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Hit the Pickle Button

Hi from Martha and Grant!

In our latest episode, you'll learn the meaning of the mysterious phrase "hit the pickle button" and about the odd names that law enforcement officers give to criminals at large, like the "Botox Bandit" and the "Bad-breath Bandit."


We also talked about why some people invoke the name of an ancient kingdom in lieu of the word "goodbye" and Grant has the scoop on a term rarely heard outside the African-American community: "seditty."

Another question left us uncharacteristically answer-less. A La Jolla, California, caller was racking his brain trying to remember a term he'd heard for those bright pools of silver light on the surface of the ocean when sunbeams poke down through cloud cover.

We tried "albedo," "coruscation," and "sunglade" -- all to no avail. Fortunately, several helpful listeners came to our rescue. We'll do a follow-up on another episode, but you heard it here first: the phrase he was looking for was probably "crepuscular rays."

Several of you sent us this Wikipedia link about them:


If you're a compulsive proofreader, you'll enjoy Joseph Epstein's essay in the "Weekly Standard" on the joy of typos:


We talked about "be there or be square" this past weekend and mentioned old school Los Angeles disc jockey and radio announcer Art Laboe. A legend! Here's his website:


When you listen to the closing credits of "A Way with Words," you'll notice that we, Martha and Grant, are in different cities. Martha records at Studio West in San Diego and Grant records at San Francisco's KQED, not far from his home in San Mateo. Many listeners tell us they have no idea that we're not in the same studio when we record the show. We're happy it sounds that way.

We're even happier to say that we'll soon record an episode in the same studio, for a change. Grant's coming to San Diego for the annual board meeting of our new nonprofit organization, Wayword Inc., which produces and distributes the show. That's right: we're not owned or funded by NPR, PBS, or by any public radio station.

We're just word nerds who happen to be passionate about language and informed conversation and who love all the things we learn from you.

If you'd like to get involved in helping to sustain "A Way with Words" and ensure a strong, vibrant future for the show, it's easy. Just go to https://www.waywordradio.org/donate/ and give what you can.

Your donations -- of any size -- really do add up to help cover our studio and production costs, all the better to bring you more and better episodes.

Oh, and in honor of Grant's visit, Martha asks that you email her privately if you have any suggestions about where she can order a deluxe whoopie cushion.

Have a great week. Uff da!

Martha and Grant

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Further reading


In Scotland and Northern England, something that’s kenspeckle is “conspicuous.” This word likely comes from Scandinavian languages and is related to English ken, meaning “range of knowledge.” And it’s not just ken...

At First Blush (episode #1529)

Book recommendations and the art of apology. Martha and Grant share some good reads, including an opinionated romp through English grammar, a Spanish-language adventure novel, an account of 19th-century dictionary wars, and a gorgeously illustrated...