Sneaky contract lingo, advice for writing well, and preserving a dying language. Say you’re scrolling through an online transaction where you’re asked to read the “Terms and Conditions.” Do you actually read them or just check the box and move on? If you move on, watch out for the Herod’s clause. Plus: When does your own communication style make you sound out-of-date? A 50-something boss wants suggestions on speaking with and writing for his younger co-workers. Finally, if we lose a language, how many of our childhood memories perish in the process? Also, “dark as Egypt,” “not quite cricket,” “down to the lick log,” “light dawns on Marblehead,” “sneezing to the truth,” and hot mess. This episode first aired February 5, 2016.
When you get to the stage of an online transaction where you’re asked to read the “Terms and Conditions,” do you actually read them? Or do you just check the box and move on? A London security firm once offered free use of a WiFi hotspot, provided the users agreed to sign over their firstborn child “for the duration of eternity.” Sure enough, some people signed. The company called that sneaky contract language a Herod clause, after the Biblical king who ordered the deaths of firstborn babies in Bethlehem.
The expression “dark as Egypt” means really dark, and is a reference to the story in the book of Exodus of the ten plagues that descended upon Egypt, the ninth of these being complete darkness.
If you’re “down to the lick log,” you’re close to the end of negotiations, or nearing some kind of decision. This expression is associated with cattle ranching, a salt lick being a place where the herd congregates. The 19th-century frontiersman Davy Crockett used the term in his autobiography.
“Not quite cricket” means not proper, substandard, or perhaps even illegal. The phrase is a reference to the world’s second most popular sport, cricket, and derives from the 19th-century notion that the “Spirit of the Game” is the epitome of good sportsmanship.
A 50-something boss in Reno, Nevada, wants suggestions on speaking with and writing for his younger co-workers. When does your own communication style make you sound out-of-date, and when does using younger folks’ slang make you sound like you’re trying too hard?
A Massachusetts native living in Washington, D.C. says her professor and classmates had no idea what she meant by a “light dawns on Marblehead” moment. It’s a reference to the town of Marblehead in her home state, on an outcropping of land where the sun first hits the coast. It’s also a pun on Marblehead, meaning someone who’s dense.
Imagine that you’re the last living speaker of a dying language. What memories do the words of your childhood evoke? What do you miss talking about? Those are questions raised by Precious Little, a play by Madeleine George. Martha reads a moving passage in which an elderly speaker of a dying language counts to 20 in her native tongue.
The term hot mess refers to someone whose life is chaotic or otherwise somewhat dysfunctional. Heard primarily in the South, hot mess is often used affectionately, suggesting that the person is attractive despite the messiness of their life.
If someone sneezes while you’re saying something, a Yiddish speaker might say “G’nossem tsum emes,” or “The sneeze confirmed the truth,” meaning that what you just said is true, and the sternutation proves it. An English speaker expresses the same idea with the phrases “sneezin’ to the truth,” “sneezing on the truth,” or “the sneeze confirmed the truth.”
Someone who’s cheap or just likes to complain that they don’t have much money are said to be poormouthing. This expression goes back to at least the 1850’s, and originated in the American South, although now it’s more widespread.
A Madison, Wisconsin, caller says his father will eat an apple down to the core, then call out “Apple core, Baltimore! Who’s your friend?” and if the person doesn’t answer fast enough, his dad will throw the core at him. This game, and variations of it, was recorded by the researchers gathering folklore for the Works Progress Administration in the 1930’s.
Photo by Rick. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Music Used in the Episode
|Carlito||Cochemea Gastelum||The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow||MRI|
|Bold And Black||Ramsey Lewis||Another Voyage||Cadet|
|Guardian Angel||Cochemea Gastelum||The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow||MRI|
|Uhuru||Ramsey Lewis||Another Voyage||Cadet|
|Dark City||Cochemea Gastelum||The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow||MRI|
|Arrow’s Theme||Cochemea Gastelum||The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow||MRI|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|