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Lead On, Macduff!

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For rock climbers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, the word send has taken on a whole new meaning. You might cheer on a fellow snowboarder with Send it, bro! — and being sendy is a really great thing. Plus: a nostalgic trip to Willa Cather’s’ Nebraska home inspires a reading from one of her classic books about life on the American prairie. And what do they call a sudden, heavy rain where you live? A gully-washer? A frog-strangler? Or maybe even a bridge-lifter? All that, and the flowery language of seed catalogs, rank and file, cut me a husk, I am sat down vs. I am sitting down, Lead on, MacDuff! vs. Lay on, MacDuff!, a hematological puzzle, and a popular Spanish-language refrain about an extremely long goodbye.

This episode first aired March 20, 2021. It was rebroadcast the weekend of March 5, 2022.

The Sensual Poetry of Seed Catalogs

  When plucked from a garden catalog and scattered on a page, the names of flower, fruit, and vegetable seeds can lead to surprisingly sexy poetry.

Bro-Brah Skier Slang

  Tenley in Jackson, Wyoming, calls to share the bro-brah slang of fellow skiers there. If a skier or snowboarder is taking on a challenging run, others will cheer them on with Bro, send it! or Sick! You sent that!, and they use the adjective sendy used admiringly to describe someone ambitious or otherwise outstanding. Tenley wonders how the word send came to be used this way. As reported by Georgia Perry in 5280 Magazine, Send it! meaning “Go for it!” has been around among rock climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts at least since 1988. In his Climbing Dictionary (Bookshop|Amazon), Matt Samet notes that to send can mean to “free climb without falling” and as a noun, send can mean “the successful ascent of a climb.”

Rank and File

  Alex from Columbia, Missouri, wonders about rank and file, meaning “the members of the body of an organization as opposed to its leaders.” In 12th-century France, the words renc or ranc referred to a row of soldiers. The word file means a “line” or “thread” and is related to the English word filament. The term rank and file coexisted in both chess and the military for hundreds of years. We didn’t mention it on the show, but rank and file are also used for the columns and rows of sudoku puzzles.

Blood Type Donation Word Game

  Quiz Guy John Chaneski donated blood the other day, which inspired this week’s puzzle based on the four blood types, A, B, O, and AB. Each clue involves a pair of words, and the challenge is to donate one of those four blood types to one word to make it synonymous with the other. Take, for example, the words ruble and debris. The addition of which blood type to the first word makes it mean the same thing as the second?

And You Go And You Go And You Go…

  Inspired by our conversation about the language of leave-taking and the Southern expression Y’all come go home with us, Claire in Durham, North Carolina, calls to reminisce about her experience as a teenager in Mexico and the extended good-byes among friends and family there. She has fond memories of them all singing “No Me Amenaces,” which translates as “Don’t Threaten Me.” Popularized by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, this mournful breakup song addresses a lover who threatens to leave and break the singer’s heart but never quite gets around to doing so. The song goes in part te vas y te vas y te vas y te vas y te vas y no te has ido which means “you are leaving, and you are leaving, and you are leaving, and you are leaving, and you are leaving, and you are leaving, and you are leaving, and you have not left.”

Prisoners Use Dictionaries for Scrabble

  After our discussion about dictionaries being the books most requested by those who are incarcerated, a former prison inmate calls to report that dictionaries are so popular in prison in part because they’re used to settle debates in Scrabble games.

Cut Me a Huss

  Manuel in Fort Worth, Texas, wonders about a phrase he’s heard from his dad and brothers: Cut me a husk meaning “Give me a break.” The term evolved from slang used by U.S. Marines serving in Vietnam, and HUS, the configuration for the Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse. The shorthand expression for calling in this sturdy workhorse was cut me a HUS or give me a HUS.

I am Sat vs. I am Sitting

  Diana in Duncanville, Texas, notes a difference between British English and American English. In the United States, it’s common to say I am sitting down or He was sitting there or We were sitting there, but increasingly she hears people from England say I am sat down or He was sat there or We were sat there.

Gesture for Snack Time

  After our conversation about families’ nicknames for household appliances, Luke in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, tells the story of a gesture that evolved in his own family to indicate it’s snack time.

Pilgramage to Willa Cather’s Home

  Paula in Cheyenne, Wyoming, calls with the story of a moving pilgrimage to the home of Willa Cather in Red Cloud, Nebraska, and shares a favorite passage from Cather’s My Antonia (Bookshop|Amazon).

Learning to Love a Nickname

  A listener shares a story about how she went from hating the nickname her grandmother bestowed on her to regarding it with fondness many years later.

“Lay On, Macduff” Became “Lead On, Macduff!”

  The phrase Lead on, Macduff, meaning “Let’s go!” or “You go on ahead and I’ll follow,” is an alteration of the famous phrase from the final scene of combat in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Bookshop|Amazon), where Macbeth lures his opponent into combat saying, Lay on, Macduff, And damned be him that first cries “Hold! Enough!”

The Smell is Strong in This One

  Jean in Trucksville, Pennsylvania, says her family hasn’t named a household appliance, exactly, although they did christen their compost bin Darth Vader.

Awash in Heavy Rain Language

  Particularly in the Southern United States, there are lots of fanciful terms for “a sudden, heavy rain” that involve the downpour’s after-effects. For starters, there’s gully-washer, frog-strangler, toad-strangler, toadfrog-strangler, fish-drownder, goose-drownder, frog-drownder, chicken-drownder, fence-lifter, bridge-lifter, trash-mover, trash-floater, chunk-mover, stump-mover, gully-buster, gulley-maker, and gully-hopper.

A Too-True Comment On A Writer’s Endless Tweaking

  A tweet from novelist Megan Collins, author of Behind the Red Door (Bookshop|Amazon) and The Winter Sister (Bookshop|Amazon), is one every writer will appreciate.

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

Photo by tanakawho. Used and modified under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Climbing Dictionary by Matt Samet(Bookshop|Amazon)
My Antonia by Willa Cather (Bookshop|Amazon)
Macbeth by William Shakespeare (Bookshop|Amazon)
Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins (Bookshop|Amazon)
The Winter Sister by Megan Collins (Bookshop|Amazon)

Music Used in the Episode

KarinaMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDaptone
Morena Porque Te VasEl Pollo de OrichunaEl Pollo de OrichunaFonodisco
Showbiz SuitePlaceboBall of EyesCBS Records
The TraitorMenahan Street BandMake The Road By WalkingDaptone
That Mellow FeelingJunior ManceHarlem LullabyAtlantic
Run ’Em RoundJunior ManceHarlem LullabyAtlantic
What Becomes of The BrokenheartedJunior ManceHarlem LullabyAtlantic
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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EpisodesEpisode 1565