A stereotype is a preconceived notion about a person or group. Originally, though, the word stereotype referred to a printing device used to produce lots of identical copies. • The link between tiny mythical creatures called trolls and modern-day mischief-makers. • The stories behind the color names we give to horses. • Wise advice about fending off despair: learn something new! • Also: grinslies, personal summer, cowboy slang, smell vs. odor, orient vs. orientate, trolls and trolling, and just for fun, some agentive and instrumental exocentric verb-noun compounds.
This episode first aired October 6, 2018.
Scarecrow and pickpocket are compound words that name things and people by describing what they do. Such nouns were especially popular centuries ago, when quake-breech meant a coward, a saddle-goose was a fool, a scrape-gut was a violinist, and tanglelegs meant strong alcohol. The linguistic term for such terms is a mouthful: agentive and instrumental exocentric verb-noun compounds. Linguist Brianne Hughes, who has studied them extensively, calls them cutthroat compounds, the word cutthroat being another case in point. She’s collected more than 1200 cutthroat compounds at her website, Encyclopedia Briannica.
Smell vs. Odor
Todd, a firefighter in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, wonders about the difference between the words smell and odor. Also, which verb is the better choice: orient or orientate?
Stereotype Origins and Meaning
While reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Sidney from Indianapolis, Indiana, stumbled across the use of the term stereotyped notice to denote a printed announcement of a meeting. It’s an example of this word’s earliest sense; stereotype originally referred to a type of metal printing block used to produce multiple copies. The French word for this kind of block is cliché, a word that may be imitative of the clicking sound made by such a device as it prints. Borrowed into English, cliché now refers to a word or phrase that is trite or hackneyed — in other words, something repeated multiple times.
Which Language Has the Most Words?
Matt in San Antonio, Texas, poses this question: Which language has the most words? For that matter, how would you even begin to count them?
VCCV Brain Stretcher
Crossword-puzzle constructors often employ words with a vowel-consonant-consonant-vowel pattern, or VCCV. That’s the cruciverbal inspiration Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s VCCV puzzle. For example, if the clue is teen woe, what’s the four-letter answer begins and ends with a vowel?
Funny Names for Hot Flashes
On our Facebook group, listeners share their terms for menopausal hot flashes, including short private vacation in the tropics, temperature tantrum, short private trip to the Sahara, and my inner child is playing with matches.
The Names We Give the Colors of Horses
The name of that horse with a light gold coat, the palomino, derives from Spanish for young dove, because these animals share similar coloring. In the same way, a sorrel horse has the same color as a certain kind of sorrel plant. The names for the colors of horses come from three main traditions: English from the United Kingdom, Spanish, and French. Western Words, a book of cowboy slang collected by Ramon Adams, contains many more examples, including albino, bald-faced, bayo, bayo coyote, blaze, blood bay, buckskin, calico, chestnut, chin spot, claybank, cremello, flea bitten, grulla, moros, overo, paint, palomilla, piebald, pinto, race, roan, sabino, skewbald, snip, sock, star, star strip, stew ball, stocking, tobiano, trigeuno, and zebra dun.
Smell-Feast and Smellfungus
Linguist Brianne Hughes has compiled more than 1200 cutthroat compounds, including smell-feast meaning a freeloader, and smellfungus, a chronic complainer. For a lively primer about such compounds, check out her video.
The gallywampus is a large, wobbly insect that looks like an overgrown mosquito. These long-legged creatures and others like them go by lots of funny-sounding names, including gallinipper, gabber napper, and granny-nipper.
What to Say Instead of “I’m Sorry”
A thought-provoking tweet from Lauren (@Elloryn) in Atlanta, Georgia, suggests replacing the words “I’m sorry” with “Thank you.” Instead of saying “Sorry I was late,” try saying “Thank you for waiting for me.” It’s a subtle change, but it powerfully shifts the focus from the offender’s feelings to those of the offended.
Around the Stump Expressions
Ann from Fort Worth, Texas, says her elderly aunt was talking disparagingly about two people who, in her words, wet around the same stump. This expression isn’t all that common, but it does appear in Sarah Bird’s 1999 novel Virgin of the Rodeo. Another version, to smell around the same stump, is likewise rare, but also suggests that the two people are thick as thieves or at least have much in common. The word stump figures in several colloquial English expressions where the stump is a metaphorical point of contention or a problem that needs to be solved. Two ways of getting around the same stump means two ways to solve a problem. There’s also the phrase go around the same stump, and whip or beat the devil around the same stump, which means to avoid one’s responsibilities.
Trolls and Trolling
Harry from Falls Church, Virginia, wonders about the many meanings and uses of the words troll and trolling.
More Terms for a Quick Wash
Listeners continue to chime in after our conversation about terms for a quick cleanup, such as Navy shower or G.I. shower, or washing up to possible. @TruBlu tweeted a few more examples.
Jesse in Gainesville, Florida, says that when he was growing up in Northern Minnesota, he often heard the expression “Oh, for…!”, as in “Oh, for cute!”, “Oh, for nice!”, or “Oh, for dumb!: This idiomatic construction usually expresses judgment, is largely confined to Minnesota, and may be a calque from German or a Scandinavian language.
Words for Leavings and Dregs
Amy from Ishpeming, Michigan, says her family’s idiolect includes the word grinslies, which they use to denote the sediment in the bottom of your coffee cup. The word orts is also a term for leftovers, and a dialectal term for the last little bit left from a meal is scrunchings. The last little bit of a drink in a glass or bottle is sometimes called a heel-tap.
This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.
Photo by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass|
|Virgin of the Rodeo|
|The Once and Future King|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Just Kissed My Baby||The Meters||Rejuvenation||Reprise Records|
|The Champ||The Mohawks||The Champ||Pauma|
|People Say||The Meters||Rejuvenation||Reprise Records|
|Abraka||The Funkees||Point of No Return||Amba|
|Break Through||The Funkees||Slipping Into Darkness 45||EMI|
|Acid Rock||The Funkees||My First Date 45||His Master’s Voice|
|Afro Beat Blues||Hugh Masakela||Chicken Lickin’||Prestige|
|Hip Jigger||The Mohawks||The Champ||Pauma|
|Funky Miracle||The Meters||Look-Ka Py Py||Josie Records|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|