What’s the best way to help your child learn to speak a foreign language? One option is an immersion school, where teachers avoid speaking English. Also, did you ever play padiddle while riding in a car? Plus, what your signature says about you, what to call that last serving of food, sitting on your tuchus, alphabet riddles, camp songs, soup to nuts, and the weather-related phrase “Who let the hawk out?”

This episode first aired Friday, February 17, 2012.

Download the MP3.

 Reading Signatures
What does your signature say about you? In today’s world of PIN-codes and electronic communication, maybe not so much.

 Tushie, Tush, and Tuchus
What’s a tasteful way to refer to one’s rear end? Tushie and tush come from the Yiddish word tuchus. Also spelled tochis and tochas, it is regarded by some folks, such as the New York Times, as “insufficiently elegant.”

 Alphabet Riddles
Grant has alphabet riddles for the young ones. What did the alphabet’s love note say? U R A Q T!

 Padiddle Car Game
Ever play padiddle in the car? You know, that game where you slap the ceiling when another car’s headlight is out? Padiddle, also known as perdiddle and padoodle, goes back to the 1940s, and was originally a kissing game. There’s more about such games, including slug bug, in an earlier episode.

 Not Enough Hair To…
Be on the lookout for instances to drop this Texas colloquialism: “He didn’t have enough hair on his chest to make a wig for a grape!”

 Word Scouts Game
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game called Word Scouts. In order to earn your badge, you’ll have to know the architectural term Bauhaus and the flower that’s also a past tense verb.

 Let the Hawk Out
The phrases “Who let the hawk out?” and “The hawk is flying tonight” both mean “there’s a chilly wind blowing.” This saying is almost exclusive to the African-American community and is associated with that Windy City, Chicago.

 Lawyer vs. Attorney
What’s the difference between a lawyer and an attorney? None, really, for most of us. In the past, though, the word attorney could also refer more generally to a person you “turned to” to represent you, regardless of whether that person had legal training.

How would you fare in a quiz of idiom meanings? If you’re looking to bone up on these colloquial expressions, the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms is a good place to start.

 Last Piece of Food
What do you call the last serving of food on a plate — the one everyone’s too embarrassed to reach for? That last piece has been variously known as the mannersbit or manners piece, a reference to the fact that it’s considered polite to not empty a plate, assuring the hosts that they provided sufficient fare. In Spanish, the last remaining morsel that everyone’s too bashful to take is called la vergüenza, or “the shame.”

 Language Immersion Schools
Grant tells us what he’s learned about language-immersion elementary schools, which he and his family are touring as they prepare their son for kindergarten.

 Camp Songs
What was your favorite camp song? If it sounds like nonsensical scat singing, it may date back to a radio character named Buddy Bear who sang in scat on the Buddy Bear show in the 1940s.

 Another Alphabet Riddle
How does the alphabet get to work? Why, the L, of course!

 Hannah, the Sun
Among some African-Americans, the term Hannah means “the sun.” This sense is memorialized in the lyrics of “Go Down Old Hannah,” a work song from the 1930s. One writer said of this haunting melody: “About 3 o’clock on a long summer day, the sun forgets to move and stops, so then the men sing this song.” The great folklorist Alan Lomax also made recordings of prison workers singing this song.

 Finding New Words
Twitter is a great way to discover words that are new to you and to others. Just search with #newword or “new word,” and you’ll find gems like holus-bolus, meaning the whole thing or all together.

 Soup to Nuts
If something is described as soup to nuts, it’s “the whole thing” or it “runs the gamut.” The phrase refers to an old-fashioned way of dining, beginning with soup and ending with nuts for dessert. The ancient Romans used an analogous expression in Latin: ab ovo usque ad malum, literally, “from the egg to the apple.”

 The Long Up, A Poem
Martha reads a poem by former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan called “The Long Up.”

Photo by Akuppa John Wigham. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Fantasie Impromptu Les Baxter Moog Rock: Great Classic Hits GNP Crescendo
Slot Machine Sound Games Orchestra Games Power Music Scene
Everything Is Everything Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Anti Records
Passing Clouds The Dick Hunter Five Melody and Rhythm Vol 7 Apollo Sound
Rent Party Booker T. Jones The Road From Memphis Anti Records
Jano’s Revenge Los Sospechos Jano’s Revenge 45rpm Colemine Records
Go Down Old Hannah Leadbelly Go Down Old Hannah – The Library of Congress Recordings Rounder
Hung-Up Salt Hung-Up 45rpm Choctaw Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
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  1. timinindy says:

    I remember the Ace Hardware store commercials, too. The variation of the soup to nuts phrase they used was, “from scoop to nuts.”

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