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Proof in the Pudding

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Have you ever offered to foster a dog or cat, but wound up adopting instead? There’s an alliterative term for that. And when you’re on the job, do niceties like “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” make you sound too formal? Not if it comes naturally. And what about the term “auntie” (AHN-tee)? In some circles, it’s considered respectful to address a woman that way, even if she’s not a relative. Also, the old saying “The proof is in the pudding” makes no sense when you think about it. That’s because the original meaning of pudding had nothing to do with the kind we eat for dessert today. This episode first aired February 12, 2016.

Foster Flunk

  When people who foster rescue animals break down and adopt the animal instead, you’ve happily committed a “foster flunk.”

Feeder Road vs. Frontage Road

  A native of Houston, Texas, moves a few hundred miles north to Dallas and discovers that people there say she’s wrong to call the road alongside the highway a “feeder road” rather than a “frontage road.” Actually, both terms are correct. The Texas Highway Man offers a helpful glossary of road and traffic terms, particularly those used in Texas.

Response for a Pout

  A listener from Silver City, New Mexico, writes that when he was a child and pouted with his lower lip stuck out, his aunt would say “Stick that out a little farther, and I’ll write the Ten Commandments on it with a mop.”

Etymology of Snarky

  Snarky refers to someone or something “irritable,” “sharply critical,” or “ill-tempered.” It goes back to a 19th-century word meaning “to snort.”

Throw it Over the Hill

  According to the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, the expression “throw it over the hill” means to get rid of something. In Appalachia, the phrase can also mean “wrap it up,” as in bring something to a close.

Word Quiz With “For”

  Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a quiz that’s all about the word for. An example: There’s a cave that accommodates a large ursine mammal when it hibernates during the winter. But what’s it “for”?

Pronouncing Forte

  A listener in Billings, Montana, says his brother is an English teacher who corrects his pronunciation of forte, meaning “strong point.” Pedants will insist that it should be pronounced FORT, but that reflects an assumption about its etymology that’s flat-out wrong. Besides, the far more common pronunciation now is FOR-tay. The bottom line is t’s a word that raises hackles either way you say it, so it’s best to replace it with a synonym.

Waste vs. Spill

  If someone spilled a box of paper clips, for example, would you say that they wasted the paper clips, even though the clips could be picked up and re-used? Although most people wouldn’t, this sense of waste meaning “to spill” is used among many African-American speakers in the American South, particularly in Texas.

Pharmacist Eponymous Law

  Our discussion of eponymous laws prompted Peg Brekel of Casa Grande, Arizona, to send us one based on her years of experience in a pharmacy, where she had to keep minding the counter even during her lunch break. Peg’s Law: The number of customers who come to the counter is directly proportional to how good your food tastes hot.

Sincere Niceties

  Is saying “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Sir” when addressing someone in conversation too formal or off-putting? Not if it’s clear that those niceties come naturally to you.

Sharp as a Bag of Marsh

  A Milwaukee, Wisconsin, listener who heard our conversation about the phrase sharp as a marshmallow sandwich wonders about a similar expression that denotes a person who’s not all that bright: “sharp as a bag of marsh.” Variations of this insult include “sharp as a bowling ball” and “sharp as bag of wet mice.”

Non-Relational Aunties

  A dancer in the Broadway production of The Lion King says he and his colleagues are curious about the use of the term “Auntie” (pronounced AHN-tee) to refer to an older woman, regardless of whether she’s a blood relative. Auntie is often used among African-American speakers in the American South as a sign of respect for an older woman for whom one has affection.

The Three Comma Club

  If you’re in the three-comma club, you’re a billionaire–a reference to the number of commas needed to separate all those zeroes in your net worth.


  The verb to kibitz has more than one meaning. It can mean “to chitchat” or “to look on giving unsolicited advice.” The word comes to English through Yiddish, and may derive from German Kiebitz, a reference to a folk belief that the bird is a notorious meddler.

The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating

  On the face of it, the expression “the proof is in the pudding” doesn’t make sense. It’s a shortening of the proverbial saying, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Pudding is an old word for sausage, and in this case the proof is the act of testing it by tasting it.

Variation on “I Miss You”

  Following up on our discussion of different ways to say “I miss you,” a listener suggests “I miss who I get to be when I’m with you.”

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

Photo by minato. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

Impala ’73Cochemea GastelumThe Electric Sound of Johnny ArrowMRI
Fathom SCochemea GastelumThe Electric Sound of Johnny ArrowMRI
No GoodbyesCochemea GastelumThe Electric Sound of Johnny ArrowMRI
Midnight At The OasisFreddie HubbardThe Roots of Acid JazzSony
Cigar TimeNew MastersoundsMade For PleasureRoyal Potato Family
Beijo Do SolCochemea GastelumThe Electric Sound of Johnny ArrowMRI
NunyaTom Scott and The LA ExpressThe Roots of Acid JazzSony
Yes Yaa YaaVula VielYes Yaa YaaVula Viel Records
LobiVula VielYes Yaa YaaVula Viel Records
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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1 comment
  • Our constant companion, Ngrams Viewer, shows”view
    “THE HISTORY Of the RENOWNED Don QUIXOTE De la MANCHA” is one of the earliest places where “Proof of the pudding” is found, and it gives a date of 1719 for the book.

    Wikipedia, however, says the book was “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha ” published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615.

    The ngrams search I did ranged from 1600. Did the name of the book change when it was translated into English. Was it first translated in 1719? There are three cites found, HotRDQdlM, HotRDQdlM2 both dated 1719 and HotRDQdlM3 dated 1725. Were these three volumes, of three editions?

    Was “Proof of the pudding” borrowed from Spanish?

    I found this part of the show especially interesting, but as is common, when I learn something new. I get new questions. Proof has a different meaning when it comes to booze. Powder in alcohol/water will burn if the alcohol is at least 50% ethanol (by weight, IIRC), and the British navy used that as a test for accepting rations being purchased.

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