Sharing a secret language. Did you ever speak in gibberish with a childhood pal, adding extra syllables to words so the adults couldn’t understand what you were saying? Such wordplay isn’t just for kids–and it’s not just limited to English. Also, memory tricks to hold onto those slippery words you always forget. And, what do you call your warm, knitted cap? Is it a beanie, a tuque, a toboggan, or something else? The answer has everything to do with where you live. Plus “cutting a rusty,” foundering on cake, hone in vs. home in, “Jeezum Crow!,” and triboluminescence.
This episode first aired April 10, 2015.
Husband Version 2.0
We heard from someone on the show a while back about what to call an ex-wife’s new husband. Lots of listeners called in and wrote us with their suggestions, including husband-in-law and step-husband to relief pitcher, stunt double, and version 2.0.
If you’ve spent any time in the Vermont region, chances are you’ve heard the exclamation “Jeezum Crow!,” which is simply a euphemism for “Jesus Christ!”
Martha went on an overnight backpacking trip and came back with a new word: triboluminescence, which refers to the glow created by rubbing together two pieces of quartz. The tribo- is from a Greek root meaning “to rub,” the source also of diatribe, which has to do with “wearing away” using words.
Foundering on Cake
The verb to founder applies to horses that overeat to a dangerous extent. It’s used by extension in less severe situations involving humans, such as children at a birthday party foundering on cake and ice cream.
Grant came across a lovely discussion on Metafilter about ways to denote farting. His two favorites: making a little wish, and love puff, used at that point in a relationship where you feel okay passing gas in front of your significant other.
Head-to-Tail Shift Puzzle
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski, who belongs to the National Puzzlers’ League, brought us a game inspired by the league’s newsletter. In this game, based on head-to-tail shifts, the first letter of a word moves to the back to form a new word, so if a boyfriend presented his girlfriend with a _______, she’d display a triumphant ________.
Done and Dusted
After we heard from a listener about the phenomenon of swiping our hands together after finishing a chore—which she calls all-done clappy hands—several others reached out to say that in Great Britain, they use the phrase done and dusted.
Hone In vs. Home In
When getting closer to an objective, do you hone in, home in, zone in, or zero in? The phrase zero in goes back to World War II and the act of fixing on a target. Home in carries a sense of traveling to or being aimed at something, but people often say hone in because it sounds correct—akin to sharpening a blade until it’s just right.
Ineluctable, meaning inescapable, is one of those words Martha has to look up in the dictionary every time she sees it. But noting its Latin origin, luctari, meaning “to struggle,” and therefore related to reluctant, will help.
Since Hector was a Pup
Hector’s pup, or since Hector was a pup, is another way to say, “Oh, heck.” The expressions go back to the early 1900’s, when people were perhaps more familiar with the character of Hector from The Iliad.
Good as Corn
Why tell someone they’re sexy when you can let them know they’re good as corn? That’s what the Portuguese say, along with “taking his little horse away from the rain,” an idiom that means giving up.
Variations on Gibberish
Gibberish and its variants aren’t just for goofy teens in the wayback of the station wagon. As Jessica Weiss notes in Schwa Fire, the online magazine about language, people all over the world speak various forms of it. Her article features sound clips of some examples.
The Knitted Hat Survey
Tuque, a primarily Canadian name for a warm knit hat, is related to the French word toque, the tall white hat that chefs wear. Take our Great Knitted Hat Survey and tell us what you call them.
Giving a Basket
In German, ein Korb geben–literally, to “give a basket”–means to “turn down a potential date.” This idiom derives from a medieval legend about castle-dwelling woman. Instead of letting her hair down for a suitor she didn’t fancy, she let down a large basket. He got in, and she pulled it only halfway up, leaving him there to be humiliated in front of the townsfolk.
Etymology of Aught
Aught, meaning “zero,” is one of those odd terms where the original version—naught—was heard as two words, so people started saying an aught. This same process, known as metanalysis, misdivision, and a few other names, happened with napron and nadder, which eventually became apron and adder.
I Feel You, Fam
“I feel you fam,” or “I feel u fam,” is a term that’s been popping up on social media sites like Vine and YikYak to tell someone you relate to what they’re saying or dealing with, even though you’re not actually family.
Cutting a Rusty
“Cutting a rusty,” used particularly in the U.S. South and South Midlands, refers to doing something mildly outrageous like shouting a naughty word or pulling a prank. It’s likely related to the word restive, as in restive sleep, wherein someone’s tossing and turning, and an old sense of rusty applied to horses to mean “hard to control or stubborn.”
Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Book Mentioned in the Broadcast
|The Iliad by Homer|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|The Old Spot||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Turtle Rock||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Cold and Wet||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Pictures||MyCoy Tyner||The Greeting||Fantasy|
|Riff Raff Rollin||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Lord Kenji||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Doty’s Leslie||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Heavy Hands||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Naima||MyCoy Tyner||The Greeting||Fantasy|
|Shadowfish||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Gourds of The Desert||Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin||Music is My Medicine||Ubiquity|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|