Home » Episodes » Rubber Match

Rubber Match

Play episode

What’s the antidote to living in a sound-bite world? How about unwinding with luxuriously expressive prose? Also, the cloak-and-dagger world of editing dictionary entries. Plus, what you might say instead of cursing, and oddball Scrabble words to stump your opponent. And what do you call the shoes sometimes known as sneakers, sneakers, or trainers? Also: feeling owly, jumpin’ Jehoshaphat, finjans and zarfs, catching plagiarism with mountweazels, and the art of long sentences. It’s a larrupin’ show! This episode first aired Friday, February 10, 2012.

Knitted Cap Names

 What do you call a knitted winter cap? A beanie? A toboggan? A stocking hat? Grant’s Great Knitted Hat Survey traces the different terms for this cold weather accessory used across the country.

Sneakers vs. Tennis Shoes vs. Trainers

 How do you refer to rubber-soled athletic shoes? Are they sneakers or tennis shoes? Something else, like trainers? When canvas shoes with soft rubber soles came into use, they were so quiet compared to wood-soled shoes that one could literally sneak about. Outside the Northeast, tennis shoe is the more common term.

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat

 The biblical king Jehoshaphat is the inspiration for the exclamation “jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!” This alliterative idiom probably arose in the 19th century but was popularized by the cartoon character Yosemite Sam in the 20th century.

Zarf and Finjan

 Looking for some good Scrabble words? Try zarf, a type of cup holder of Arabic origin, or finjan, the small cup that’s held by the zarf.

Sound Puzzle

 Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski shows off his acting skills with a word puzzle based on sounds.

Rubber Match

 Tight games often end up at a rubber match, or tiebreaker. Used for a variety of sports and card games, rubber match has been in use since the late 16th century, and seem to have originated in the game of lawn bowling.


 Do dictionaries deal with copyright infringement or plagiarism when definitions match up between volumes? Since many modern dictionaries derive from the same few tomes, it’s common to see definitions that match. But lexicographers have been known to plant mountweazels, or fake words, to catch serial plagiarizers. One famous mountweazel is the word jungftak.

Drive Sees

 If someone directs you to drive three sees, they’re advising you “drive as far as you can see, then do it two more times.”


 If something’s larrupin’ good, it’s spankin’ good or thumpin’ good. It comes from the word larrup, a verb meaning “to beat or thrash.”


 Martha shares a couple of choice similes: “dry as a contribution box” and “plump as a partridge.”

Value of Long Sentences

 Pico Iyer’s piece in the Los Angeles Times is a testament to the value of long sentences in our age of tweets and abbrevs.

No You Di-int!

 Oh no you di-int! The linguistic term for what happens when someone pronounces didn’t as “di-int,” or Martin as Mar-in without the t sound, is called glottalization. Instead of making a t sound with the tongue behind the teeth, a different sound is made farther back in the mouth. John Rickford, professor of linguistics at Stanford University, does a thorough job tracing this phenomenon in the book African-American English: Structure, History, and Use.

Make vs. Do a Puzzle

 When putting together a jigsaw puzzle, do you call it making a puzzle or doing a puzzle? Listeners shared lots of different opinions on the A Way with Words Facebook group.


 The Dictionary of American Regional English traces you-uns, a plural form of you, to the Midlands and the Ohio River Valley. But the phrase goes back a while; even Chaucer used something similar.

Feeling Owly

 If someone’s feeling owly, they’re in a grumpy mood and ought to pull up their socks and cut it out. The phrase is chiefly used in the Midwest and Canada and can be found in some dictionaries from Novia Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Some people think owls look grumpy or creepy, although others think they’re adorable. Then there are those who prefer moist owlets.

E.E. Cummings Love Poem

 Martha reads a favorite love poem by E.E. Cummings. (Because you’re going to ask, properly capitalizing his name is the right thing to do.)

Photo by Kyknoord. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

African-American English: Structure, History, and Use edited by Guy Bailey
Dictionary of American Regional English

Music Used in the Episode

Second CutJames ClarkBlow Up Presents Exclusive Blend Volume 2Blow Up
Midnight CowboyFerrante and TeicherMidnight CowboyUnited Artists Records
Walking PapersBooker T. JonesThe Road From MemphisAnti Records
Buzz SawThe TurtlesBuzz Saw 45rpmWhite Whale
Wilford’s GoneThe BlackbyrdsThe Best of The BlackbyrdsBGP Records
Bump The BumpBlack BusterBump The Bump 45rpmBellaphon
CrazyBooker T. JonesThe Road From MemphisAnti Records
Cause I Need ItDorothy AshbyDorothy’s HarpCadet Records
Golden Apples Part IIIGalt McDermottThe NucleusKilmarnock
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 comment
  • Hat: Dallas, TX, ’30s and ’40s; stocking cap, although I haven’t heard it used in years, Lower Mainland (Vancouver, BC), ’70s; toque, pronounced tuuk.

    Shoes: same times and places; tennis shoes and runners.

    Sees: a remarkably elastic measurement. In mountainous areas, could be a short as a half mile; on rolling hills about ten miles; on open prairie once was 30 miles, but polluted air now makes half that maximum and getting shorter.

More from this show

Cool Beans

If you speak a second or third language, you may remember the first time you dreamed in that new tongue. But does this milestone mean...

Love Bites

The word filibuster has a long and colorful history, going back to the days when pirates roamed the high seas. Today it refers to hijacking...