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Keep Your Pants On

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If everyone on the planet spoke a single language, wouldn’t that make life a whole lot easier? For that matter, is a common world language even possible? Maybe for a minute or so–until new words and phrases start springing up. Also, did you ever wonder why the guy at your local coffee shop is a barista and not a baristo? There’s a good grammatical reason. Finally, pass the gorp–we have the scoop on the name of this crunchy snack. Plus, double bubble, concertina wire, the story behind the movie title Winter’s Bone, safe and sound, and a couple vs. a pair. This episode first aired April 4, 2014.

American Crossword Tournament

 The finalists at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament wear giant headphones to block out the noise of the crowd and color commentary. As it happens, the white noise being pumped into them is the pre-recorded sound of a United Nations cocktail party.

Romance Language Nouns Ending in “-ista”

 Male baristas aren’t called baristos for the same reason that male Sandinistas aren’t Sandinistos. There’s a certain class of nouns in both Italian and Spanish where the definite article changes to indicate gender, but the noun stays the same.

Password Joke

 If you need a password that contains at least eight characters and one capital, there’s always Mickey Minnie Pluto Huey Louie Dewey Donald Goofy Sacramento.

Contents of Gorp

 Contrary to popular belief, gorp is not an acronym for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. Earlier recipes for this crunchy snack contained all kinds of things, like soybeans, sunflower seeds, oats, pretzels, raisins, Wheat Chex and kelp, as in John McPhee’s famous essay, “Travels in Georgia”.

Working Double Bubble

 Working double bubble is when you get paid double for working overtime or outside your normal work hours, and it’s a classic bit of British rhyming slang.

Dr. Word’s Latin Names Quiz

 Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski invites his alter ego, Dr. Word, to present a quiz about Latin names for working stiffs.

Origin of “Keep Your Pants On”

 If someone’s impatiently pounding on your front door, you might respond Keep your pants on! The origin of this phrase is unclear, though it may be related to keep your shirt on, and other expressions that refer to partially disrobing before a fistfight.

“Fill Your Boots”

 To fill your boots means “to go after something with gusto.” Similarly, the tableside injunction Fill your boots! is an invitation to chow down.

Foreign Origin of an English Idiom

 The idiom safe and sound tells the story of the English language in three words: safe comes from French, and sound is a Germanic word with the same root as Gesundheit, meaning “health.”

Concertina Wire

 Concertina wire, the coiled barbed wire that’s compact and easy to move around, takes its name from the concertina, an accordion-like instrument.

Dropping the Article of Familiar Initialisms

 You wouldn’t say the NASA launched a space shuttle, or you watched March Madness on the CBS. Similarly, initialisms like NSA and FBI are sometimes said without the article, especially by insiders.


 A quiddler is someone who wastes his energy on trifles.

The Evolution of a Universal Language

 If we ever settled on one universal language that everyone spoke, it would last about a minute before variants of slang started popping up.

Seasonal Idiom “Winter’s Bone”

 The title Winter’s Bone, an acclaimed film based on Daniel Woodrell’s country noir novel, is an idiom the author created by personifying the season, which throws the main character a bone.

Oxford Comma Mascot

 Oxford University doesn’t really have a mascot, so a listener asks on our Facebook page: Why not call them the Oxford Commas?

Couple vs. Pair

 A couple is not necessarily the same as a pair; it can certainly mean more than two, and it’s always dependent on context.


 A hawk in its prime state of fitness is known as a yarak, a word that may derive from a Persian word meaning “strength, ability.”

Pronunciation of “Secreting”

 To secrete means “to produce and discharge a fluid,” a back-formation from secretion. But a similarly spelled verb means “to deposit in a hiding place.” For both verbs, the pronunciation of the past tense, secreted, requires a long e in the middle.

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

Photo by Mats Anda. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Music Used in the Episode

The Old SpotClutchy Hopkins Meets Lord KenjaminMusic Is My MedicineUbiquity
Cold And WetClutchy Hopkins Meets Lord KenjaminMusic Is My MedicineUbiquity
Heavy HandsClutchy Hopkins Meets Lord KenjaminMusic Is My MedicineUbiquity
Bold And BlackRamsey LewisAnother VoyageCadet
Turtle RockClutchy Hopkins Meets Lord KenjaminMusic Is My MedicineUbiquity
Riff Raff Rollin’Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord KenjaminMusic Is My MedicineUbiquity
Lord KenjiClutchy Hopkins Meets Lord KenjaminMusic Is My MedicineUbiquity
UhuruRamsey LewisAnother VoyageCadet
Gourds Of The DesertClutchy Hopkins Meets Lord KenjaminMusic Is My MedicineUbiquity
Doty’s LeslieClutchy Hopkins Meets Lord KenjaminMusic Is My MedicineUbiquity
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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