A listener in New York City wonders about how to pronounce gerrymander, which means “to redraw the lines of an electoral district so as to favor a particular political party.” The term comes a joking reference to Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, who in 1812 presided over such a redistricting. Gerry pronounced his name with a hard g (like the G in Grant) and for a while, the gerrymandering retained that pronunciation. In the absence of audible mass media, the name spread, but the pronunciation slowly shifted. By 1850, for example, an Indiana politician alluded to this variation, declaring, “You are constantly gerrymandering the State, or jerrymandering, as I maintain the word should be pronounced, the g being soft.” This is part of a complete episode.
- Cootie Shot (episode #1510) 12/10/2018: Perfect sentences and slang that tickles your mind! A new book of writing advice says a good sentence "imposes a logic on the world's weirdness"... [more]
- Bottled Sunshine (episode #1512) 11/19/2018: If you catch your blue jeans on a nail, you may find yourself with a winklehawk. This term, adapted into English from Dutch, means "an... [more]
- Care Package (episode #1511) 11/12/2018: Sending someone a care package shows you care, of course. But the first care packages were boxes of food and personal items for survivors of... [more]
- Ding-Ding Man (episode #1509) 10/29/2018: In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for classifying... [more]
- Take Tea for the Fever (episode #1508) 10/22/2018: Silence comes in many forms. Writer Paul Goodman says there is, for example, the noisy silence of "resentment and self-recrimination," and the helpful, participatory silence... [more]