An artist asks strangers to write haiku about the pandemic and gets back poetic, poignant glimpses of life under lockdown. Plus, the new book Queenspotting features the colorful language of beekeeping! Bees tell each other about a good source of nectar by doing a waggle dance, and when a queen bee is ready to mate, she flies around followed by a drone comet. Also, do you refer to that savory red stuff dripped over your pasta as sauce? Or gravy? And: a brain teaser about homographs, dog a door, granny beads, skinnymalink, embrangle, euphemisms for urination and defecation, dry up and bust, I’m gonna cloud up and rain all over you, and more.
This episode first aired July 11, 2020.
The Orange County Museum of Art commissioned Los Angeles artist Alan Nakagawa to do a project he called “Social Distancing, Haiku, and You,” in which he invited the public to write haikus about the experience of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Melissa in Grand Prairie, Texas, hails from a family in New Jersey that refers to red pasta sauce with meat in it as gravy. Her family has Italian roots, and in their local dialect, the word for “sauce” can also be translated as “gravy.” Sicilian-Americans do this as well. In his book The New York Times Food Encyclopedia, Craig Claiborne says that sauce and gravy mean the same thing. The Sopranos Family Cookbook uses the word gravy in the same way, a usage also immortalized in a famous scene from the hit TV show.
Emily in San Diego, California, wonders about the phrase to dog, meaning “to close and secure” as in to dog a door. In a nautical context, the phrase dog the hatches means to secure them with a bolt or handle designed for that purpose. This phrase probably derives from the idea of securing the hatch as tightly as a tenacious dog locking something in its jaws. To undog a door or hatch is to open it.
Quiz Guy John Chaneski is puzzling over homographs, words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and sometimes different pronunciations. For example, what two words that are spelled the same are suggested by the following clue? An artist is commissioned to paint a picture of the planets, but the patron wants him to get rid of the imaginary lines about which the planet rotates. At that point, the patron would have to wait while the artist does what?
Angela in Dallas, Texas, remembers her mom’s admonition to wash your granny beads, meaning clean the dirt off your neck. Country music star Randy Houser sings about his own granny-beaded neck in his song “Boots On.”
The art project called “Social Distancing, Haiku, and You,” includes a poem that articulates gratitude to health-care workers on the front lines of the global pandemic.
Sean, who is originally from Ireland, wonders if the term narrowback, which usually refers to second- or third-generation Irish-Americans, is considered a slur against the Irish. He also references an earlier conversation of ours about the term skinnymalink and shares a rhyme he remembers from childhood that includes that word. There are many other versions of that rhyme, including one in the book The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren by Iona and Peter Opie.
Our discussion about the phrase Go sit on a tack! prompted a listener to send us a math-minded version, Go divide 22 by 7!.
A North Carolina listener wonders about her mother’s comment in response to complaining or pestering: Go dry up and bust! Since the mid-1800s, the slang phrase Dry up! has meant Stop talking! In the theater world, the term dry up can mean to forget one’s lines.
The terms cuddle death, piping, tooting, quacking, drone comet, and waggle dance are all part of the parlance of beekeepers. The book Queenspotting by Hilary Kearney details these and other bee-related terms. Kearney’s website, Girl Next Door Honey, has much more about all things apiary.
Julia in Norfolk, Virginia, wants a verb that denotes the act of making something simple unnecessarily complicated, particularly in a work setting. Some possibilities: complexify, befoul, bemuddle, and embrangle.
Books Mentioned in the Episode
|The New York Times Food Encyclopedia by Craig Claiborne|
|The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Artie Bucco, Michele Scicolone, and Allen Rucker|
|The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren by Iona and Peter Opie|
|Queenspotting by Hilary Kearney|
Music Used in the Episode
|Over Easy||Booker T and The MGs||Over Easy 45||Stax|
|Groove Holmes||Beastie Boys||Check Your Head||Capital|
|Rise Up||The Freedom Affair||Rise Up 45||Colemine Records|
|Musings To Myself||El Michels Affair||Musings To Myself 45||Truth & Soul|
|Spread Your Soul||El Michels Affair||Musings To Myself 45||Truth & Soul|
|POW!||Beastie Boys||Check Your Head||Capital|
|Hang ‘Em High||Booker T and The MGs||Over Easy 45||Stax|
|Cool Aid||Paul Humphrey and His Cool Aid Chemists||Cool Aid 45||Lizard|
|Detriot||Paul Humphrey and His Cool Aid Chemists||Cool Aid 45||Lizard|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|