Hundreds of years ago, the word girl didn’t necessarily mean a female child — in the 14th and 15th centuries, it could refer to a child of either sex. Only later did its meaning become more specific. • Some people think that referring to a former spouse as an ex sounds harsh or disrespectful. So what do you call someone you used to be involved with? • The story behind the real McCoy. This term for something “genuine” has nothing to do with the famous feud nor an inventor. • Also, hairy at the heels, Spanglish, nose out of joint, punctuating abbreviations, and gaywater.
This episode first aired March 25, 2017.
More Names for a Dad-Focused Baby Shower
Listeners respond to our discussion about what to call a baby shower for the dad-to-be, suggesting Huggies and chuggies, beer shower, beer for diapers, diaper kegger, baby boot camp, and Baby Fat Tuesday.
The True Origins of “the Real McCoy”
Why do we describe something that’s genuine or authentic as the real McCoy? It has nothing to do with trains or an inventor!
Hell’s Half Acre Expression
The expression hell’s half acre denotes a small patch of land or a place that’s otherwise undesirable. It has been around for a century and a half.
Hairy at the Heel
A Courtland, Alabama, woman wonders about the phrase hairy at the heel. Along with hairy-heeled, hairy about the heels, and hairy about the fetlocks, this snobby term describes someone who is considered ill-bred. It derives from the fact that non-thoroughbred horses often have tufts of hair above their hooves.
Hip Hop Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a fill-in-the-blank puzzle about famous hip-hop rhymes. For example, from Run DMC, there’s the verse: “I’m the king of rock / There is none higher / Sucker MC’s should call me _________.”
What’s a Better Name for an Ex?
A man in Carlsbad, California, contends that the word ex for “a former partner” or “a former spouse” sounds too harsh. Is there a better term besides wasband?
Spanglish at the Border
A man who divides his time between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, wonders if linguistic mixtures similar to Spanglish arise at other borders. Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language by Ilan Stavans, offers a look at this phenomenon.
Periods in Acronyms?
Why, when writing out an abbreviated name like NATO for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, don’t we use periods between the letters to form the acronym or initialism?
Name for the Place Where You Scatter Ashes
When someone’s buried in a cemetery, you can visit their grave. But what do you call the place where you go to visit someone’s scattered ashes? Listeners ponder that question on our Facebook group.
“Girl” Used to Mean Either Gender
Hundreds of years ago, the word girl could refer to a child of either gender, and the word boy applied specifically to a servant. The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary is a useful resource for understanding which terms were in common use during what period.
Nose Out of Joint
Why, when someone’s unhappy about something, do we say someone’s nose is out of joint or out of socket?
Wetting a Baby’s Head
A man in Devon, England, notes that where he lives, wetting the baby’s head is a term for celebrating the birth of a baby, and involves taking the man out to a pub for copious amounts of beer.
Chop Chop Wiki Wiki
A San Diego, California, guy says his high school history teacher used the phrase chop chop wiki wiki meaning “Hurry up!” The first part of this phrase comes from similar-sounding Cantonese words — the source also of the chop in chopsticks — and the second half comes from a Hawaiian word that means “quick,” the same as found in the name of the online reference that can be edited quickly, Wikipedia.
Gaywater is not the opposite of conversion therapy. It’s a southern American term for whiskey, especially the illegal kind.
Photo by Bureau of Land Management. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language|
|The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary
Music Used in the Broadcast
|The In Crowd||The Ramsey Lewis Trio||The In Crowd||Argo Records|
|Nose Job||James Brown||Ain’t It Funky||King Records|
|Slippin’ Into Darkness||The Ramsey Lewis Trio||Upendo Ni Pamoja||Columbia|
|Listen Here||Gene Harris||Gene Harris of The Three Sounds||Blue Note|
|Wade In The Water||Ramsey Lewis||Wade In The Water||Cadet|
|Funky Drummer||James Brown||Funky Drummer||King Records|
|Summer Breeze||Ramsey Lewis||Solar Wind||Columbia|
|Tensity||Cannonball Adderly||The Cannonball Adderly Quintet and Orchestra||Capitol Records|
|Black Messiah||Cannonball Adderly||Black Messiah||Capitol Records|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|