Your first name is very personal, but what if you don’t like it? For some people, changing their name works out great but for others it may create more problems than it solves. And: at least three towns in the U.S. were christened with names formed by spelling a word backward. There’s a name for such names: they’re called ananyms. Plus, the Iowa town with a curious name: What Cheer. And: a brain game involving kangaroo words, had the radish, landed up vs. ended up, who struck John, English on a ball, whoop it up, affirming the Appalachian dialect, Sunday driver, and lots more.
This episode first aired June 15, 2019.
Towns Named Backward
Remlap, Alabama and Trebloc, Mississippi are examples of ananyms — names formed by spelling a word backward, making them a kind of anagram. In the case of the Alabama town, it’s named after the Palmer family, and the Mississippi town is named for a family named Colbert. Similarly, Lennut was the original name of a Kentucky town that happened to be near a tunnel.
When You’ve Had the Radish
Donna in Ithaca, New York, wonders about the phrase I’ve had the radish, said by someone who’s exhausted or frustrated. It’s commonly heard in Vermont, and may be related to the French phrase je n’ais plus un radis, meaning “my resources are exhausted.”
At That Cute Age
Following up on our conversation about euphemistic ways to talk about one’s age, Gene from Greenwood, Indiana, reports that his mother-in-law prefers the phrase I’m at that cute age.
Is Calling Someone a “Clothes Horse” an Insult?
Elainey from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, says her friend called her a clothes horse. Her friend meant it as a compliment, but Elainey has always understood the expression to be a dig that implies someone is too preoccupied with their appearance?
Radix, Radish, Radical, Eradicate
The word radish derives from Latin radix, meaning “root.” The Latin word is at the root of the English words radical and eradicate.
Kangaroo Words Contain Synonyms of Themselves
Quiz Guy John Chaneski offers a puzzle about kangaroo words. They’re words that contain a synonym of themselves. For example, the word devilish contains what adjective that means the same thing?
Who Struck John
Lisa in Wilmington, North Carolina, remembers her grandmother using the expression who struck John to mean “confusion,” “foolishness,” or “bad behavior.” A common variant is “who shot John.” No one’s sure who John was, but this phrase is predated by a similar phrase, who struck Billy Patterson, a refrain from a 19th-century minstrel song.
It would be nice if Sigmund Freud really said “Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me,” and the ailurophilic observation “Time spent with cats is never wasted.” However, according to researchers at the Freud Museum in London, the father of psychoanalysis never said them. Any time you’re uncertain about the provenance of a quotation, Garson O’Toole’s Quote Investigator is a good place to start.
How did the town of What Cheer, Iowa, get its name? The word cheer was long used to indicate an emotional state of any kind, so asking someone What cheer? was another way to say “How are you?” The greeting What cheer, netop? Is closely associated with history of Providence, Rhode Island, netop being a Narragansett word for “friend,” which may have inspired the name of the Iowa town. But no one knows for sure.
Landed Up vs. Ended Up; Get Down From a Car
Margaret from Denton, Texas, says that during her many years in northern New Mexico she noticed that residents with Latino roots often used the phrase landed up instead of ended up, and get down off the car rather than get out of the car. The latter is simply a calque from the Spanish word bajar, meaning “to descend” or “to lower.” The phrase landed up, on the other hand, is not at all limited to New Mexico.
Changing Your First Name
Do you like your first name? Have you ever wanted to change it to something else? Martha and Grant talk about the experiences of people who tried changing their names, why they did it, and how other people reacted.
English on a Ball
Marco from San Diego, California, is curious about why sportscasters speak of a player who put English on a ball. The expression appears to have begun with British players of billiards and snooker, who first figured out how to give a ball some extra spin. Body English refers to the way a player or observer twists and turn once a ball is already in motion, as if they could somehow add a little extra spin after the fact. Sports announcers also refer to a ball that’s passed too hard as having a lot of mustard on it. That’s simply a way of comparing that added force to extra “spice.”
Appalachian Dialect Affirmed
Tennessee lawmakers have passed a resolution affirming that Appalachian English is a “fully legitimate dialect and most deserving of the respect afforded other dialects of American English.”
Whoop it Up
Amanda in Indianapolis, Indiana, wonders about her mother’s exhortation whoop it up!, meaning “Get going!” It’s part of a long tradition of making noise to urge someone to hurry.
Name for a Serving Dish Shaped Like the Food it Contains?
Is there a word for a serving dish shaped like the food it’s meant to serve, such as a plate for serving fish that’s shaped like a fish?
Why is Sunday Driver an Insult?
Mark from Lewiston, Texas, remembers old cartoons where a someone would roll down the window of a car and yell at a pokey motorist, Sunday driver! But why Sunday as opposed to any other day of the week?
This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.
Photo by Andrew Malone. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Music Used in the Episode
|Le Ore Che Cantano||Piero Umiliani||La Ragazza Fuoristrada||Luito Records|
|Open Space||Piero Umiliani||To-Day’s Sound||Luito Records|
|Zambezi||New Mastersounds||This Is What We Do||One Note Records|
|Coast To Coast||Piero Umiliani||Coast To Coast||Piero Umiliani|
|Volto Di Donna||Piero Umiliani||La Ragazza Fuoristrada||Luito Records|
|All I Want Right Now||New Mastersounds||This Is What We Do||One Note Records|
|Protesta Giovanile||Piero Umiliani||Percussioni Ed Effecti Speciali||Luito Records|
|Blue Lagoon||Piero Umiliani||To-Day’s Sound||Luito Records|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|
Probably too cutesy for a real word, but I couldn’t help but think of onomatoplate-a for a fish shaped plate for a fish dish.