New research shows that you may be less influenced by superstitious behavior like walking under ladders or the magic of four-leaf clovers if you’re reading about it in another language. • Sometimes not cursing will catch someone’s ear even more than a real curse word. • In what sport do you enjoy a glass-off and speck out before getting flushed? Martha brings back a firsthand report from the language of paragliding. This episode first aired January 20, 2018.
In what sport would you hear the slang terms glass off, speck out, and get flushed? They’re all expressions used in paragliding. Glass-off refers to a smooth, effortless takeoff; to speck out is to go so high that you’re nearly invisible to those on the ground; to get flushed means to lose lift and be forced to make a landing. The United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association offers a glossary of the slang of free flight. As promised, here’s video Martha shot while getting flushed toward the end of her first paragliding flight at the Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla, California. The song is “Fear of Flying,” by Pam Delgado, performed by Blame Sally, and is used with permission. (By the way, we have no idea who Cindy is, but we hope she said yes.)
A roofer in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has a dispute with his boss over how to pronounce the word roof. Most people pronounce roof to rhyme with the word proof, but some pronounce like the word rough and some pronounce it to rhyme with hoof.
A listener in Williamsburg, Virginia, wants to know the correct pronunciation of the condiment known as Worcestershire sauce. The proper pronunciation involves what linguists call haplology, the loss of a syllable next to a similar-sounding one.
This week’s puzzle by Quiz Guy John Chaneski involves limericks based on notable news from 2017. For example, how would you finish this one? “My dependable British authorities / Say the royals have excellent qualities / Like handsome Prince Harry / Who announced he will marry / Meghan Markle who hails from the ________________.”
A Fort Worth, Texas, woman remembers her grandfather used to say, “You live and learn, then you die and forget it all.” She wonders if he made it up. Turns out, the phrase goes back to the 1840s and may allude to the brevity of life or to putting trivial matters into perspective.
Our discussion about finding a word that means both nervous but excited prompted several suggestions from listeners. A listener in Melbourne, Australia, contributed another term used in his part of the world: toey. If you’re toey, you’re full of anxious anticipation — an allusion, perhaps, to a horse pawing at the ground.
A listener in Huntsville, Alabama, says that in her native Scotland, the phrase send out for messages means to send someone to go shopping. The phrase stems from a time when the person going out to do the shopping or run other errands would also pick up the postal mail, sometimes at the local store.
To eat al desko is a joking term for having lunch at work without leaving the office. It’s a play on al fresco, meaning “in the openair.”
New research published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that people who speak more than one languagetend to be less superstitious if they’re reading or thinking in a different language.
A San Antonio, Texas, woman wonders about the phrase to ask for your John Henry, meaning to ask for your signature. It’s a variant of the far more common phrase, to ask for your John Hancock, a reference to the bold signature of John Hancock, one of the original signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
The slang of paragliding includes the terms cus, pronounced like “cues,” and cumies, also known as cumulus clouds, which indicate good lift is available. For paragliders, the term cloud street refers to a line of cumulus clouds that stretches for miles, suggesting ideal conditions for flying.
A Los Angeles, California, man says his mother studiously avoided swearing. Instead of a curse word, she substituted the word piffle, which was often even more effective than a four-letter word because it was so unexpected. Piffle is most likely onomatopoetic, suggesting a disgusted exhalation through pursed lips. It’s common in the United Kingdom, and figured in the title of the popular 2006 British television program about etymology, Balderdash & Piffle.
Someone does both paragliding and hang gliding is jokingly said to be biwingual. Really!
A woman in Perote, Alabama, wonders about the phrase happy as Larry, meaning very happy. This expression is commonly heard in Britain and Australia. It may derive from a jocular reference to the biblical Lazarus, who presumably would have been happy to be raised from the dead. Or it might be some sort of rhyming slang that evolved from very happy to Larry happy to happy as Larry. But the truth is no one knows who this particular Larry is or why he’s so pleased.
Among paragliders, the expression the locals refers not to humans, but to birds. If the locals are able to soar without flapping their wings, then paragliders know that conditions are good for flying.
This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.
Public domain photo from the National Archives.
Music Used in the Episode
|The Message||Cymande||Cymande||Janus Records|
|This Very Moment||Ralph Benatar||Beat-Action||RKM|
|Promised Heights||Cymande||Promised Heights||Janus Records|
|Changes||Cymande||Promised Heights||Janus Records|
|Mango Meat||Mandrill||Just Outside Of Town||Polydor|
|Take Care||Douglas Lucas||Beat-Action||RKM|
|Inner City Blues||Reuben Wilson||The Sweet Life||Groove Merchant|
|Brothers On The Slide||Cymande||Promised Heights||Janus Records|
|Bus Ride||Reuben Wilson||Blue Mode||Groove Merchant|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|