A highly anticipated children’s book and the epic history behind a familiar vegetable: fans of illustrator Maurice Sendak eagerly await publication of a newly discovered manuscript by the late author. And speaking of children’s literature, some wise advice from the author of Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White: “Anybody who shifts gears when he writes for children is likely to wind up stripping his gears.” • When is a mango not a mango? If you’re in Southern Indiana, you may not be talking about a tropical fruit. • The longest f-word in the dictionary has 29 letters, and is rarely used — partly because pronouncing it is such a challenge. Also, Limestone Belt, I swanee, gorby, fluke print, pour the cobs on, and liar, liar, pants on fire.
This episode first aired October 14, 2017.
More Belt Regions
After we discussed the Smile Belt and other “belt” regions of the United States, listeners chimed in with more, including the Potato Belt and Potato Chip Belt in Pennsylvania, and Banana Belt, a term used for the southern regions of both Vermont and Alaska.
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Origin
The saying liar, liar pants on fire is part of a longer children’s rhyme that’s been around since 1841 or so. There are several different versions of what comes after the line liar, liar, pants on fire, such as “Hanging by a telephone wire / While you’re there, cut your hair / And stick it down your underwear.” A listener in Indianapolis, Indiana, reports finding other taglines, such as “Stick your head in boiling water,” and the milder “Wash your face in dirty water.”
Sent for and Couldn’t Come
To describe someone who is dazed, lost, or confused, you might say he looks like he was sent for and couldn’t go.
An 11-year-old in Tallahassee, Florida, wonders about a phrase her late grandfather used. Instead of swearing, he’d exclaim “I swanee!” or “I’ll swanny!” This mild oath, and its shorter version, “I’ll swan,” derives from an English dialectal phrase, “I shall warrant.”
The Indiana Limestone Belt has an abundance of this type of rock. The limestone industry figured prominently in the movie Breaking Away, in which affluent residents of Bloomington, Indiana, referred derisively to quarry workers and their families as cutters, as in stonecutters.
One Letter Makes a New Dog Breed
For this week’s puzzle, Quiz Guy John Chaneski is inventing new breeds of dogs by changing one letter in the name of an existing breed. If you take a Rottweiler, for example, then change one letter in the breed’s name, you’ll have a new mutt that can exist on carrots, parsnips, turnips, and the like.
A woman in Mandeville, Louisiana, wonders about a term her grandfather used when someone hogged all the ice cream or took more of their share of cookies: “Don’t be a gorby!: This term may derive from the Scots word gorb, meaning “glutton.” Her grandfather was from northern Maine, where the term gorby also applies to a kind of bird called the Canada jay, known for swooping in and making off with food.
“Cousin” is a Word for Complicated Relationships
A woman in Farmers Branch, Texas, explains how the simple term cousin succinctly denotes a complicated relationship.
To Know From Something
The phrase he doesn’t know from (something), meaning “he doesn’t know about (something),” is a word-for-word borrowing, or calque, of a Yiddish phrase “Er veys nit fun.”
Cashed Bowl vs. Cacked Bowl
A man in San Clemente, California, and his friends are debating the term for when a substance you are smoking for pleasure is all used up. Is the bowl cashed or cacked? In this case, both terms work.
Buy Someone for What They’re Worth and Sell Them for What They Think They’ll Bring
For a clever way to describe someone as arrogant, you can always say, “I’d like to buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth” or “what he thinks he’ll bring.”
A New Sendak Book
A new Maurice Sendak manuscript, Presto and Zesto in Limboland, will be published in 2018, several years after the death of the beloved illustrator. E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, had some wise advice about writing for children: “Anybody who shifts gears when he writes for children is likely to wind up stripping his gears.”
Where Bell Peppers are Mangos
A woman who relocated from the eastern United States to Evansville, Indiana, was confused when her mother-in-law there asked her to bring in some mangoes from the garden, since tropical fruits don’t grow in the Midwest. In that part of the country, the word mango means “bell pepper.” The reason involves a deliciously circuitous history.
Hilltopping/Hightopping on a Snow Machine
In an earlier episode, we talked about the butterfly mating behavior known as hilltopping, in which male butterflies try to appeal to females by flying as high as possible. A listener in Fairbanks, Alaska, reports that the term hilltopping is used among sledheads, or “snowmobile enthusiasts,” to mean a different kind of showing off — riding up a hill on a snowmobile as high as possible before falling back. This move is also called hightopping.
Pour the Cobs on
An Indianapolis, Indiana, man says that when his grandmother wanted to urge someone on, she’d say “It’s time to pour the cobs on” or “It’s time for the cobs.” What’s the origin?
A woman in Virginia Beach, Virginia, wants to know the pronunciation of floccinaucinihilipilification, and why such a long word means “the habit of estimating something as worthless.”
This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.
Photo by Christopher Michel. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Presto and Zesto in Limboland|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Slacking Off||The Nassauvians||Daybreak 7″||Cicada|
|Bacaloao Con Pan||Irakere||Irakere||Ariola|
|Hung Up||Salt||Hung Up 7″||Choctaw|
|Killin It||The Egyptian Lover||Egyptian Empire Records||Egyptian Empire Records|
|Instant Funk||Merchant||Kaisoca Records Limited||Kaisoca Records Limited|
|April Fool||Isis||Isis||Buddah Records|
|Pass It On||Eddie Hooper and Storm||Pass It on 12″||Tackle|
|Seduced||Egyptian Lover||1984||Egyptian Empire Records|
|Who Dun It?||Blue Mitchell||Collision In Black||Blue Note|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|