee joint. Joint took on a host of other meanings, and, influenced by the local dialect of Philadelphia, morphed into jawn there.

Abetting an Under-the-Cover Reader

  A Twitter user shares a heart-melting observation about his eight-year-old’s habit of reading under the covers at night.

Can’t Died; His Brother is Try

  The phrases Can’t died in the poorhouse, Can’t died in the war, and Can’t died in the cornfield are all jocular ways of encouraging someone to persevere despite difficulties or long odds. Sometimes this notion involves the metaphorical figures Mr. Can’t and Mr. Can, as in this poem from a 1910 children’s magazine. Another version: Can’t is dead; his brother is called Try.

Origins of Vibe and Vibing

  Lily in Madison, Wisconsin, wonders about the use of the words vibe and vibing to mean “having a good time” with someone else. The sense of vibrations reflecting some kind of mystical connection goes centuries back and was famously celebrated in the Beach Boys’ 1966 hit, “Good Vibrations.”

The Asthenosphere

  The asthenosphere, as described in Brian Kevin’s Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks guide (Bookshop|Amazon) is a gurgling sea of plasticized rock beneath the earth’s rocky crust. Asthenosphere derives from Greek asthenes, meaning “weak” or “feeble,” and a relative of the English words for “muscle weakness,” myasthenia, and “nerve weakness,” neurasthenia. The Greek word for “strong,” sthenos, gives us the English word calisthenics, or “beautiful strength,” a form of exercise originally designed primarily to promote strength and fitness in girls. These rhythmic exercises were popularized in the 19th century by the sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Bookshop|Amazon).

Might Could, Might Should

  Modals are helping verbs that affect a verb’s grammatical mood and express possibility, capability, likelihood, permission, or obligation. The use in the Southern United States of multiple modals, such as might could and might should reflect the settlement patterns of immigrants from Scotland and northern England.


  A retired professor of classics in Missouri suggests the Latin word Utinam! as something to exclaim if you belatedly draw the right tile or card in a game. In Latin, utinam introduces the optative subjunctive and translates as “if only.”

Moded California Slang

  Tony says when he was growing up in Orange County, California, he and his friends would use the exclamation Moded! meaning “In your face!” or “Busted!” This expression, and variations of it such as Molded! and Moted!, was said to someone who is humiliated, embarrassed, or mistaken. It was sometimes accompanied with the gesture of scratching one’s neck, a reference to the phrase scratch your dirty neck, suggesting someone who’d been beaten and otherwise bested. Another variation: Moded, corroded, your booty exploded!

Rhode Island Dressing

  If you’ve never had the salad topping called Rhode Island dressing, it may be because you’ve never been to Sweden,where you can find it on grocery store shelves.

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


Books Mentioned in the Episode

Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks by Brian Kevin (Bookshop|Amazon)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Bookshop|Amazon)

Music Used in the Episode

Falling In Love AgainDojo CutsTomorrow’s Gonna ComeDC Recordings
OmegaBlack Market BrassOmegaColemine Records
Spear For Moondog Pt 1Jimmy McGriffElectric FunkBlue Note
Bad NewsAaron FrazerBad News SingleColemine
Spear For Moondog Pt 2Jimmy McGriffElectric FunkBlue Note
Changes (Demo)Neal FrancisDemoColemine Records
Queen BeeGhost Funk OrchestraAn Ode To EscapismColemine Records
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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