You know that Yogi Berra quote about how Nobody ever comes here; it’s too crowded? Actually, the first person to use this was actress Suzanne Ridgeway, who appeared in several movies with The Three Stooges. A new book shows that many well-known quotes were first spoken by women, but misattributed to more famous men. Also: a handy scientific word that should become mainstream: aliquot. And no, it’s not a kind of hybrid fruit. Plus, an astronomical question: What’s the collective noun for a group of black holes? A sink of black holes? A baffle? A vacancy? All that, plus Old Arthur, biffy, bowery, mikka bozu, Sauregurkenzeit, out of heart, vergüenza, and how to talk with children about a painful topic.
This episode first aired August 21, 2021.
On our Facebook group, listeners are pondering whether there’s a word for buying an object and then using it for a completely different purpose — the treadmill that ends up as a clothes rack, for example. The Japanese expression mikka bozu, or “three-day priest,” denotes a somewhat similar phenomenon — people who throw themselves into the discipline of becoming a priest, only to find their enthusiasm turns out to last just hours, not the many years required to become proficient.
Mara, a student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo now studying at the University of North Alabama, thought Google Translate rendered the French for “peanut butter” as peanut leg. Instead of using it to translate the French word pâte, meaning paste, she tried to translate the similar-sounding patte, which in French means an animal’s “paw” or “leg.” Computer translation can be helpful, but a bilingual dictionary is better.
Tory in Paulson, Wyoming, is surprised to find that many people aren’t familiar with the term bowery used to mean “an open-air pavilion.” Bowery comes from a Dutch word for “farm,” bouwerij. Today this specialized use of bowery to denote “a roofed, open-air structure” is mainly heard in the Rocky Mountains and North Midlands of the United States.
As we reported in our occasional e-newsletter, the recent discovery of dozens of previously unknown black holes has stargazers wondering: What’s the collective noun for a cluster of black holes? Our readers obliged with some clever suggestions, including a baffle of black holes, a sink of black holes, a density of black holes, a vacancy of black holes, and perhaps most poignantly, a loneliness of black holes. Maybe just the internet?
Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s latest brain teaser requires two-word answers that repeat a final syllable. For example, if he said that in Cambodia, they’re gearing up for a windy rainstorm any day now, what would he be talking about?
A young caller from Austin, Texas, wonders: Why do we say things like go to the store or go to the park, but leave out the word the when we say go home? In this case, the word home functions as an adverb. The same is true for phrases such as go upstairs, go left, go North, and similar expressions.
A chemistry professor in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, says a word that she uses in the lab is also handy in everyday life. To aliquot something means “to divide into equal portions.” In piano construction, aliquot scaling involves adding extra sympathetic strings of the same note to create a fuller sound.
Richard emails from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to share some favorite phrases from his beloved grandmother. We waited for you like one pig for another means “We got tired of waiting for you at the table and went ahead and started eating.” A similar idea is suggested by a Spanish saying: Eres tan pacienzudo como un cochinito, or “You’re as patient as a little pig.”
One of our favorite new reference works is The New Yale Book of Quotations (Bookshop|Amazon) edited by Fred Shapiro, associate director for collections and access at the Yale Law Library. This volume is a vastly expanded version of the previous version, The Yale Book of Quotations (Bookshop|Amazon), published in 2006. In addition to adding notable quotes from the past 15 years, Shapiro also uncovered new evidence showing that many famous quotations were actually originated by women, but misattributed to more famous men. For example, although Winston Churchill is credited with coining the term Iron Curtain, the term was already being used by British political reformer Ethel Snowden.
Chris in Ithaca, New York, contends that English needs a word that packs the same punch as the Spanish word vergüenza, usually translated as “shame,” but conveying more than that. Vergüenza derives from Latin verecundia, which specifies a kind of shame associated with knowing the sense of propriety and behavior expected of a person’s position in society.
A physician in Onancock, Virginia, shares some expressions he’s picked up from his patients, such as Old Arthur, as in Old Arthur’s in town — a reference to suffering from arthritis. Patients have also described feeling discouraged or depressed as feeling out of heart.
A Tuscon, Arizona, listener is right to be skeptical when someone suggests to her that the term biffy, meaning “portable toilet,” is an acronym for Bathroom in Forest for You. The etymology of biffy has eluded researchers for years, although there’s some speculation that it derives from bivouac or a child’s mispronunciation of the word bathroom.
For German speakers, Sauregurkenzeit is that period of time in late summer when nothing much is happening, known in English as the dog days. The German term derives from sauer, “sour,” and Gurke “cucumber,” plus Zeit or “time.”
Books Mentioned in the Episode
|The New Yale Book of Quotations edited by Fred Shapiro (Bookshop|Amazon)|
|The Yale Book of Quotations edited by Fred Shapiro (Bookshop|Amazon)|
Music Used in the Episode
|Herbie Hemphill||Surprise Chef||All News Is Good News||Mr Bongo|
|Home Again||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham|
|Blythe Street Nocturne||Surprise Chef||All News Is Good News||Mr Bongo|
|Montego Sunset||Menahan Street Band||Make The Road By Walking||Dunham|
|All News Is Good News||Surprise Chef||All News Is Good News||Mr Bongo|
|Have You Fed Baby Huey Today||Surprise Chef||All News Is Good News||Mr Bongo|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|