What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry — some of which is collected in the anthology England: Poems from a School. Also, new language among healthcare professionals: the term cohorting describes the act of grouping patients with COVID-19 in designated facilities. But what’s the word for reintegrating them into the general patient population after treatment. Decohorting, maybe? Finally, who can resist all those independent bookstores with tantalizing names like Moon Palace and Mysterious Galaxy? Also, black-hearted buzzard, nesh, livid, muckle, Fiddler’s Green, come go home with us, a confounding puzzle about words containing the letters C-O-N, and more.
This episode first aired August 15, 2020.
Just as books at independent bookshops are carefully curated and hand-sold, the names of the stores themselves often reflect the owner’s personal vision and preferences, such as The Wild Detectives in Dallas, Texas; Wild Rumpus and Moon Palace in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tin Can Mailman in Arcata, California; the Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado; and in San Diego, such stores as The Book Catapult and Run for Cover, as well as Mysterious Galaxy and Verbatim. When author Connie Schultz asked Twitter users for their favorite independent-bookshop names, readers responded with dozens more.
Rachel from Harrogate, Tennessee, says when she was growing up in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, she and her fellow musicians used the term B-flat as slang for “ordinary” or “average.” In the 1938 publication New York Panorama, a guidebook to New York State put out by the Works Progress Administration, there’s a section on the language of jazz in New York City, which includes a definition of B-flat as “dull” and another for G-flat, meaning “brilliant.” B-flat is also slang for “bedbug.”
Another evocative indie bookstore name: Books Are Magic in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. And how can you resist walking into an establishment with a sign outside that says “Book People”? There are at least two stores with that name in the United States: one in Austin, Texas and another in Richmond, Virginia.
Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s game is based on the names of cities and states where the National Puzzlers’ League has held its annual convention over the past few years. Attendees came up with a punny moniker for each that incorporates the con- in convention. For example, the 1999 convention was held at the Big Sky Resort near the town of Bozeman, so puzzlers jokingly called that gathering Contana. The 2012 convention was held in one of two famous Portlands. What state-related nickname did they give to that event?
Terry, a health-care worker in Traverse City, Michigan, says she and her colleagues use the term cohorting to describe the act of grouping patients with COVID-19 in designated facilities. But they’re not sure what word to use to denote reintegrating them into the general population after treatment. Normalization? Decohorting?
Bill in Surrey, New Hampshire, says his father used to tell him to hold tightly to something, such as a rope, by urging him to muckle on to it. He rarely heard the word again until a Scotsman visited his farm and admiringly noted that Bill’s dog was a fine muckle beast. Turns out, those are two different muckles.
The vast majority of young students at Oxford Spires Academy in England are refugees and economic migrants. According to teacher Kate Clanchy, this mixture of cultures and languages creates something magical, including some remarkable poetry in English. Clanchy has published some of them in an anthology, England: Poems from a School. They include the wistful, sensuous “My Mother Country” by Rukiya Khatun, a 17-year-old from Bangladesh.
In parts of the Southern United States, the leave-taking phrases come and go home with me, come go home with us, and come home with us don’t mean that the departing guest is literally inviting the host to come along. The host’s equivalent is often something like you ought to just spend the night, which usually isn’t a literal invitation, either. Both are simply courteous ways of saying that it’s time for the gathering to wind down even though they sure would like it to continue.
Susan, a librarian in Grant County, Kentucky, says her spouse, who is from the Cincinnati area, uses the expression Please? to mean “How’s that?” or “Come again?” or “Excuse me?” to get someone to repeat a statement. This dialectal feature is largely associated with Cincinnati and other areas heavily settled by German immigrants. It’s what linguists call a calque, or loan translation, from German, where the word Bitte, or “please,” is used in exactly the same way.
In nautical lore, Fiddler’s Green is the mythical place where dead mariners go to enjoy a life of leisure, with plenty of song, dancing, flirting, and rum. It may be tempting to connect this expression with mariners’ term fid, or a “tool for splicing rope,” but the two are unrelated.
Public domain photo of 52nd Street in New York, New York, in 1948 by William Gottlieb.
Book Mentioned in the Episode
|England: Poems from a School by Kate Clanchy|
Music Used in the Episode
|What Can You Bring Me||Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Band||You’re So Beautiful||Warner Brothers|
|Root Down||Jimmy Smith||Root Down||Verve|
|Breeding Of Mind||O’Donel Levy||Breeding Of Mind||Groove Merchant|
|Winston Theme||The Winston Brothers||Winston Theme 45||Colemine|
|Tight Times||Jimmy McGriff||Electric Funk||Blue Note|
|Sommer||The Ironsides||Sommer 45||Colemine|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|