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Queen Bee

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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.

Lockdown Haikus

 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.

Red Pasta Sauce is Sometimes Called “Gravy”

 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.

Dogging a Door

 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.

Homograph Quiz

 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?

Granny Beads

 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.”

Pandemic Haikus

 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.

Narrowback Irish

 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.

A Math Way to Say Go Away

 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!.

Dry Up and Bust

 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.

Parlance of Beekeepers

 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.

Ima Cloud Up and Rain

 The threat I’m going to cloud up and rain all over you goes back to at least 1911.

Making the Easy Hard

 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.

Plant Haiku

 A haiku from artist Alan Nakagawa’s collection of poems about social distance celebrates the kind of companionship that plants provide.

Number One and Number Two for Pee and Poo

 Dallas, who lives in Eugene, Oregon, wonders why we use number one and number two as euphemisms for “pee” and “poo.”

Another Lockdown Haiku

 Artist Alan Nakagawa’s project involving haikus about social distancing includes a funny take on just how blurred boundaries can become while under lockdown.

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

Photo by Jennifer C.. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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 EasyBooker T and The MGsOver Easy 45Stax
Groove HolmesBeastie BoysCheck Your HeadCapital
Rise UpThe Freedom AffairRise Up 45Colemine Records
Musings To MyselfEl Michels AffairMusings To Myself 45Truth & Soul
Spread Your SoulEl Michels AffairMusings To Myself 45Truth & Soul
POW!Beastie BoysCheck Your HeadCapital
Hang ‘Em HighBooker T and The MGsOver Easy 45Stax
Cool AidPaul Humphrey and His Cool Aid ChemistsCool Aid 45Lizard
DetriotPaul Humphrey and His Cool Aid ChemistsCool Aid 45Lizard
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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