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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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 Broadcast
|To Hell in a Handbasket by H. Allen Smith|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Mindbender||Barry Forgie||Stringtronics||Peer International Library Limited|
|Pushin Off||Magic In Threes||Magic In Threes||GED Soul Records|
|Unlimited Love||Alan Parker||Pan American Travelogue||Themes International Music|
|Assault Course||Johnny Pearson||Underscore Vm 2||KPM Music|
|Incidental Backcloth No 3||Keith Mansfield||Underscore||KPM Music|
|Trinity Way||Magic In Threes||Magic In Threes||GED Soul Records|
|Second Cut||James Clarke||The Trendsetters||KPM Music|
|Swamp Fever||John Cameron||Afro Rock||KPM Music|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|