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I’ll Be Sheep-Dipped

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What a difference pronunciation makes! The United States has a Department of Defense, and an individual might take classes in self-defense. So why do football and basketball coaches say they’re proud of their . . . “DEE-fence?” Linguists have a theory about why. Also, some funny limericks to help you learn obscure words, and what you will and won’t find on a desert island. Plus, kennings, cobwebs, crestfallen, catillate, cataglossism, and more. This episode first aired October 10, 2014.

The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form

 Do you think dictionaries of obsolete words with definitions in limerick form are cool? If you’re annuent— meaning “nodding”— we’ll take that as a “yes.” You’ll find lots of them at The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form, also known as OEDILF.


 Sheep-dipping is a business term for when employees are made to drink the Kool-Aid, often at tedious briefings or sales seminars they’re forced to attend.


 As the OEDILF notes, exspuition is an old word for spitting, which you can do either standing or sitting.

Emphasis of Defense

 We have a Department of Defense, and football teams have a defense, and chances are you don’t pronounce those terms the same way. It likely has to do with sportscasters emphasizing of- and de- to differentiate the offensive and defensive sides of teams, and that’s how the emphases took hold.


 Put a plate of milk in front of a cat, and you know that cat will catillate.

Zen Diagrams Quiz

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game that changes Venn diagrams to zen diagrams.

Origin of Bespoke

 Bespoke, as in bespoke tailored clothing, comes from an old word meaning “spoken for”—to bespeak means to request or order a good or service.


 What could sound more romantic than French kissing? Perhaps its archaic synonym, cataglossism. Here’s a limerick to help you remember this word.

Class Periods vs. Bells

 Most high schoolers hear the bell ring, and they know it’s time for next period. But some students simply refer to each class as first bell, second bell, and so on. What did you call each class period?

Flu Limerick

 Steer clear of the flu. You’ll groan on wet sheets. You will mew.


 When the crest of a rooster’s comb falls down toward their beak, they appear sad, or crestfallen.

Knighting Pun

 Dubbing someone a knight by tapping their shoulder with a sword is a venerable tradition, but that didn’t stop a wag from mocking it in limerick form with a groaner of a pun.

Modern and Historic Kennings

 Kennings are compound words that have metaphorical meanings, such as whale-road meaning “sea.” They’re often found in Anglo-Saxon poetry, such as The Seafarer and Beowulf, but there are modern ones as well, such as rugrats for “small children.”


 Why steal something insignificant when you can brodie it? This slang term means basically the same thing.


 Cunctator is just a lesser-known term for a procrastinator—- one that happens to fit into a funny limerick.

Etymology of Cobwebs

 Cobwebs are the same thing as spiderwebs, and they get their name from the old English term coppe, meaning “spider,” which turns up in The Hobbit in a poem about an attercop.

Lush Desert Islands

 Many desert islands don’t look like a desert at all. They’re lush and green. That’s because the term reflects the old sense of desert meaning “wild and uninhabited.”

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

Photo by Paraflyer. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms by Paul Dickson
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Music Used in the Episode

Romeo’s RaskladThe Soul SurfersRomeo’s RaskladFunk Night
Bird FunkThe Soul SurfersBird FunkFunk Night
Show IntroductionThe Soul SurfersShow IntroductionFunk Night
Rancho RelaxoMagic in ThreesMagic in ThreesGED Soul
Spy PotionGreat ReviversSpy PotionFunk Night
Reaction PsychotiqueGreat ReviversReaction PsychotiqueFunk Night
Shed A Tear (I Touched The Clouds)The Soul SurfersI Touched The CloudsFunk Night
Hard Way To GoGreat ReviversHard Way To GoFunk Night
Beatin’ The BreaksMagic in ThreesMagic in ThreesGED Soul
Bottoms Up!Great ReviversBottoms Up!Funk Night
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

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