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Newsletter: How “Gay” Got That Way

[Grover voice:] Hello, everybodeee!

We’ve been cranking out brand-new episodes, so if you’re behind, there are treats in store:

• In last week’s episode, “Gone Pecan,” we explained how how gay got that way, we laid out the logic behind confusion between borrow, lend, and loan, and we learned the history behind grammar school. Listen to the whole episode or download the MP3.

• In “Dog and Pony Show,” we learned a favorite new expression: “He’s uglier than a dog chewing waspers.” We also heard even more from listeners about whether learning cursive is still necessary (there’s even more about that below) and we chewed over the question, “Can facts be false?Listen to the whole episode or download the MP3.

• Three weeks ago, in “Good Juju,” we delivered the dope on use vs. utilize. Also, using Nancy Friedman’s blog “Fritinancy” as a jumping-off point, we looked into the odd histories behind words like heroin, which used to be the brand-name of a product marketed for home medical use. (Nancy’s expanded her work here, behind a paywall with a free trial.) Listen to the whole episode or download the MP3.

On the Subject of Cursive Writing

Lauren Debussy of Fort Worth, Texas, wrote not once, but twice to tell us her thoughts on cursive writing:

I am 24 years old, and one of the only people I know who still writes in cursive regularly. I was rather surprised when you mentioned some readers had written in and said that they didn’t learn cursive in school at all! I have a younger sister who is five years younger than I am, and she still learned cursive.

Speaking with my peers over the years I’ve found this shared experience in learning cursive. Cursive was introduced around second grade, and during the class time spent practicing it teachers would threaten: ‘You’re going to have to use this in third grade.’ These threats would continue every year until some point around middle school where the students realized that teachers, in fact, did not really care in what script we wrote as long as it was legible.

The funniest thing about this threat though was it actually came true for some people, at least in a very specific situation. As a senior in high school I went to take the new version of the SAT that added the writing section. At the very beginning of the exam we had to write a paragraph in cursive only. I had no problem, but I remember hearing many of my peers complaining about it. I’m not sure if that’s still a part of taking the SAT now, but it was kind of nice to be justified in writing in cursive at the time. That, and I’ll always be able to read the cards that my grandparents write!

That’s not all! She also wrote — wrote — a sweet addendum. Click the image for the full size:

Not That Kind of Sandwich

We close with this anecdote from listener Laura Davison in Cleveland, Ohio.

I distinctly remember once when I was about five, my mom asked me if I wanted an ice cream sandwich. I immediately conjured up an image in my head of a scoop of vanilla ice cream between two slices of white bread and responded, ‘Eww… no!’

When I came in to the kitchen and saw my mom eating ice cream between two chocolate wafers, I asked her what it was and if I could have some. She replied, ‘This is an ice cream sandwich… you just said you didn’t want one.’ I said ‘I didn’t know you meant that!’ then told her what I thought she’d meant and we laughed and laughed. We still laugh about it to this day, some 20 years later.

Best wishes and may all your sandwiches be chocolatey, except if they’re hippopotamussy,

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett
co-hosts of A Way with Words

Photo by Tiffany Terry. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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