Home » Episodes » Mr. Can’t Died (episode #1377)

Mr. Can’t Died

Play episode

You pick up what you think a glass of water and take a sip, but it turns out to be Sprite. What’s the word for that sensation when you’re expecting one thing and taste something else? Also, slang from college campuses, like ratchet and dime piece. And the story of a writer who published her first novel at age 73, then went on to win a National Book Award. Plus, the origins of bluebloods, Melungeons, Calcutta bets, Vermont Cree-mees, and the phrase used to buck someone up, “can’t died in a cornfield.”

This episode first aired October 11, 2013. It was rebroadcast the weekend of January 12, 2015.

Slang Ratchet

 Is it a good thing to be ratchet? This slang term can refer to a bumpin’ party or a girl who’s a hot mess.

Cephalus Offendo

 There’s nothing like a refreshing gulp of water, unless what you thought was water turns out to be vodka or Sprite. When the expectation of what you’ll taste gives way to surprise, shock, and offense, you’ve experienced what one listener calls cephalus offendo. You might also call it anticipointment.

I See You

 The phrase I see you, meaning “I acknowledge what you’re doing,” comes from performance, and pops up often in African-American performance rhetoric.

Golfing Calcutta

 A listener from Charlottesville, Virginia, is dating a professional golfer who often plays a Calcutta with other tour members. Calcutta, a betting game going back over 200 years, involves every player betting before the tournament on who they think will finish with the lowest score. It was first picked up by the British in and around—you guessed it—Kolkata, also known as Calcutta.


 When a term paper is due in 24 hours, there’s no better tactic than to break open the Milano cookies and procrastineat.

M-A-M-A and P-A-P-A Puzzle

 Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game for the Mamas and the Papas, with two-word phrases beginning with the letters M-A- M-A- or P-A- P-A-.

Can’t Died in a Cornfield

 If you say you can’t accomplish a task, someone might remind you “Mr. Can’t died in a cornfield.” This old saying is particularly evocative if you’ve ever been stuck in a cornfield, because it’s easy to think you won’t make it out. Another version of this phrase is “can’t died in the poorhouse.”


 Blueblood, a term often used to refer to WASPy or patrician folks, goes back to the 1700s and the Spanish term sangre azul. It described the class of people who never had to work outside or expose themselves to the sun, so blue veins would show through their ivory, marble-like skin.

You’re a Dime

 If someone’s a dime piece or a dime, they’re mighty attractive — as in, a perfect 10.

Drunk vs. Drunken

 What’s the difference between drunk and drunken? If you dig through the linguistic corpora, or collections of texts, you’ll find that we celebrate with drunken revelry and break into drunken brawls, but individuals drive drunk and or get visibly drunk. Typically, drunken is used for a situation, and drunk refers to a person.

People Unicorns

 Ever seen someone repeatedly around town and made up an elaborate life story for them without actually ever meeting them? In slang terms, that sort of person in your life is called a unicorn.

Harriet Doerr’s First Book

 Harriet Doerr published her first novel, Stones for Ibarra, at the age of 73. It won a National Book Award.


 Don’t think about ordering a soft serve ice cream in Vermont—there, it’s a Creemee. The term has stuck around the Green Mountain State by the sheer force of Vermonter pride.


 The term Melungeon, applied to a group of people in Southeastern Appalachia marked by swarthy skin and dark eyes, has been used disparagingly in the past. But Melungeons themselves reclaimed that name in the 1960s. The Melungeon Heritage website details some of the mystery behind their origin. The name comes from the French term melange, meaning “mixture.”

Love You Like a Sister

 The initialism LLAS, meaning “love you like a sister,” isn’t a texting phenomenon—it goes back 30 or 40 years to when girls would write each other letters.

Diminutive Suffixes

 Diminutive suffixes, Donnie for Don, change the meaning of a name to something smaller, cuter, or sweeter.

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

Photo by JPDC. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

Music Used in the Episode

The BeehivePocketResonancePocket Records
Slop JarCharles KynardWogaMainstream Records
Rock SteadyCharles KynardWogaMainstream Records
A Man And A WomanDavid McCallumMusic – It’s Happening NowCapitol Records
Set Me FreePocketResonancePocket Records
Off TimePocketResonancePocket Records
Jesse’s JingIn Motion CollectiveJesse’s JingColemine Records
If I Were a CarpenterDavid McCallumMusic – It’s Happening NowCapitol Records
PassingPocketResonancePocket Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

Leave a comment

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

More from this show

Episode 1637

Sleeve Island

Language from inside a monastery. A Benedictine monk shares terms from his world: For example, corporate prayer refers to praying as a group, not urging shares to return dividends. And did you know there’s a term of art for those annoying add...

Episode 1541

Walkie Talkie

One of the most powerful words you’ll ever hear — and one of the most poignant — isn’t in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The word is endling, and it means “the last surviving member of a species.” The...

Recent posts

EpisodesEpisode 1377