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Kiss the Cow

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An anadrome is a word that forms a whole new word when you spell it backwards. For example, the word “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts.” Some people’s first names are anadromes. There’s the girl named Noel in honor of her father Leon, and the woman named Edna who adopted the name Ande. Speaking of names, know anybody whose occupation fits their name? Maybe a college administrator named Dean, or a breadmaker named Baker? Well, there’s a name for that concept: nominative determinism. Plus, a conversation about how hard it can be to gracefully end… a conversation. Also: a puzzle about famous names, Wellerisms, kaffedags and fika, a kissing game, moco, greissel, twacking, the plural of computer mouse, and more.

This episode first aired April 17, 2021. It was rebroadcast the weekend of April 2, 2022.

Anadromes, Words That Are Also Words Backwards

 On our Facebook group, listeners are discussing anadromes, words that form another word when spelled in reverse. Some people choose anadromes for names as well, such as Ande (a name adopted by someone originally called Edna), Noel (a girl named for her father Leon), and Nevaeh (a name popular a few years ago because it’s Heaven spelled backwards). The protagonist in the Enola Holmes mystery series (Bookshop|Amazon) has a name that’s an anadrome: Enola spelled backwards is Alone.

What’s the Plural for a Computer Mouse?

 If you’re talking about the device used to control your computer’s cursor, is the plural computer mouse or computer mice? Either is correct, but the most common version is computer mice. In the early days of computers, engineers often said computer mouses just for fun. The Hacker’s Dictionary (Bookshop|Amazon) mentions other jocular plurals among techies, suggesting, for example that the plural of mongoose should be polygoose.

Said the Old Lady as She Kissed the Cow

 Steve from Wilmington, North Carolina, wonders about a phrase his mother used: “Everybody to their taste,” said the old lady as she kissed the cow, meaning “Different things appeal to different individuals.” It’s an example of a Wellerism, a joking statement that consists of a familiar saying, a particular individual who says the phrase, and an additional twist at the end. Another example is “That’s one way to look at it,” said the mouse as she ran across the mirror. The term Wellerism was inspired by the beloved character Sam Weller from the Charles Dickens novel The Pickwick Papers (Bookshop|Amazon). Weller is forever saying things like “Hope our acquaintance may be a long one,” as the gentleman said to the five-pound note. Russian anti-proverbs have a similar twist. You might quote to a workaholic the Russian proverb that translates as One cannot earn all the money, but the anti-proverb is One cannot earn all the money — some of it will have to be stolen.

Nominative Determinism Quiz — When Names Match Professions

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle involves nominative determinism, the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate toward occupations that fit their names. For example, which handsome movie actor, who was twice voted People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive,” might have more appropriately become gravedigger?

Backward Town Names

 The Oregon town names Ragic and Ekoms are anadromes; backwards they spell Cigar and Smoke.

Kaffedags, Swedish Coffee Time

 Ruth calls from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to share warm memories of her family’s 3 p.m. coffee breaks. Her Swedish grandparents referred to those breaks as kaffedags, literally “coffee time of day.” (Similarly, matdags in Swedish is “meal time.”) Swedes often refer to that cherished break for coffee, socializing, and baked goods as fika or fikadags. The word fika is a slang version of the Swedish term for “coffee,” kaffe (also rendered as kaffi). The syllables were switched to form the name for this beloved Swedish tradition.

Jay Wright on Poetry

 In an interview with the literary journal Callaloo, the poet Jay Wright tells a story about giving a poetry reading and then explaining his work in response to a question from a young member of the audience.

Heavy, Heavy Hangover

 Clint from Dallas, Texas, recalls a peculiar family tradition for giving birthday presents to a child. A giver would hold a gift over the child’s head and recite: Heavy heavy hangover / Thy poor head / What do you wish this donor? The child was then supposed to name some sort of fanciful present for the giver, such as a unicorn or a bag of diamonds. At that point, the birthday child would be given the gift. This tradition seems to have originated in a kissing game from the 1850s. There are many versions of this rhyme, some of which appear in videos on YouTube.

Sticking Out Proudly

 Following up on our conversation about the many meanings of the word proud, Connie from Santee, California, writes to say that architects use proud to describe something that’s sticking out past something else — not flush, in other words. Something that’s neither proud nor flush but instead inset can be described as shy.

How to End a Conversation

 Think about your last extended conversation with a stranger. Did that conversation feel too long? Too short? Or did it end exactly when you wanted it to? Two new studies by a Harvard psychologist found that conversations rarely stop when both parties want them to end, and people are often bad judges of when the other person would prefer to take their leave.

“Moco” as An Affectionate Term for a Child

 The Spanish word moco, or “mucus,” can be applied affectionately to a child, much like speakers of English may refer to a youngster as a little booger. In some dialects, moco has a more pejorative sense, suggesting a child is more along the lines of a snot-nosed brat.

To Greissel Someone

 The verb greissel, also spelled greisle, means to “disgust,” “sicken” or “irritate,” as in That greissels me or I stayed greisseled about that for a long time. Greissel comes from a family of German words that describe things that are repellent, like gruselig, “creepy,” and grässlich, “horrible,” which are distantly related to such English words as gruesome and grisly.

Is There a Term for Window-Shopping Online?

 Sandy from Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, wonders if there’s a specific word for “window shopping, but online.” One option is browsing. In French, “to go window shopping” is faire du lèche-vitrine, or literally, “to lick the windows.” In Mexican Spanish, echar un taco de ojo, literally “to throw a taco of the eye,” can mean something similar, whether it involves looking at someone attractive or something you’d like to buy but will never be able to get. In Newfoundland, people at one time might have used the word twack to mean “to window shop,” apparently from a dialectal term meaning “to be indecisive.” So internet shoppers could always go twacking online.

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

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Enola Holmes mystery series by Nancy Springer (Bookshop|Amazon)
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (Bookshop|Amazon)

Music Used in the Episode

Boogaloo in Room 802Willie BoboUno Dos Tres 1 2 3Verve
A Day In The LifeGrant GreenGreen Is BeautifulBlue Note
Come A Little Bit CloserWillie BoboUno Dos Tres 1 2 3Verve
No Matter What ShapeWillie BoboUno Dos Tres 1 2 3Verve
Dance Of The VampiresRoots RadicsThe Evil Curse of The VampiresGreensleeves
High Heeled SneakersGrant GreenIron City!Muse
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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