Understanding the varieties of conversational styles can mean the difference between feeling you’re understood and being insulted. “High-involvement” speakers interrupt or talk along with someone else to signal their enthusiasm, while “high-considerateness” speakers tend more toward thoughtful pauses and polite turn-taking. Adjusting your speaking style accordingly may improve not only your communication, but also your relationships. Plus, when you read a text message from someone, does it seem weird if they use ellipses? And: a delightful new documentary about the World Palindrome Championships will leave you with just one palindromic thought: Wow! Also, boo-boo and boo-hoo, prune and plum, grass widow and widows weeds, a rig and a half, barefoot tea, funny names for birds, a puzzle for movie lovers, and more.
This episode first aired May 1, 2021.
The new documentary The Palindromists is a delightful romp through the world of competitive palindrome construction. The movie chronicles the events leading up to the 2017 World Palindrome Championship held at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and hosted by New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz. Top competitors include Mark Saltveit, founder and editor of The Palindromist Magazine, and John Agee, author of such books as Go Hang a Salami, I’m a Lasagna Hog (Bookshop|Amazon) and So Many Dynamos (Bookshop|Amazon).
Lean on Your Own Dinner
Sam from Abilene, Texas, wonders about the phrase lean on your own dinner, which can be used literally to mean “support your own weight rather than leaning against me,” or metaphorically, as in suggesting someone refrain from asking others to carry a burden they should carry themselves. Variants including leaning on your breakfast, lunch, and other meals.
Tons of UFO Snot
The documentary The Palindromists includes a scene with author, actor, and devoted palindrome constructor Danica McKellar showing off her favorite reversible creation: Tons of UFO snot.
Seven-year-old Everett from Tallahassee, Florida, wants to know why we refer to a scrape or other minor injury as a boo-boo. Such reduplication of words and syllables is common in baby talk used to soothe a child. Also, boo-boo sounds a little like the word we use to imitate the sound of crying, boo-hoo.
How Do You Pronounce “Palindromist”?
The Palindromists documentary explores a mini-controversy: How do you pronounce the word palindromist? Some people put the stress on the first syllable, but other people and reference works, including the Oxford English Dictionary, stress the second syllable.
Backward Movie Plot Word Game
Quiz Guy John Chaneski imagines what might have happened if some favorite movie plots ended up going in exactly the opposite direction. For example, suppose Cary Grant is chased by good guys and bad guys, but instead of ending up at a national monument in the Dakotas, he ends up at Disney World. What movie would that be?
The Meaning of Ending Messages with Ellipses
Toshi, a 27-year-old in Dallas, Texas, wonders about differences in the way she and her parents use punctuation in text messages. When older adults send her texts using ellipses, Toshi gets a queasy feeling that it’s because they’re upset with her, or behaving passive-aggressively. And she’s not the only one. In her seminal book about online communication, Because Internet, Linguist Gretchen McCulloch addresses this question at length. Using ellipses in texts can mean different things to different people, depending on users’ individual communication styles and the internet cultures to which they belong.
Jeannie in Spring Branch, Texas, says her grandmother, who far outlived her husband, described herself as a weeds widow. Since this term is extremely rare, it’s possible her grandmother conflated the terms widows weeds and grass widow. The former is the garb of a woman mourning her deceased husband, and the latter is woman who is separated from her husband, either because he has deserted her or is simply away traveling.
A Rig and a Half
Karen in Memphis, Tennessee, says that when she looks disheveled or otherwise unfashionable, her Canadian mother says that she looks like a rig and a half. In Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and Labrador, Canada, the word rig means “an eccentric, odd, or humorous person or character,” and goes back to England and Scotland, where related terms mean “to play a prank,” “to mock,” “to make a fool of,” or “to behave riotously.” For a closer look at the language of that part of Canada, delve into The Dictionary of Cape Breton English by William Davey and Richard MacKinnon. (Bookshop|Amazon)
One Conversational Style Seems Rude, and Another Seems Standoffish, and Knowing More About them May Help You Communicate Better
Linguist Deborah Tannen has done extensive research into contrasting conversational styles, particularly the contrast between high-involvement speakers, whose interruptions signal great enthusiasm and engagement, and high-considerateness speakers, whose style is marked by reflective pauses and polite turn-taking. Neither style is inherently superior, and being aware of those differences and adjusting one’s style and expectations can foster more satisfying and effective communication.
If you like your tea barefoot, it doesn’t mean you’re kicking your shoes off. It means you’re drinking it without milk or sugar. Similarly, barefoot bread is made without shortening, lard, or eggs, and barefoot dumplings are made of just water, grease, and salt. The Scottish National Dictionary also mentions barefoot broth, made of the most basic ingredients.
The Go-Away Bird and Other Actual Unflattering Monikers
Writer Stu Royal has gathered whole flock of unflattering names for several species of birds, and wryly tweeted a list to prove his point: drab seed-eater, go-away bird, rough-faced shag, sad flycatcher, hoary puffleg, smew, horned screamer, and monotonous lark.
The Words “Plum” and “Prune” Share the Same Etymological Roots
Why don’t we refer to prunes as dried plums? Prune and plum come from the same distant etymological roots and traveled into English via French and German respectively. The French still use prune for “plum.” Other foods that undergo a name change once they’re dried include poblano peppers, which become anchos; jalapeños, which become chipotle peppers; and cranberries, the dried version of which become craisins.
Had a Tonic, Cuppa Cappuccino, Ta-Dah!
Lori Wike is the principal bassoonist in the Utah Symphony. She also crafts clever palindromes, as is clear from the documentary The Palindromists, which features one of her favorite creations: Had a tonic, cuppa cappuccino, Ta-Dah!
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Go Hang a Salami, I’m a Lasagna Hog by John Agee (Amazon)|
|So Many Dynamos by John Agee (Amazon)|
|The Dictionary of Cape Breton English by William Davey and Richard MacKinnon. (Bookshop|Amazon)|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Impasto||Sven Wunder||Impasto 45||Mr Bongo|
|Alewa||Santrofi||Alewa||Out Here Records|
|Beatin’ The Breaks||Magic in Threes||Magic in Threes||GED Soul|
|Snowdrops||Sven Wunder||Snowdrops 45||Piano Piano|
|Mesothelioma||Magic in Threes||Magic in Threes||GED Soul|
|Nga Nga||Ebo Taylor||Love And Death||Strut|
|Malik||Lafayette Afro Rock Band||Malik||America Records|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out on the Coast||Colemine Records|