Why are the names of cars so unimaginative? Grant argues that auto manufacturers might take inspiration from ornithology to build a better car name. (Then again, would you be any less aggravated if you were rear-ended by a lazuli bunting?) Also this week, why do so many young folks pepper their speech with the word “like,” and what, if anything, can be done about it? All that, plus Luddites, chicken bog, a duck on a June bug, and the possible origins of the phrase “to get one’s goat.”
This episode first aired April 11, 2009.
Using Ornithology to Name Cars
Why are the names of cars so unimaginative? Grant argues that auto manufacturers might take inspiration from ornithology to build a better car name. (Then again, would you be any less aggravated if you were rear-ended by a lazuli bunting?)
Reassigning Bird Names
Grant notes that birds sometimes get re-christened with a different name. Often a bird’s commemorative name—one that honors a bird’s discoverer—will be replaced years later. Case in point: Rivoli’s hummingbird is now known as the magnificent hummingbird.
Ever been met with a quizzical look and the question, “Do what?” The hosts discuss this dialectal equivalent of “How’s that?” or “Come again?”
All Over it like a Duck on a Junebug
For many Southerners, it’s very picture of eagerness and alacrity: He was all over that like a duck on a June bug! Martha and Grant reveal the memorable image behind this curious expression.
Puzzle Guy Greg Pliska takes equal portions of words and numbers, mixes well, and whips up a quiz called “Initiarithmetic.” The idea is to guess the words based on the initial letters of well-known phrases involving numbers. For example: “There are 12 M in the Y.” Wait, that was too easy. How about this one: “There are 2 K of P in the W. T W D the W into T K of P, and T W D.”
Overuse of “Like”
Is there a way to get youngsters to stop overusing the word “like”? The mother of a middle-schooler who’s picked up the habit wonders where it came from and how she can stop it. Grant and Martha have suggestions, and Martha mentions this enlightening essay about teenagers and “like” by linguist Geoffrey Nunberg.
Chicken bog isn’t a bird name, nor is it a place. It’s a dish of rice, chicken, country sausage, and lots of black pepper, found primarily in the Southeast. It sometimes goes by the name chicken perlow or pillow or pilau. A South Carolina caller wonders about the origin of these food terms. By the way, if you like chicken bog, you’ll love the annual bog-off in Loris, South Carolina.
Good Night, Nurse
Some folks use the old-fashioned exclamation “Good night, nurse!” as a handy substitute for a cussword. But where’d it come from? Grant explains how this phrase became popular in the early 20th century.
What’s a Luddite? Martha explains that this term for “someone resistant to technological change” has its roots in a form of populist rage in the early 19th century.
A Texas grandmother says she’s long been baffled about the origin of a counting rhyme that she learned from her grandmother. During the game, her grandmother bounced her on her knee, saying, “Malagee Buck, Malagee Buck, how many fingers do I hold up?” The caller learned that the game she loved as a child is incredibly widespread throughout the world in various forms, and dates back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
If you’re told to “keep your eyes peeled,” you’re being warned to stay alert. But…“peeled”?
Get Your Goat
Where’d we get the expression “to get someone’s goat”? A caller suspects it comes from a Sicilian folk tale. But does it?
Photo by Berit Watkin. Used under a Creative Commons license.