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Hair of the Politics that Bit You

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Feel like having a little “hair of the dog”? Grant and Martha explain what dog hair has to do with hangover cures. And what do you call it when random objects form a recognizable image, like a cloud resembling a bunny, or the image of Elvis in a grilled cheese sandwich? Also, with all this talk about this year’s election ballot, did you ever stop to think about where the word ballot comes from? Martha and Grant discuss terms related to politics, including ballot and leg treasurer.

This episode first aired November 1, 2008.

Apple Core, Baltimore

 Grant reads an email from a listener whose family used to play a game she calls “Apple Core, Baltimore.”

From the Head Down

 “A fish stinks from the head down.” When an Indianapolis woman is quoted saying that, she’s accused of calling someone a stinky fish. She says she wasn’t speaking literally, insisting that this is a turn of phrase that means “corruption in an organization starts at the top.” Who’s right?

Etymology of Slang “Dude”

 Dude, how’d we ever start using the word dude? The Big Grantbowski traces the word’s origin—it’s over 125 years old. Here’s a poem about dandy dudes from 1883, the year the word zoomed into common use. Ben Zimmer at Visual Thesaurus also has a very good summary of what is known about dude.

Overlap-Plied Linguistics Puzzle

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski drops by with a puzzle involving overlapping words. He calls it, of course, “Overlap-Plied Linguistics.”

Random as an Adjective

 Martha reads an email from a teach who finds her students using the word random as an adjective. Is this a wide-spread trend?

Hangover Cure

 If you’re hung over, and someone offers you a little “hair of the dog,” you can rest assured you’re not being offered a sip of something with real dog hair in it. But was that always the case? Grant has the answer, and Martha offers a word once proposed as a medical term for this crapulent condition: veisalgia.

Yinz and Nebby

 A new resident of Pittsburgh is startled by some of the dialect there, like yinz instead of “you” for the second person plural, and nebby for “nosy.” What’s up with that? For a wonderful site about the dialect of that area, check out Pittsburgh Speech and Society.


 If someone says he finna go, he means he’s leaving. But finna? Grant has the final word about finna.


 Good news if you’ve wondered about a word for recognizable images composed of random visual stimuli—that image of Elvis in your grilled-cheese sandwich, for example. It’s pareidolia.

Moose-Tanned Slang This!

 In this week’s “Slang This!,” a member of the National Puzzlers’ League from Boston tries to guess the meaning of four possible slang terms, including labanza, woefits, prosciutto, and moose-tanned.


 At Murray’s Cheese in Grand Central Station, the workers who sell cheese are called cheesemongers. The store’s opening up a new section to sell cold cuts, and workers there are looking for more appetizing term than meatmonger. (Meat-R-Maids? Never mind.) Martha and Grant try to help.

Rooting for the Home Team

 At sports events in North America, we enthusiastically root for the home team, right? But a woman from Kenosha, Wisconsin, says an Aussie told her that they most assuredly don’t do that Down Under. There, he tells her, rooting means “having sex.” Is he pulling her leg, she wonders?

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

Photo by davidgsteadman. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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