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Not Quite a Boyfriend

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If an older man and woman spend lots of time together, going to family gatherings and the like, but they’re NOT dating, what do you call their relationship? Best friends? Dear friends? Or . . . something else? And a marathon runner who’s crossed 31 states on foot talks about the odd phrases people use when giving directions. Plus, handegg, victuals and vittles, nernees and farsees, take a decision vs. make a decision, and the growing popularity of text tattoos. This episode first aired December 6, 2013.

Text Tattoos

 When it comes to tattoos, passages of text are an increasingly popular alternative to images.

Victuals and Vittles

 The word victuals is pronounced like “vittles” and refers to cooked foods and shares a Latin root with vitamin and vitality. Sometimes it’s spelled vittles, a form often associated with more informal or rustic speech.

Passing By

 If you pass by a place, does that mean you go into it? Or do you go past it? An Australian caller and his American ex-girlfriend disagreed. In parts of the English-speaking world, the phrase pass by is one in a long list of synonyms for “visit,” along with drop by, come round, and go by.


 While in Canada, Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins, encountered the term keener, meaning “enthusiast.”

Book Categories Puzzle

 Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski sorts out the hosts with a puzzle about book categories on Amazon.com.

Friends Who are Not Dating

 When an older man and woman spend lots of time together, going to family gatherings and the like, but they’re not dating, what do you call that relationship? Best friends? Dear friends?

BBQ Abbreviation

 Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn has been mulling how to classify the term BBQ, since the “Q” reflects sound, not an initial. It’s a type of abbreviation called clipping. BBQ goes back to restaurant signs and menus from the 1930’s where space was at a premium.

Drinking Muddy Water

 What do you say when someone stands between you and the television? Some people say, “Were you drinking muddy water?” Another option: “I can’t see through your bay window!”


 The term less-than, often written in quotation marks, is an increasingly common way to denote status inequality, especially when it comes to gender.


 Oh, the agony of nernees, those little pieces of plastic or metal that seem to have no purpose. Only until you throw them out will you realize how essential they were! This slang term is sometimes used among those who work in technical theater.


 Brian Stark, who calls himself the States Runner, has crossed 31 states on foot. He phones from Arizona to discuss the funny ways people in different regions give directions when he’s lost. A West Virginian once told him his destination was six farsees away, meaning “go as far as you can see, then go as far as you can see from there, and do that a total of six times.”

Knocking in the Restroom

 A listener in Taiwan reports that if someone knocks when you’re in public restroom there,  the customary response is to knock back!

Taking and Making Decisions

 Do you take a decision or make a decision? Generally, Americans make decisions, while the British may do either. Take and make in this situation are what are known as light verbs, meaning they don’t add much to the sentence, since you could just as easily use the word decided.

Goose a-Gobblin’

 Joyce, in Azle, Texas, say her grandmother used to exclaim, “That just beats a goose a-gobblin’!” whenever something awed or frustrated her.


 Outside the United States, American football is sometimes jokingly called handegg–a reference to the shape of the ball and the fact that it’s carried in the hands.

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

Photo by Carl Mueller. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Music Used in the Episode

Underground AgentPerry Music LibraryMoods For DramaPerry Music Library
Russian DiscoRKM LibraryBeat ActionRKM Library
911 BeatTimeless Timmy35th and AdamsTimeless Takeover
Moody FeelingRKM LibraryBeat ActionRKM Library
Soul MelodyRKM LibraryBeat ActionRKM Library
Tom Vs. GaltTimeless Timmy35th and AdamsTimeless Takeover
At This Very MomentRKM LibraryBeat ActionRKM Library
Funky MoodRKM LibraryBeat ActionRKM Library
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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