Home » Newsletter » Kiss Your Paramour on the Cellar Door

Kiss Your Paramour on the Cellar Door

Howdy from your fellow word-wranglers, Martha and Grant!

A huge thank-you to all of you who've contributed to our independently produced show in recent weeks--whether it be with a contribution of your phone calls, your emails, your forum posts, or your cash. Of course, donations from the word-loving community do the most to make it possible for us to help keep grammar alive (though the subjunctive may be beyond all hope).

You can help with your tax-deductible donation here:


Our latest episode is on the web site and in the podcast feed: false friends, spendthrifts, 17th-Century insults, political terms "far center" and "snollygoster," a presidential word puzzle, and more:


The episode before that featured the language of love, including the mushy emoticon <3 (or "less than three"), Martha reading part of a poem by the Roman poet Catullus (not one of the naughty ones), fancy words for different kinds of kisses, and more:


We also tackled a caller's question about the male equivalent of the word "mistress." What do you call a man who's having an affair with a married woman? We made some suggestions, including "consort" and "leman." (Yes, "leman": <http://bit.ly/9KtG0X>.)

Many, many of you informed us that our answer was, well, a lemon. We're kicking ourselves that we didn't suggest the word "paramour." Thanks for the reminder!

Also out there in Language Land:

Did you catch Grant's "On Language" column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine? He wrote about the oft-made assertion that the most beautiful phrase in the English language is "cellar door."


Grant was inspired to write this essay after a listener asked about the original source of that claim. He did a lot of digging--no surprise there--and turned up a lot of new, unpublished information. So, keep those calls and emails coming. You never know when you might be our partner in etymological discoveries!

An intriguing study from British Columbia suggests that newborn babies of bilingual mothers may be more inclined than others toward bilingualism:


Researchers used the sucking reflex of babies as an indication of interest in a stimulus. They found that babies of mothers who spoke both English and Tagalog showed interest in hearing both languages, while those born to monolingual moms responded only to English.

If you're interested in speaking with us on the air (in English, please--our Tagalog isn't up to snuff, although we wish it were), drop us a line any time: words@waywordradio.org.

One last note: some of you are aware that Grant and his family were forced out of their home last week due to a fire in their building. The latest news is that everyone in the building was unharmed, things are almost back to normal, and thanks to a fantastic response from the landlord, everything is now smoke-free. Every cover of every book has been wiped clean. A fellow has to have his priorities, right? Family, home, and books in that order? Something like that.

Mad props to the San Mateo, CA, fire department, which responded in just a few minutes with more than nine trucks, thirty firefighters, and lots of professionalism. Respect!

Until next time, lots of less-than-three from us to you!

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Further reading

Excuse the Hogs (episode #1596)

When a teenager went a week without talking as part of a school project, he noticed a surprising side effect: Instead of rehearsing a response to...

By a Landslide (episode #1611)

How do you transform ancient Chinese script for use in the modern age? English uses a keyboard with just 26 letters, but the first Chinese typewriter...