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Hard Words Are Hard

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The SAT is changing things up, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just because words like membranous are no longer in the verbal section doesn’t mean kids aren’t learning important vocabulary. And speaking of useful terms, shouldn’t we have an English word for “the parents of your child’s spouse”? Actually, there is one. And if your daughter gets divorced, should she call her former husband her . . .  wasband? Plus, Sheboyganisms like fry out and hot tamales, please find attached and other e-mail language, the two meanings of inertia, Z-plurals, and mispronounced words. This episode first aired May 2, 2014.

Learning the Proper Pronunciation

 Precocious readers need not be ashamed of mispronouncing words like misled or epitome—it’s never too late to actually hear it pronounced properly for the first time, although it can be a little embarrassing.


 When the term ex-husband sounds too prickly of a descriptor, try wasband.

Woodpecker Joke

 Nothing’s hungrier than a woodpecker with a headache. Think about it for a second—it does makes sense.

The Common Meaning of Inertia

 In the scientific sense, inertia is the tendency for things to continue doing what they’re doing, like staying in motion. But the common meaning of inertia almost always refers to the tendency to do nothing, making inertia something that must be overcome in order to get things done.

Call In The Dogs

 If you want to check the weather without leaving the sofa, just call in the dogs and see if they’re wet.

Another Round of the License Plate Game

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski is back with his classic License Plate Game. He’ll give you three letters, and you have to come up with the shortest possible word that contains them in that order.

Please Find Attached

 To some, the phrase please find attached might sound like musty old language for the e-mail age. It’s always smart to be formal when the context is all business, but there are other phrases that convey the same meaning, such as I’ve attached and Here is the document you requested.

Cherry Lifesaver

 Why shouldn’t it be a term of endearment to call someone a cherry Lifesaver? Cherry’s the best flavor!

Pronouncing “Indicted”

 If you grew up reading Hardy Boys books, chances are you knew the term indicted long before you ever heard it pronounced.

Such As vs. Such Clauses As

 The expressions such as and such clauses as are both acceptable.

P/U Dialect

 The P/U dialect, common in the South, is marked by distinct emphasis on the first syllable of words such as police and umbrella.

First Word “Uh-Oh”

 Parents of a toddler may wonder if Uh-oh should count as their child’s first word. Yep, and it’s actually pretty common first word for little kids, since mishaps are things they learn about early on.

Terms for “Your Child’s In-Laws”

 We need a common word for “the parents of your son-in-law or daughter-in-law.” Although English has the word affines, it’s rarely used outside of such fields as anthropology or psychiatry. Other languages have more commonly used terms for “your child’s in-laws,” such as Yiddish machatunim or machetunim, and Spanish consuegros.

SAT Revision

 The SAT is cutting depreciatory and membranous from the verbal section of the test, but don’t go insane in the membrane—there’s been no depreciation in knowledge among the youth.

Z Plurals

 Z-plurals are plurals that would end with an s but get a z instead, for style pointz.


 In and around Sheboygan, Wisconsin, barbecues are known as fry outs even though nothing’s fried. And a hot tamale is more like a sloppy joe sandwich.

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

Photo by Jun Seita. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon

Music Used in the Episode

Selma MarchGrant Green / Donald ByrdHis Majesty King Funk / Up With Donald ByrdPolygram
Willow Weep For MeGrant Green / Donald ByrdHis Majesty King Funk / Up With Donald ByrdPolygram
That Lucky Old SunGrant Green / Donald ByrdHis Majesty King Funk / Up With Donald ByrdPolygram
ChalupaJungle FireTropicosoNacional Records
Cantaloupe WomanGrant Green / Donald ByrdHis Majesty King Funk / Up With Donald ByrdPolygram
Daddy GrapesGrant Green / Donald ByrdHis Majesty King Funk / Up With Donald ByrdPolygram
Blind Man Blind ManGrant Green / Donald ByrdHis Majesty King Funk / Up With Donald ByrdPolygram
FirewalkerJungle FireTropicosoNacional Records
Boom BoomGrant Green / Donald ByrdHis Majesty King Funk / Up With Donald ByrdPolygram
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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