A pint-sized mad scientist, a green-haired girl with a contagious sense of wonder, and a 10-year-old detective. They’re all characters in the books on Grant’s latest list of recommended books for children. Also, what’s the word for a female octopus? How about a male kangaroo? A colorful book for younger kids has those answers and more. And the debate over “on accident” versus “by accident”: Which one you use probably depends on how old you are. Plus, if you hop on a merry-go-round, are you moving clockwise or counterclockwise? The answer depends on which side of the pond you’re on. This episode first aired June 21, 2013.
Tuna may be the chicken of the sea, but octopi, lobsters and crabs are the hens. That is, the females of each those species is called a hen. Aaron Zenz’s lovely book for children I Love Ewe: An Ode to Animal Moms offers a little lesson about female names in the animal kingdom. He does the same for the males of the species in Hug a Bull: An Ode to Animal Dads.
Holy wah, a Yooper corruption of “wow”, is specific to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Evidently, it comes in handy when spotting a bear.
Martha Geiger of Sacramento, California, says her French teacher told her that the difference between a carousel and a merry-go-round is that one goes clockwise and the other counterclockwise. True? Actually, there’s really no difference between the names, although in England and much of Europe, these rides usually go clockwise; in the U.S., it’s the opposite. And to some Americans, a merry-go-round is simply that spinning playground fixture for kids.
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski phones in a game of homophones. For example, what two-word phrase could either be described as a redundant way to name a common crop, or a seasonal attraction at state fairs?
Lauren from La Crescenta, California, says her 98-year-old grandfather uses a rather obscure saying. As a kid, if Lauren or her sister won a meaningless contest, he’d award them an imaginary prize he called the crocheted gidote. Or maybe that’s gadoty, gadote, guhdody, or gadodie — we’ve never seen the term before. Similar phrases include “You win the crocheted teapot” and “You win the crocheted bicycle,” all suggesting winning a prize that’s as useless as, say, a chocolate teapot.
A high-school English teacher asks which is correct: It happened on accident, or It happened by accident? A survey by linguist Leslie Barratt at Indiana State University indicates that most people born after 1990 use on accident, and weren’t even aware that by accident was proper, while those born before 1970 almost always say by accident.
An adult male opossum is called a jack, while the female’s called a jill. A baby opossum is simply known as cute.
A Dallas listener says that if someone’s moving especially slowly, his co-worker exclaims “It’s like dead lice dripping off you!”” This phrase, found in Southern and African-American literature from the early 20th century, probably reflects the idea that the person is moving so slowly that they’re already dead and any lice on them have starved to death.
Grant offers of a list of children’s books he’s been enjoying with his six-year-old son: Yotsuba&!, the energetic, curious Manga character; Pippi Longstocking; Calvin and Hobbes; the mad scientist Franny K. Stein; and the venerable Encyclopedia Brown.
Why are distances at sea measured in knots? In the 1500s, sailors would drop a chip log off the side of the boat and let out the rope for about thirty seconds, counting how many knots on the rope went out. Eventually, one knot came to mean one nautical mile per hour. Incidentally, this same log gave us logbook, weblog, and ultimately, blog.
The word chow, as in chow hall or chow down, goes back to the British presence in Chinese ports during the 1700s. Chow chow was a pidgin term referring to a mixed dish of various foods, namely whatever was on hand. The joke was that it often contained dog, which is the same joke behind our encased sausage scraps known as hot dogs.
Photo by Rob Pongsajapan. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Episode
Music Used in the Episode
|The Secret Is Out||Cascadia ’10||Cascadia 10||Cascadia ’10|
|Moon Cabbage||Polyrhythmics||Moon Cabbage||KEPT|
|Super Bad||Suburban Soul Crew||Shafted! – 70’s Instrumental Funk Classic||Warner|
|Apophistry||Cascadia ’10||Cascadia 10||Cascadia ’10|
|Ethiopino||Jungle By Night||Hidden||Kindred Spirits|
|The Past Is History||Jungle By Night||Hidden||Kindred Spirits|
|Yo Slick||Suburban Soul Crew||Shafted! – 70’s Instrumental Funk Classic||Warner|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|