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Great Balls of Fire


It's "The Fighting Kewpies, Uh-hunh!" In this week's archive episode, we talk about some of the craziest names for school athletic teams. How about the Plainfield Fighting Quakers? Or the Maryville Spoofhounds?


We also sort out the difference between the words "nauseous" and "nauseated" (not much any more), ponder the pronunciation of the word "sorry," and uncover the origins of "journey proud" and "Blue Dog Democrat."

If you want to share your favorite odd name for a school sports team, drop in on the discussion going on now in the "A Way with Words" forum.


After we asked you last week for summer reading recommendations, Barbara Germiat of Appleton, Wisconsin, wrote to suggest "The Art of Racing in the Rain," by Garth Stein. She'd heard an excerpt while listening to Wisconsin Public Radio program "Chapter A Day," and was hooked.

She describes it this way: "Set in Seattle, narrated by a very smart and perceptive dog, Enzo, who knows he's ready to become a man in his next life, it explores race car driving, brain cancer, and dysfunctional families sniping at each other. A keeper!"

You can check out this and other books on WPR's "Chapter A Day" program here:


Keep those summer reading recommendations coming!

Speaking of novelists, how would you like to eavesdrop on an email conversation between Jonathan Lethem and David Gates about writing in the age of computers? You can at the PEN American Center's site:


Also on the PEN site, there's a tribute to Jose Saramago, the great Portuguese novelist, who died June 18. Be sure to follow the link there to an audio excerpt from Saramago's harrowing allegorical novel, "Blindness," read by Colson Whitehead.


On the poetry front, what was Walt Whitman referring to when he wrote about "the strange huge meteor-procession" that went "shooting over our heads" with "its balls of unearthly light"? He described this in a short poem from "Leaves of Grass" titled "Year of Meteors. (1859-60)."

According to the July 2010 issue of "Sky & Telescope" magazine, a team of astronomers from Texas State University thinks it has the answer: "The Texas team links Whitman's words to a very rare celestial spectacle — a string of fireballs that marched, duckling style, across the evening sky for residents of the U.S. Northeast on July 20, 1860. The researchers clinch their case with a little-known but beautiful painting, The Meteor of 1860, by Frederic Church." Read the scintillating report here:


We mentioned this next item on our Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/wayword/), but it bears repeating: There's a huge new online survey of English speakers in the U.S. and Canada, and you invited to be a part of it. It only takes a few minutes, and you'll be asked to record your pronunciation of such words as "coat," "maid," "duck," "hill," and "boat." We're looking forward to the results!


Behind the scenes: Martha's back from a week in Kentucky, where the temperature stayed in the upper 90's, and the humidity was off the charts. The best analogy she heard about the weather there that week was that stepping outside was like walking around inside someone's mouth. Someone with a slight fever. After a three-day bender. In other words, it was HOT!

A Special Message from Martha: Today we welcome our new "A Way with Words" sponsor, the supported self-publishing company, iUniverse. I'm delighted to be able to recommend iUniverse personally, because I've used their services myself. Years ago, I'd had a couple of books published by Random House, but like most books that aren't bestsellers, they eventually went out of print. When I joined "A Way with Words," I decided to re-publish my books, and after researching my options, I chose iUniverse. The books are beautiful, and the editor who was assigned to guide me through the process was helpful and easy to work with.

If you have a book you'd like to publish, check out iUniverse, and tell 'em we sent you:


Until next week, uh-hunh!

Martha and Grant

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