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I, For One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

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Sure, there’s Grandma and Grampa, but there’s also Gammy, Bumpy, Dadoo, Gre-Gre, Kiki, Kerkel, Monga, Nee-Nee, Pots, Rah-Rah and Woo-Woo. Martha and Grant talk about the endlessly inventive names grandchildren call their grandparents. They also discuss Seinfeldisms, couch potatoes, and where in the world your car can and will be stopped by robots. Really!

This episode first aired March 21, 2009.

Inventive Names for Grandparents

 What do people call their grandparents? Sure, there’s Grandma and Grampa, but there’s also Gammy, Bumpy, Dadoo, Gre-Gre, Kiki, Kerkel, Monga, Nee-Nee, Pots, Rah-Rah and Woo-Woo. Martha and Grant talk about the endlessly inventive names grandchildren call their grandparents.

Watershed

 You’ve heard people describe something momentous as “a watershed moment in history.” What is a watershed, exactly? Besides an Indigo Girls’ song, that is.

Pulmonic Ingressive

 In Ireland you’ll find that some folks have an odd habit of gasping in mid-conversation. A Texan who lived in Dublin for years says he found this speech trait disconcerting. The hosts explain that this “pulmonic ingressive” is heard other places around the world. More about ingressives here, including examples in audio clips from Sweden and Scotland.

Fenderbergs

 Martha shares listener email about what to call that icy buildup in your car’s wheel wells. Fenderbergs, anyone?

Wordrows Quiz

 Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a puzzle called “Wordrows,” a.k.a. “Welded Palindromes.” They’re two-word palindromes, in other words. For example, what two-word palindrome means “beige bug”?

Seinfeld Expressions

 Yadda yadda yadda. Newman! No soup for you! The 1990’s sitcom Seinfeld popularized these expressions and more. Check out this Paul McFedries article from Verbatim.

Couch Potato

 What’s the origin of the term couch potato? Grant has the story of the guys credited with coining this term for boob-tube aficionados.

Sunday Throat

 Your dining companion suddenly starts choking. Once his coughing subsides, he exclaims, “Whew! Something when down my Sunday throat!” Sunday throat? Martha explains this odd expression.

Creaky Voice Speech Trait

 A few episodes back, Grant and Martha discussed what linguists call “creaky voice.” Many of you wrote to ask for more examples of this curious speech trait.

Slang Quiz with June Casagrande

 In this week’s installment of “Slang This!,” Grant and Martha are joined by June Casagrande, author of Mortal Syntax: 101 Language Choices That Will Get you Clobbered by the Grammar Snobs — Even If You’re Right. June tries to pick out the true slang terms from a group that includes the expressions hot wings, bird farm, bellybag, and budget.

Held Up by Robots

 When you’re late for something in Johannesburg, you can always say you were “held up by robots” and no one will think twice. That’s because in South Africa, a robot is a traffic light. The hosts discuss this and other terms for those helpful semaphores.

Online Style Guide

 What’s the best style guide for online writing?

Word-Brickle

 In William Howitt’s Madam Dorrington of the Dene, a character named Vincent says, “Don’t let my father be fearful of me. I will be as ravenously ambitious, and as gigantically work-brickle […] as he can desire.” Grant has the goods on the dialect expression work-brittle or work brickle, which means “energetic” or “industrious.”

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.

Photo by Tawheed Manzoor. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Madam Dorrington of the Dene by William Howitt

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