Why do we call a frankfurter a hot dog? It seems an unsettling 19th-century rumor is to blame. Also, if someone quits something abruptly, why do we say they quit cold turkey? This term’s roots may lie in the history of boxing. Plus, a transgender listener with nieces and nephews is looking for a gender-neutral term for the sibling of one’s parent. Finally, the words barber and doctor don’t necessarily mean what you think. They can both be weather words, referring to very different types of wind.
This episode first aired May 27, 2017.
Addressing or Introducing Married Doctors
Say you’re introducing someone to a married heterosexual couple, and both members of the couple are physicians. What titles should you use? “This is Dr. and Dr. Jones”? Dr. and Mrs.? What if one holds Ph.D.? What if both hold doctorates?
Opitmists vs. Pessimists
Here’s a humorous take on how optimists differ from pessimists.
Broadway Letter Swap
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has been swapping out letters on Broadway marquees to create the names of entirely new theatrical productions. For example, what Broadway play might you be watching if it’s about a famous woman who leaves her career as a sharpshooter for a job at McDonald’s?
The grandmother of a woman in Council Bluffs, Iowa, says tousled hair looks like a hoorah’s nest. Also spelled hurrah’s nest or hooraw’s nest, this means “an untidy mess” or “a commotion.” Its origin is uncertain. In 1829, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described someone as having a head like a hurra’s nest. The term’s origin is obscure, although it might have to do with the nest of an imaginary creature.
Gender Neutral Term for Aunt and Uncle?
A transgender and gender-nonconforming listener wonders if there’s a gender-neutral term for “aunt” or “uncle.” Some people have suggested pibling, meaning the “sibling of one’s parent.” Others have proposed baba, titi, bibi, zizi, unty or untie, or simply cousin. In the same way that kids often come up with a pet name for their grandparents, perhaps nieces and nephews (or nieflings, as they’re sometimes collectively called) will come up with their own term. The tumblr Gender Queeries has more suggestions for all kinds of gender-neutral words denoting kinship.
Origin of the Word “Thesaurus”
A thesaurus, a collection of synonyms, derives its name from the Latin word thesaurus, or literally, “treasury.”
Strange English Plurals Leftover From a Bygone Age
A San Antonio, Texas, man says his six-year-old son wonders: If the plural of house is houses, why is the plural of mouse mice? And why is the plural of tooth teeth? These plurals are vestiges of a time when the middle vowel sound in some nouns changed to form the plural. Other old plural forms are reflected in such words as children and oxen.
Doctor Good Wind
A cool wind or a wind that brings good health is sometimes called a doctor, such as the Fremantle Doctor of Western Australia. A barber wind is a harsh wind so cold and wet it can freeze a person’s hair and beard.
Mountain-Inspired Poetry by Jessica Goodfellow
Jessica Goodfellow spent several weeks as an artist-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska while finishing her latest book, Whiteout. The poems in this collection explore the stark natural beauty of that mountain, which drew her uncle there for a climb that turned out to be deadly. Martha shares one of those poems, “The Magpie.”
Cold Turkey Origins
When you quit something abruptly, you’re said to quit cold turkey. This expression’s origin is unknown although its earliest recording uses are from 19th-century boxing.
Discarding and Replacing Dictionaries
A listener in Port Washington, Wisconsin, asks: When is it appropriate to get rid of an old edition of a dictionary?
Names for the Bed Linen That Holds A Pillow
The cloth case for a pillow is variously known as a pillowcase, a pillow slip, or a pillow cover.
If I Were Any Better I’d…
An Evansville, Indiana, listener says she responds to the question “how are you?” with a phrase she adopted from her grandmother: “If I was any better, I’d be twins.” There are several versions along these lines: “If I was any better, I’d be you.” “If I was any better, there’d be two of me.” “If I were any better, I’d be dangerous.” “If I were any better, vitamins would be taking me.” In all of these jokey responses, the meaning is straightforward. It’s simply that the speaker is doing very well indeed.
Photo by jeffreyww. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Volume 1.|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Bowlegs||Funk Inc||Funk Inc||Prestige|
|Kool Is Back||Funk Inc||Funk Inc||Prestige|
|Ain’t She Sweet||Roger Rivas and The Brothers of Reggae||Last Goodbye||Rivas Recordings|
|Sister Janie||Funk Inc||Funk Inc||Prestige|
|The Hill Where The Lord Hides||Funk Inc||Superfunk||Prestige|
|Ace-High||Roger Rivas and The Brothers of Reggae||Last Goodbye||Rivas Recordings|
|The Better Half||Funk Inc||Chicken Lickin’||Prestige|
|Hang Up Your Hang Ups||Herbie Hancock||Man-Child||Columbia|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|