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Monkey’s Wedding

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It’s the art of constructive feedback: If you’re a teacher with a mountain of papers to grade, you may find yourself puzzling over which kinds of notes in the margins work best. Martha and Grant discuss strategies for effective paper-grading. And when your inbox is full of spam and LinkedIn requests, even a bad emailed joke starts to look good. Martha shares one, along with some riddles from Portuguese and Spanish. And that slithering reptile in the garage — is it a garden snake, a gardener snake, or a garter snake? Plus, creek vs. crick, the origins of shank, rhubarb, and ping me, and “the devil is beating his wife.”

This episode first aired October 25, 2013. It was rebroadcast the weekend of January 26, 2015.

Big Hands, Bad Joke

 If you have seven oranges in one hand and six in the other, what have you got? “Really big hands”–and a really bad joke.

It’s a Monkey’s Wedding

 When it’s raining and sunny at the same time, Brazilians say there’s a marriage between a fox and a nightingale, and South Africans say it’s a monkey’s wedding. Those images are far happier than an American phrase for the same meteorological phenomenon, “the devil is beating his wife.” In each case, the common thread seems to be that it’s a supernatural occurrence.


 When a jacket’s been on the hanger too long, the shoulders get punched out, meaning they become distended. The same principle is behind the term butt-sprung, which describes a skirt that’s distended by the wearer, and now applies to anything that’s worn out.

Baseball Rhubarb

 The sportscaster Red Barber popularized the term rhubarb, meaning a scuffle on the baseball mound. It has now expanded to various kinds of arguments.

“A” is for Amusing Word Game

 Attention Sue Grafton fans: A is for Amusing might be a good title for this week’s puzzle from Quiz Guy John Chaneski.

Student Writing Feedback

 A Florida State University professor is tired of writing the same comments over and over on student papers. He wonders about the most effective written feedback, and specifically, whether there’s a better way to say a paragraph is particularly well-written or clearly written.

Sitting in a Corner Riddle

 I went to Paris, I went to Egypt, I’ve been to New York, and I will be going to Rome. I do this by sitting in a corner. Who am I?

Garter Snakes

 Is that serpent in the garage a garter snake, a garden snake, a gardener snake, or a mouse snake? All are apt names for the same snake, but the original is garter snake, which takes its name from the sartorial accessory.

What All Men Carry Riddle

 A riddle in rhyme: What does a man love more than life /Fear more than death or mortal strife / What the poor have, the rich require /And what contented men desire / What the miser spends and the spendthrift saves/ And all men carry to their graves?

Creek vs. Crick

 In the Northern Midwest, creek is often pronounced crick.

Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online

 Slang lovers, rejoice! Parts of Green’s Dictionary of Slang are being posted online, including an impressive timeline tracking slang involving alcohol.


 Ping, as in ping me, meaning “contact me,” comes from the onomatopoeic ping we get from technology such as sonar.

Male and Female Riddle

 There’s a word where the first two letters signify a male, the first three signify a female, the first four signify a great man, and the whole word means a great woman. Do you know it?

I Know, Right?!

 “I know, right?!” is a friendly way to acknowledge that you understand someone.

Portuguese Riddle

 A riddle translated from Portuguese: Why is it that the bull climbs the hill?

Shank Weapon

 A prison employee wants to know about the term shank, that name for sharp weapons made with toothbrushes and pieces of metal. It derives from shank in the sense of the type of animal bone historically used in weapon making.

Lending Your Time Machine

 The good thing about lending someone your time machine? You pretty much get it back immediately. “I know, right?!”

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

Photo by Chi Tranter. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Green’s Dictionary of Slang by Jonathon Green

Music Used in the Episode

Shemp TimeRobert Walter’s 20th CongressMoney ShotFog City Records
Oxygene (Part III)Jean-Michel JarreOxygenePolydor
Black HoleShawn LeeSynthesizers In SpaceESL Music
Instant LawnRobert Walter’s 20th CongressMoney ShotFog City Records
Aj’s MoodShawn LeeSynthesizers In SpaceESL Music
Oxygene (Part IV)Jean-Michel JarreOxygenePolydor
Head UpShawn LeeSynthesizers In SpaceESL Music
Lowrider’s In SpaceShawn LeeSynthesizers In SpaceESL Music
Jupiter’s JamShawn LeeSynthesizers In SpaceESL Music
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

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