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Guess What

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English is full of unusual terms, both old (eleemosynary, favonian) and new (flyaway, catio). Also, the Swahili term that means “sleep like a log,” the multiple meanings of the word joint, cowpies and horse biscuits, what it means to play gooseberry, and how to punctuate “Guess what?” (or “Guess what!”). This episode first aired November 1, 2010.

Flyaway and Catio

 Thinking about a flyaway, or will you spend the weekend gazing out at the catio? Grant explains these terms.

Subscribing to an Idea

 Is subscribing just for magazines and podcasts, or can you subscribe to an idea? A husband and wife disagree over whether the latter is grammatically correct.

Sleep Like a Log

 The Swahili phrase nililala fofofo means “to sleep really well.” Literally, though, it translates as “to sleep like a log.” Are the English and Swahili idioms related?


 In French, tenir la chandelle means “to act as a chaperone,” though literally it’s “to hold the candle.” Another expression that means “to chaperone” is the antiquated English phrase “to play gooseberry.”

License-Plate Bingo

 License-plate bingo, anyone? Quiz Guy John Chaneski offers a radio version.

The Cat’s Mother

 “Who is ‘she’? The cat’s mother?” A Davis, California, man remembers his mother’s indignant use of this expression, and he’s curious about the origin.

Pronouncing Coyote

 Should you pronounce the word coyote with two syllables or three?

Sharing a Joint in Great Britain

 A Northern California caller discovers that in Britain, an invitation to share a joint doesn’t mean what it does back home.

Unusual Words from Eleemosynary

 Eleemosynary is the title of a play by Lee Blessing. The play celebrates this and other unusual words, including sortilege, charivari, ungulate, favonian, and logodaedaly. Martha saw a production at San Diego’s Moxie Theater, and takes the opportunity to discuss those words, plus the fizzy roots of moxie.

Punctuating “Guess What”

 Guess what! Or would that be Guess what? A Honolulu listener asks about the right way to punctuate this interjection. Should you use an exclamation mark or a question mark? How about an interrobang or a pronequark?


 A Texas listener says his family often describes a great meal as larrupin’. What does that mean, exactly?


 Grant talks about FOIA (“pronounced FOY-uh”), a bit of journalists’ jargon.

Cowpies and Other Slang

 Cowpies, horse biscuits, buffalo chips, horse dumplings — why do so many names for animal droppings have to do with food? A caller wonders this, and whether the term cowpie would be an anachronism in a Civil War novel.

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

Photo by Marc Dalmulder. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

Crazy QueenOrgoneCali FeverUbiquity Records
LookoutOrgoneCali FeverUbiquity Records
Live Right NowEddie HarrisPlug Me InAtlantic
Unbroken, UnshavenBudos BandThe Budos Band IIIDaptone Records
Mark Of The UnnamedBudos BandThe Budos Band IIIDaptone Records
Ballad (For My Love)Eddie HarrisPlug Me InAtlantic
Mista PresidentThe Soul Jazz OrchestraFreedom No Go DieFunk Manchu Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffFred AstaireFred Astaire’s Finest HourVerve

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