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Pardon Our French

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South African English is a rich mix of Afrikaans, English, and indigenous languages such as Zulu and Xhosa. Martha and Grant discuss some favorite terms from that part of the world, including lekker, diski, and ubuntu. Also, where’d we get the term hurt locker and why do we say “pardon my French” after cursing? What’s the difference between supposedly and supposably? And is having a vast vocabulary filled with obscure words really all that important? This episode first aired April 17, 2010.

South African English

 Looking ahead to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, Martha and Grant discuss some terms you might hear there.

Origin of “Pardon My French”

 Why do we say “pardon my French” after cursing?

Canadian Vowels

 A Dallas listener says he was confused at first when a friend from rural North Dakota reported coming home and finding a moose in his kitchen. Only later did he learn what difference the so-called Canadian raising of a vowel can make. More about Canadian raising in A Handbook of Varieties of English by Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider.

2010 Oxcar Quiz

 Quiz Guy Greg Pliska presents a puzzle about the Oxcar awards, given to fictitious films, the names of which differ by just one letter from the names of the real 2010 Best Picture Oscar nominees. Here’s one such plot: “George Clooney plays a corporate downsizer who avoids close personal relationships by spending his time climbing evergreen trees.”

Supposedly vs. Supposably

 Which adverb is usually correct: supposably or supposedly?

Round-Heeled Woman

 What’s a round-heeled woman?

Hurt Locker Etymology

 The 2010 winner of the “Best Picture” Oscar has a Seattle woman wondering about the term hurt locker. Ben Zimmer wrote about it recently in his column at the Visual Thesaurus and we talk about it, too. Here’s the searing poem by Brian Turner called “The Hurt Locker.”

Large, Obscure Vocabulary

 The hosts discuss Ammon Shea’s recent New York Times Magazine column about whether a large vocabulary filled with obscure and unusual words is all that necessary.

Lay vs. Laid

 A medical transcriptionist who majored in English reports that her co-workers are squabbling over a sentence: “The patient was brought to the operating room, and laid supine on the operating-room table.”

Evolving Pet Names

 Martha shares a listener’s email about a pet’s name changing over time. In this case, it’s a cat whose name morphed from “Orange Juice” all the way to “Lanny.” Martha traces the con-cat-enation of monikers.

Newby Last Name

 A Texas nurse says she’s often teased about her last name, which happens to be “Newby.” She wonders if she should change it and how long the term newbie has been around.

Plural of Mustache

 Is it ever correct to refer to a mustache as a plural?

Pet Dog Name Change

 Martha shares another email about the evolution of a pet’s name, in this case a dog whose original name was Dumpster. Now the pooch is named after the 19th president of the United States. Sort of.

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

Photo by A.G. Photographe. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

A Handbook of Varieties of English by Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider.

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