Home » Episodes » Books With a Letter Missing

Books With a Letter Missing

Play episode
Remember those children’s classics, the Velveteen Rabbi and The Little Price? The Twitterverse is abound with these books with a letter missing. And it turns out there’s some pimping going on in our hospitals, but it’s not what you’d think. Grant and Martha clear up the plead vs pleaded debate, touch on the use of product, and trace the history of shambles. Plus, a word puzzle with nursery rhymes, a map of regional grammar, and plenty of crazy vocab, from popinjays to the tee na na!
This episode first aired October 17, 2011.
Book Title Hashtag Fun

 There’s a Twitter meme going around for books with a letter missing from the title. You can find them through the hashtag #bookswithalettermissing. Can’t wait to read that romp about the sand-covered South, A Confederacy of Dunes.

Can You Brandish a Body Part?

 We usually brandish a weapon, or some object we can wave about. But the definition of brandish can be stretched to include more figurative types of weapons or objects (e.g. seductive body parts).


 What does shambles mean? If your house is in shambles, it’s a mess, but before the 1920s, the word shambles referred to a butcher’s bloody bench.


 What is a popinjay? Literally a parrot, this term is often used in a military context to refer to a vain or conceited officer with a Napoleon complex. And a bandbox boy? That once commonly referred to an officer who gave excessive attention to his grooming and dress. It’s a reference to “the box used to transport uniforms.”

Retranslated Nursery Rhymes Quiz

 Our Quiz Guy Greg Pliska has a game of Name That Nursery Rhyme. The catch is the text has been run through the translation site Babelfish. What happens when Little Bo Peep and Humpty Dumpty go from English to Spanish to Chinese and back again?

Past Tense of Plead

 What’s the past tense of plead? Is it pleaded or pled? Within the legal profession, pleaded is preferred. But in our common vernacular, we tend to use the less traditional pled.

Tee Na Na

 If something’s right on the tee na na, it’s just perfect. This phrase from New Orleans has popped up in myriad songs from the region. One interview with the musician Dr. John suggests that tee na na refers to the rear end, or tuchis. Martha speculates that tee na na may have to do with the phrase to a tee.

More Book Titles Missing Letters

 Lots of people have tweeted their own examples with the #bookswithalettermissing hashtag. Take, for example, that famous guide to Jewish sensuality, The Oy of Sex.

Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise

 What’s the origin of the phrase “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”? It has to do with travel and farming and nothing whatsoever to do with Native Americans. Back when wagons rode on low gravel roads, you couldn’t pass if the creek level was high.

Grammatical Diversity

 Regional grammar can be just as rich and diverse as regional vocabulary. The Yale Grammatical Diversity Project has picked up on all the variations in American English usage and plotted them on a Google Map. Turns out that double modals and the positive anymore are popping up all over the country.

Using Product

 Did your hairstylist recommend you use product? Is your company moving product this quarter? The term product is in vogue, mainly for the purpose of simplification.

Baby Department

 Why do department stores label their infants’ section “Baby” instead of “Babies’” à la “Men’s” or “Women’s”? For one, the Baby department includes more than just clothes; they’ve got strollers and cribs and pacifiers. Also, the baby of the family has a unique singular identity, unlike the rest of the kids.

Shake a Stick At

 Where do we get the expression more than you can shake a stick at? It probably just derives from counting. Imagine herdsmen bringing in their cattle or sheep at the end of the day, pointing with a stick in order to do a headcount.

The Little Price

 Another #bookswithalettermissing joke: Have you read the book about how 99 cent stores are changing the way we shop in America? It’s called The Little Price.

Pimping Med Students

 Pimping med students is a common practice in hospitals. But not that kind of pimping; the term pimp, possibly from the German pumpfrage, meaning “pump question,” refers to the method of tough quizzing that doctors put their young residents through. It generally straddles the border between rigorous initiation and plain bullying.

One With the Wind

 You know that book missing a letter about the young Southern woman finding peace in a storm? It’s called One With the Wind.

Photo by geishaboy500. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

Happy SongRare EarthHappy Song 12″Sunshine Sound
Try A Little TendernessSoul FlutesTrust In MeA&M Records
Louisana Slim Leon SpencerLouisana SlimPrestige
Hip ShakerLeon SpencerBad Walking WomanPrestige
Trust In MeSoul FlutesTrust In MeA&M Records
The CatfishPeter HorbolzheimerLive Im Onkel PoPolydor
The Happy HookerThe Nite-LitersA-Nal-Y-SisRCA
Excuse Me While I Do My ThingThe Nite-LitersA-Nal-Y-SisRCA
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings the George & Ira Gershwin Song BookUMG Recordings, Inc

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More from this show

Cool Beans

If you speak a second or third language, you may remember the first time you dreamed in that new tongue. But does this milestone mean...

Love Bites

The word filibuster has a long and colorful history, going back to the days when pirates roamed the high seas. Today it refers to hijacking...