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L-U-R-V-E, Love

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Favorite online reading. If the subjunctive tense were to disappear from English, would anybody care? And just in time for this romantic weekend, a caller discovers the meaning of…lurve. That’s L-U-R-V-E.

This episode first aired February 14, 2009.

Online Language Resources

 Martha and Grant share a couple of favorite online sources for reading about language: Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words newsletter and Arnold Zwicky’s blog. Be sure to check out Zwicky’s post, “Dialect dangerous to cats” for a look at The Lion Cut.


 If you’re a Texan, you may be familiar with the phrases “raise the window down” and “help your plate.” If not, you’ll find translations here.

The Crazy Cosmic Lurve God

 What’s lurve got to do with it? A caller is puzzled by a greeting card with the phrase “crazy cosmic lurve god.” Linguistics fans will fan themselves as Grant explains the roots of this expression with linguistic terms like the intrusive R and epenthesis.

Weight Loss Program Word Quiz

 Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a puzzle called “Weight Loss Program.” The object is to guess a pair of words from his clues. Remove a unit of weight from the first word in the pair, and you’ll get the second word. Example: “A Palm Beach County resort town whose name is Spanish for “mouth of the rat,” and “A timely benefit or blessing.” The answer weighs in at 2,000 pounds.

The Subjunctive Tense

 If the subjunctive tense were to disappear from English, would our language be the poorer for it? The hosts have strongly different opinions about it.

Yeah, No

 Ever notice when people start to answer to a question with the words, “Yeah, no–“? Linguists have been studying this seemingly contradictory phrase for years. It may look like oxymoron, but it’s not.


 Ennead, anyone? If you need a word for “a group of nine things,” that one will do the trick.

Chutzpah and Daybreak on Slang This!

 In this week’s installment of Slang This!, a member of the National Puzzlers League tries to separate the real slang terms from the fake ones. Try this one: If you have chutzpah, might you also be said to “have the stitches” to get things done, or “have the brass” to get things done? Here’s another: Which of the following is a slang term for “daybreak”? Rancid butter’s melt? Or sparrow’s fart?

By and Large

 The cleverly named “Buy n Large” corporation in the movie Wall-E has a caller wondering why we say use the phrase “by and large” to mean “generally speaking.” It has its origins on the high seas.


 Does the word swarthy mean “hairy”? A man has a running dispute with his wife the English teacher, who insists it does. Is she right?


 Cleave, dust, and screen are all words that can mean the opposite of themselves. You can cleave to a belief, meaning to “adhere closely,” but you can also separate things by cleaving them. Words that mean the opposite of themselves go by many different names, including contranyms, contronyms, auto-antonyms, and Janus words. Lists from an MIT teacher, Polysemania Blog, and this website on English Word Information. Martha talks about enantiodromia, which is “the process by which something becomes its opposite,” particularly when an individual or community adopts beliefs antithetical to beliefs they held earlier.

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

Photo by Darin Kim. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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