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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Cut||James Clark||Blow Up Presents Exclusive Blend Volume 2||Blow Up|
|Midnight Cowboy||Ferrante and Teicher||Midnight Cowboy||United Artists Records|
|Walking Papers||Booker T. Jones||The Road From Memphis||Anti Records|
|Buzz Saw||The Turtles||Buzz Saw 45rpm||White Whale|
|Wilford’s Gone||The Blackbyrds||The Best of The Blackbyrds||BGP Records|
|Bump The Bump||Black Buster||Bump The Bump 45rpm||Bellaphon|
|Crazy||Booker T. Jones||The Road From Memphis||Anti Records|
|Cause I Need It||Dorothy Ashby||Dorothy’s Harp||Cadet Records|
|Golden Apples Part III||Galt McDermott||The Nucleus||Kilmarnock|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|