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Nerd vs. Geek

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Books that make great gifts for language-lovers, the difference between a nerd and a geek, and talk about a new term, poutrage, and what do you call the crust in the corners of your eyes after a night’s sleep? This episode first aired December 11, 2010.


 What do the words marathon, paisley, and bikini have in common? They’re all words that derive from the names of places. Martha and Grant talk about these and other toponyms.

Geek or Nerd?

 What’s the difference between a geek and a nerd? An Ohio professor of popular culture wants to talk about it. Here’s the a MetaFilter thread and a Venn diagram about the differences.


 In the Pacific Northwest, the term spendy means “expensive.”

Updates for the Skedooly

 Grant has an update on the jocular pronunciation of skedooly for the word schedule, following up on our original conversation.

Repeat After Me Word Quiz

 Puzzle Guy John Chaneski presents a quiz called “Repeat After Me.” It’s a quiz that’s neither so-so nor too-too.


 A Marine at Camp Pendleton says that while in Iraq, he and his buddies heard the greeting “Yambo!” from Ugandan troops there. Now they use it with each other, and he wonders about its literal meaning. Martha explains that it’s a common Kiswahili term.

Foreignisms and Loanwords

 In the novel Jane Eyre, characters sometimes speak whole sentences in French. A high school English teacher says her students wonder if there’s a term for inserting whole sentences from another language into fiction. Grant talks about the use of foreignisms and loanwords.

Camel’s Nemesis

 Martha has a crazy crossword clue sent by a listener: “Camel’s Nemesis.” Twelve letters. Got it?

Names for Locals

 Residents of Maine are called “Mainers,” people in Texas are “Texans,” those in Wisconsin are “Wisconsinites,” and people in Phoenix are … “Phoenicians”? Grant and Martha explain that there are consistent rules for the naming the locals. The book they reference is Paul Dickson’s Labels for Locals.

Books for Language Lovers

 Martha and Grant offer gift recommendations for language lovers:

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages, by Guy Deutscher.
OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, by Allan Metcalf.
Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers, by Pendred Noyce.
Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language, by Deborah Fallows.

Cat Butter

 What do you call the crust that forms in the corners of your eyes when you sleep? Sleepy dust, sleepy sand, eyejam, eye boogers, eye potatoes, sleep sugar, eye crusties, sleepyjacks. An Indiana man wonders if anyone else uses his family’s term for it, cat butter.

“Toe the Line” vs. “Tow the Line”

 Is the proper phrase toe the line or tow the line?

OK Moon Talk

 Grant talks about how that great American export, the word OK, was part of the first conversation on the surface of the moon.


 You upgrade your software, and instead of working better, it’s worse. Is there a word for that phenomenon? Downgrade? Oopsgrade? How about Newcoked?


 Poutrage is a new term for “acting outraged when you’re really not. It’s sort of like accismus, “the pretended refusal of something actually very much desired.”

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

Photo by Mark Probst. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Labels for Locals by Paul Dickson
Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher
OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word by Allan Metcalf
Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers by Pendred Noyce
Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows

Music Used in the Episode

Go Je JeAntibalas Afrobeat OrchestraGovernment MagicAfrosound Records
Musicawa SiltThe DaktarisSoul ExplosionDesco Records
It’s Too LateJohnny “Hammond” SmithBreakoutKUDU
Funky So And SoSugarman 3 and Co.Pure Sugar CaneDaptone Records
Ghetto FunkDuralchaFunk Spectrum IIBBE
Daktaris WalkThe DaktarisSoul ExplosionDesco Records
BreakoutJohnny “Hammond” SmithBreakoutKUDU
Thank You For Letting Me Be MyselfMaseo & All The Kings MenDoing Their Own ThingCharly Records
Funky Washing MachineWorld WondersFunk Spectrum IIBBE
TropicalAfrican Music MachineStone Cold FunkMusic Club Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffFred AstaireFred Astaire’s Finest HourVerve

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