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Smile Belt

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The only time you’ll ever see the sun’s outer atmosphere is during a full solar eclipse, when sun itself is completely covered. That hazy ring is called the corona, from the Latin word for “crown” — just like the little crown on a bottle of Corona beer. Plus, the phrase throw the baby out with the bathwater contains a vivid image of accidentally tossing something — and so does the phrase to fly off the handle. But where did we get the expression to hell in a handbasket? Also: Biscuit Belt vs. Pine Belt, streely, pizza, tuckered out, FOOSH, and sorry, Charlie!, and how to pronounce via. This episode first aired July 15, 2017.

Belt Regions of the United States

 You probably know about the Rust Belt and the Bible Belt, but have you heard of the Smile Belt? How about the Biscuit Belt or the Pine Belt? The word belt is sometimes used to denote a loosely defined geographical area.

Pronunciation of Via

 An Omaha, Nebraska, woman reports that a customer emailed her after a sales presentation to correct her pronunciation of the word via, meaning “through” or “by means of.” In this case, the customer wasn’t right: via can be pronounced either VEE-ah or VYE-uh. There’s a slight preference for the former if you’re talking about a road and the latter in the case of the method.

To Hell in a Handbasket

 A Huntsville, Alabama, man finds that his younger co-workers have never heard the phrase going to hell in a handbasket. Although the expression is at least as old as the U.S. Civil War, its etymology remains unclear. In the early 1960s, the humorist H. Allen Smith helped popularize the phrase with his book To Hell in a Handbasket, a dubious title for an autobiography.

Close the Refrigerator

 If you’re tired of telling youngsters to hurry up and close the refrigerator, try this admonishing them with this phrase or one like it: “Stop letting the penguins out!”

Synonyms of “Hard” Puzzle

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a puzzle involving synonyms for the word hard. For example, the title of a popular Netflix series might otherwise be known as the Hard Kimmy Schmidt.

Sorry, Charlie

 A Vermont family used to tease one of its members with the phrase “sorry, Charlie!” She’s surprised to learn that this catchphrase comes from a long-running series of TV commercials for canned tuna.

Bolt Holes

 A bolt-hole is a place where you can escape to avoid people you don’t want to run into. This term for “a type of refuge” is used mainly in Britain, and refers to a place an animal might flee to if disturbed.


 A listener in Cambridge, Wisconsin, says her mother, who is of Irish descent, used to tell her children to wash their hair so it wouldn’t be streely. This word derives from Irish for “unkempt,” and perhaps ultimately from a Gaelic term having to do with something “flapping” or “undone.”

Not as Slow as Someone Walks Easy

 In Ireland, if you say someone’s not as slow as he walks easy, you mean he’s a whole lot smarter than he appears.

Fly off the Handle

 A listener in Quebec, Canada, wonders about the origin of to fly off the handle, meaning “to lose control.” It refers to the image of the head of an axe becoming loose and flying through the air.

Etymology of Pizza

 The word pizza derives from an Italian term at least a thousand years old for a type of savory flat bread. The type of pie we now think of as pizza, with tomato sauce, has been around since the 15th century, when tomatoes were first brought back to Europe from the New World.

Sun-Related Words and Their Relations

 During a full solar eclipse you can see the sun’s glowing outer atmosphere, called the corona. In Latin, the term corona means “crown” or “garland.” It’s the source of coronation, as well as the coronary arteries that wreathe the human heart, and coroner, originally an officer of the Crown. Another eclipse-related term, penumbra, comes from Latin for “almost shadow,” and refers to the shadow cast by the earth or moon over an area where a partial eclipse is visible. A related word, umbrage, means “a sense of offense” or “resentment.”

Tuckered Out

 To be tuckered out, or tired, is thought to derive from the image of a starved quadruped that’s so skinny and worn out that it has a “tucked” appearance just behind the ribs. It may have been influenced by an older verb tuck, meaning “to chastise.”

Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater

 A lecturer in business law in St. Cloud, Minnesota, is astonished to discover his students are unfamiliar with throw the baby out with the bathwater, meaning “to accidentally get rid of the good while getting rid of the bad.” You can find out pretty much everything you could ever possibly want to know about this phrase from an article by Wolfgang Mieder.

Luscious Eclipse Description

 For a luscious description of exactly what you will see during a total solar eclipse, check out Dan McGlaun’s site, Eclipse 2017.

Ifs and Buts and Candied Nuts

 A middle school teacher in Flower Mound, Texas, responds to students’ protests and excuses with if all our buts were candied nuts, we’d all be fat for Christmas. It’s probably a variation of a phrase popularized by former Dallas Cowboys star turned sports commentator Dandy Don Meredith, who often observed, “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, wouldn’t it be a merry Christmas?” The practice of using ifs and buts as nouns goes back at least 900 years.


 The medical term FOOSH is an acronym for a painful injury. It stands for “fell onto (his or her) outstretched hand,” which can lead to a broken wrist.

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

Photo by Takeshi Kuboki. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

To Hell in a Handbasket by H. Allen Smith

Music Used in the Episode

MindbenderBarry ForgieStringtronicsPeer International Library Limited
Pushin OffMagic In ThreesMagic In ThreesGED Soul Records
Unlimited LoveAlan ParkerPan American TravelogueThemes International Music
Assault CourseJohnny PearsonUnderscore Vm 2KPM Music
Incidental Backcloth No 3Keith MansfieldUnderscoreKPM Music
Trinity WayMagic In ThreesMagic In ThreesGED Soul Records
Second CutJames ClarkeThe TrendsettersKPM Music
Swamp FeverJohn CameronAfro RockKPM Music
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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