What time is it if it’s the crack of chicken? When exactly is the shank of the evening? How do you pronounce the word spelled H-O-V-E-R? Did Warren G. Harding really coin the word normalcy? Also, a name game, sports nicknames, flounder vs. founder, Laundromats vs. washaterias, Black Dutch, nosebaggers, medical slang, and a look back at the joys of the early internet.

This episode first aired April 21, 2012.

Download the MP3.

 Names for Rolling Stops
When a car rolls slowly through a stop sign, it’s often called a California stop or a California roll. But the Midwest has its own monikers for this sneaky move, including the farmer stop, the Chicago stop, and no cop, no stop.

 Crack of Chicken
How early do you have to wake up to see what one listener calls the crack of chicken? It seems to be a twist on the term crack of dawn. Other terms for this early-morning time are o’dark thirty and the scratch of dawn.

 Harding’s Normalcy?
Did President Warren G. Harding coin the term normalcy in his famous Return to Normalcy speech? Turns out the word normalcy was already in use before Harding made it famous. Its synonym, normality, is generally the preferred term. Harding is also credited with — or blamed for — bringing the term hospitalization into the common vernacular.

In his book Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush, Allan Metcalf points out that U.S. presidents have contributed or popularized quite a few neologisms to the English language.

 More Names for Rolling Stops
In Texas, the California stop is also known as an Okie yield sign, an Okie crash sign, and a taxpayer stop.

 Gorked and Crimped
What does it mean to be gorked or crimped? These slang terms for “high on drugs” are used by hospital and emergency medical services workers to help cope with the stress of such traumatic work and to build solidarity among co-workers.

 Aptronym Word Game
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game of aptronyms for people whose names fit certain locations or conditions. For example, a guy hanging onto a wall might be named Art. Or what do you call a woman between two buildings? Ally!

 Black Dutch
The racial descriptor Black Dutch is sometimes used by people who want to disguise someone’s true ethnic origins. Black Irish and Black German are also used.

 Flounder vs. Founder
What’s the difference between flounder and founder? To flounder is “to struggle or thrash about,” while to founder is “to sink or to fail.” Surprisingly, the verb flounder shares no etymological root with the fish, though the image of a flounder flapping helplessly about on the shore may have influenced our sense of the word.

 Skeuomorphs
Skeuomorphs are aesthetic elements of design that no longer correlate with their original function. Computer software is full of skeuomorphs. For example, the save button that we’re all used to is a picture of a floppy disk. But then, who uses floppy disks any more?

 Sports Nicknames
With linsanity and tebowing sweeping the country, we’re thinking about other great sports nicknames. Unfortunately, it seems that with unique names taking up a greater percentage of children born, there’s no longer as much practical demand for nicknames. Still, the Babe, Magic, and The Refrigerator live on in legend.

 Like A Broken Record
The increasingly musty expression like a broken record has caused some confusion among digital natives who’ve heard of broken records only in terms of sports!

 Internet Meme Lexicon
Ben Zimmer published a brilliant collection of internet memes from the past twenty years in a the journal American Speech. Memes like facepalming and the O, rly? owl have allowed us to communicate otherwise unwritable sentiments via the internet.

 Pronouncing Hover
How do you pronounce the word hover? In England, it rhymes more with “clobber” than “lover.” If you want to learn how to say “My hovercraft is full of eels” in lots of different languages, head on over to Omniglot.

 Shank of the Evening Expression
It’s the shank of the evening! But when is that, exactly? This phrase is typically suggests that the night is far from over, shank being an old word for something straight, or the tail end of something. But as the Dictionary of American Regional English notes, in the South, evening is considered “the time between late afternoon and dusk.”

 Nosebaggers
If you’re on vacation, watch out for nosebaggers. This mid-19th century slang term refers to tourists who go to resort areas for the day but bring their own provisions and don’t contribute to the local economy. A modern nosebagger might be the type of person who brings their own snacks to the movies.

 Laundromats and Washaterias
Do you wash your clothes at a Laundromat or a washateria? A chain of Laundromats in Texas that dated from 1930 to 1950 had the name Washateria, and it took hold as a general term, especially in Texas.

 Even More Names for Rolling Stops
A couple more variations of the California stop: the jackrabbit and the California slide.

Photo by Barbara Spengler. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Broadcast

Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush Allan Metcalf
Dictionary of American Regional English

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label
Awareness (Suite) Buddy Terry Awareness Mainstream Records
Hot Dog Mongo Santamaria Soul Bag CBS
Super Strut Deodato The Roots of Acid Jazz Sony
Funk Yourself Eumir Deodato First Cuckoo MCA Records
Dig The Thing Bill Doggett Lionel Hampton Presents: Bill Dogett Who’s Who In Jazz
Love Song Sonny Red Sonny Red Mainstream Records
Sideman Lonnie Smith The Roots of Acid Jazz Sony
The Immigrant Gas Mask Their First Album Tonsil Records
Soulful Proclamation Messengers Incorporated Soulful Proclamation SMI Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve
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  1. merelymyself says:

    Hello, I wanted to let you know that the SoundCloud embed for this page goes to “Like a Bad Penny” instead of “Shank of the Evening”. I hope that someone fixes this; thanks for all the great episodes.