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Gung Ho

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The origins of the peace symbol, why we say someone who’s enthusiastic is gung ho, a tasty spin on stuffed foccacia that originated in eastern Sicily, curling parents, sharking and other words for driving around a parking lot looking for a space, ribey, a great book for young readers, man lettuce, and more.

This episode first aired March 3, 2018. It was rebroadcast the weekend of January 6, 2020.

Curling Parents

 In English-speaking countries, overprotective Moms and Dads are called helicopter parents for the way they hover and meddle in their children’s lives. In Denmark, they’re called curling forældre, or curling parents, alluding to the sport of curling and frantic efforts to sweep away all obstacles in their offspring’s path.  

Sharking for Parking

 A man in Orlando, Florida, asks if there’s a word for slowly circling a parking lot in search of a space for your car. Slang terms for this include sharking and sharking for parking, and sometimes such drivers are jokingly called vultures.

Collective Nouns for Librarians

 Following up on our conversation about the need for a collective noun for librarians, a Ranchester, Wyoming, man suggests a Marian of librarians, a nod to the play and movie The Music Man. Also a woman in Bennington, Vermont, suggests that although many people are likely to propose the phrase a hush of librarians, she thinks a far more appropriate term would be a riot of librarians.


 A Chicago, Illinois, man says his Appalachian relatives describe a thin or gaunt person as ribey. This adjective probably derives from the Scots term ribe, meaning a tall, scraggly plant and by extension a tall, thin person.

A Creeper

 The low, wheeled device that auto mechanics use to slide under a car is called a creeper.

John’s Genre Word Game

 After noting how similar the word genre sounds to his own first name, Quiz Guy John Chaneski crafted a quiz that involves replacing the letters gen- with John- to form an entirely new word. For example, he says, from now on when you talk about a person’s role in society as a man or a woman, as opposed to their biological sex, you’ll be talking about not gender, but…?

Peace Symbol Origins

 A Huntsville, Alabama, man asks: What’s the origin of the peace symbol? A good resource on its history is Peace: The Biography of a Symbol, by Ken Kolsbun.

On The Rivet

 In cycling slang, on the rivet refers to putting out maximum effort, and derives from the way cyclists lean all the way forward on the hard bicycle seat, which traditionally has a flat rivet in the very front.

Goudarooni, Goodieroonie, Cudduruni

 An Omaha, Nebraska, woman wonders about an Italian food that’s like a stuffed, pizza-size calzone stuffed with potatoes and spinach, or meat, or broccoli. She’s seen it spelled several ways, including goodierooni, goudarooni, and cudaruni. The original version, cudduruni, comes from Sicily and is found in Sicilian dictionaries as far back as the 16th century.

Gung Ho Origins

 A Mandarin Chinese speaker is curious about the origin of gung ho, referring to great enthusiasm. It derives from an anglicized Chinese expression, kung-ho, meaning “work together,” which was adapted and popularized by Marine officer Evans Fordyce Carlson as gung ho.

“One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia

 Grant recommends a book for young readers by Rita Williams-Garcia. It’s called One Crazy Summer, and it’s about three girls who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them.

Singular “They” and “Their” Take a Plural Verb

 The parent of a highschooler in Madison, Wisconsin, says that at the beginning of each semester, when her daughter’s classmates introduce themselves and their preferred pronouns, gender-neutral students often say their pronouns are they and their. Linguist Denis Baron has compiled an extensive list of other epicene pronouns. WHen they and their are applied to an individual, it’s best to use a plural verb.

Molly Ivins Sayings

 Texas journalist Molly Ivins delighted in collecting colorful expressions from state legislators, including “Who put Tabasco sauce in his oatmeal?” to refer to a suddenly invigorated colleague.

Why Are There So Many Dictionaries?

 A Houston, Texas, woman wants to know, “Why are there so many different dictionaries?”

Man Lettuce

 What’s man lettuce? A Tallahassee, Florida, listener uses that term for beard. If you have a beard you might be said said to be barbigerous. If you get it trimmed, you’ve had a pogonotomy.  

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

Photo by Michael McCullough. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Peace: The Biography of a Symbol by Ken Kolsbun

Music Used in the Episode

Hawkwind And FireAlan HawkshawLight My FireBrutton Music
Struttin’Steve GrayJingles Volume SevenBrutton Music
Powerhouse PopKeith MansfieldFlamboyant Themes Volume IVKPM Music
RetroboticPolyrhythmicsLibra StripesKEPT
Boogaloo Smith James ClarkeProgressive PopKPM Music
Mr. Wasabi Rides AgainPolyrhythmicsLibra StripesKEPT
Close ShaveKeith MansfieldSpeed and ExcitementKPM Music
Slow RockerKeith MansfieldFlamboyant Themes Volume IIKPM Music
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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1 comment
  • Gung ho: the term can have a negative connotation and it usually depends on whether it’s your peers or one of your superiors and sometimes becomes an adjective e.g. gungy (gun-gee) i.e. he’s a gungy jarhead or that’s gungy.

    I remember reading in Evan Carlson’s titled Gung-Ho, that the term has the same definition as the word synergy.

    Semper Fi, Mark.

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