Questions from young listeners and conversations about everything from shifting slang to a bizarre cooking technique. Kids ask about how to talk about finding information on the internet, how tartar sauce got its name, and if the expression high and dry describes something good or something bad. Yes, kids often know more than their parents!
This episode first aired April 11, 2019.
High and Dry: Good or Bad?
Six-year-old Aya asks about the expression high and dry. A family member had worried about some relatives in the path of a storm, and phoned to ask if they were high and dry. This puzzled Aya because she had heard that it’s a bad thing to leave someone high and dry. She discovers that it’s an example of a phrase that can mean two very different things.
Search it Up vs. Look it Up vs. Search For
Sophia, who is 13, says she and her friends use the phrase search it up on the internet to mean look it up on the internet. Her mother says the phrase should be look it up or just search it, not search it up. Sophia and her friends aren’t wrong, though. Search it up is used by lots of people, particularly younger ones, and it’s becoming more common.
Sundog, Mock Sun, Parhelion
Eleven-year-old Ben calls from Rapid City, South Dakota, to ask about the term sundog, the meteorological phenomenon in which a bright spot appears to the left or right of the sun. No one knows the origin of this term. Synonyms include mock sun, weather gall, and parhelion, the last of these from Greek words meaning “beside the sun.”
How Do You Pronounce Turmeric?
Pearl, a Massachusetts youngster, reports a family dispute about how to pronounce the name of the East Indian spice turmeric. The accent falls on the first syllable and pronouncing that first R sound is optional.
Why Does “Run of the Mill” Mean Ordinary?
Clementine, a young caller from Omaha, Nebraska, wonders why we use the term run-of-the-mill to describe something ordinary. The expression originates world of manufacturing, where a run of the mill refers to “the entire run of things being produced,” whether it’s lumber or bricks, including defective products. In the same way, we might discuss a run of bad luck, meaning a series of unfortunate events.
Are All the Words Containing “Tartar” Related?
Lael wonders how tartar sauce got its name. The answer is a complicated story that combines the term cream of tartar, which derives from the Latin tartarum, meaning “a residue left on the inside of wine casks,” and the story of the fierce 13th-century warriors known as the Tartars, also known as the Tatars, led by Genghis Khan. These rough-and-ready fighters were known for softening and marinating meat for eating by placing it under their saddles during a long ride. The result eventually inspired the German dish steak tartare, which in turn inspired the modern meat patty we call a hamburger.
What Does it Mean When you Say “Yes” and “No” Together?
Leah, a nine-year-old from Argyle, Texas, heard her mother answer a question with No, no, no, absolutely yes. Why did her mother seem to give contradicting answers at the same time? Short answer: there are two things going on: the surface meaning of sentence and the metanarrative.
Is There One Word that Means “Excited” and “Anxious”?
Marylou and her 10-year-old daughter Nina and Nina’s fifth-grade class are looking for a single word that describes being both excited and anxious. It’s not exactly twitterpated, and the Southernism like a worm in hot ashes is vivid, but it’s a phrase and not a single word.
This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.