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South End of a Chicken

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Are your nightstand books all over the place? Why not stack ’em into a bookmash? A bookmash is a kind of found poetry formed from book titles! And we all know that honesty is the best policy. But does that mean you should correct the grammar of your daughter’s teacher? Plus, texting lingo in everyday speech, the proper use of the word penultimate, and what the south end of a chicken flying north means. And what’s up with pedantic fellow having to mansplain everything? This episode first aired January 26, 2013.


 Go to your nightstand, stack your books with the spines facing out, and what do you get? It’s a bookmash. This new kind of found poetry popped up on Stan Carey’s blog Sentence First, with this collection of titles: Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes / Bugs / Creatures of The Earth / In The Shadow of Man. Send us a photo of your bookmash!

Dirt Road Sport

 If a fellow thinks he’s a cooler than he really is, he’d be known in the South as a dirt road sport. This term’s been defined as “a country boy showing off in a Saturday afternoon town,” and refers to someone reaching beyond his station in life, perhaps by spending beyond his means and making a show of it.

Saying Texting Abbreviations Aloud

 Do you say terms like NBD, LOL, or BRB aloud in everyday speech? It sounds strange to hear spoken text lingo, but with all language, it’s only weird until it becomes the norm, and then we wonder how we did without it. That said, most of these initialisms, like BFF, go back farther than text messaging, so don’t blame kids these days!

Fatty End of Chicken

 That fatty bump at the end of a turkey or a chicken, known as the pope’s nose, is also called the south end of a northbound chicken.

Change One Letter Word Game

 Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a special twist on the “Change One Letter” game. For this one, change one letter in a word to make it fit twice in a sentence. For example, fill in these blanks: Dear ______ Brown, lay off the candy bars in the confessional or you’ll only get _____. Have the answer?


 If something’s still right touchous, that means it’s still a painful area, be it a bruise on the leg or an emotional sore spot. No touching what’s still right touchous!

Phrase for Stuck-Up People

 Here’s a phrase to describe a stuck-up gal: “There’s no pleasing her! If she gets to heaven, she’ll ask to see the upstairs.”

Correcting Others’ Grammar

 When is it okay to correct someone’s grammar? A listener from Madison, Wisconsin, says a friend went for a parent-teacher conference only to notice that a sign in the classroom read “Things your thankful for.” Should the teacher be called out? Is she committing educational malpractice by indoctrinating the four-year-olds with harmful misspelling? Before rushing to judgment, remember that teachers have an enormous amount of work to deal with, and you sure don’t want to be “that parent”! But of course, if you’re going to confront someone about a mistake, it’s always best to do it one on one.

Bookmash Poetry

 Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Book Project includes some excellent bookmash poetry. Just consider the following: Indian History for Young Folks / Our Village / Your National Parks.

In Good Season

 If you’re not late for something, you could say that you’re in good season. This phrase, which shows up in Noah Webster’s dictionaries from the 1820s, derives from the agricultural state of fruits and vegetables being in season. Instead of referring to a specific moment, in good season means you’re in the ballpark of good timing.

Spit the Dummy

 Ever been on an airplane when an infant spits the dummy? This Australian slang expression, meaning to throw a fit, comes from the Aussies use of the word dummy to mean pacifier or binky.

Egg in Bread Slice Food Names

 A toad in a hole — that piece of bread with a hole cut out with a fried egg in the middle — sure does come with some alternate nomenclature. Since our earlier discussion, listeners have sent us many other names for it, including fish in a pond, bread-frame egg, television egg, and one-eyed Egyptian. The more terms, the better, so keep ’em coming!


 Where does the term one-off come from? Among British foundry workers in the 1950s, the number of units produced from a given mold was designated with the word off. So if twenty widgets came off the line, you’d call that batch a twenty-off. A one-off, in turn, refers to a one-of-a-kind object, such as a prototype model. And although Kingsley Amis once called the term an American abomination, make no mistake: We have the UK to thank for one-off.

Hotter Than…

 What’s hotter than a hen in a wool basket? Or hotter than a goat’s butt in a pepper patch? You tell us!

The Thing Is, Is

 Many public speakers, including President Obama, have developed a reputation for using the reduplicative copula. You know, that thing where he says, “the thing of it is, is…” In wonky speak, this is what happens when a cleft sentence, such as the sky is where the kite is, combines with a focusing construction, such as the reality is, to form this clunker: The reality is, is the sky is where the kite is.


 You guys, nobody likes a mansplainer! You know those dudes who need to explain something to you that you already know? In Rebecca Solnit’s LA Times essay “Men Who Explain Things,” she recounts the time some pedantic schmo explained a book to her, not knowing that she was the author!


 Does penultimate mean the very last? No! It means second to last, taking from the Latin word paene, meaning almost. It’s the same Latin root that gives us the word for that “almost island,” a peninsula. People misusing penultimate are overreaching with language. Instead, it’s best to write below your abilities and read above them. That’s the ultimate way to go.

Another Bookmash

 Parse this bookmash as you will: Making Love / Getting Busted / Memento Mori / Leaving Las Vegas / In Guilt and Glory.

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

Photo by tinkerbrad. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

Chan ChanBuena Vista Social ClubBuena Vista Social ClubNonesuch
El Cuarto De TulaBuena Vista Social ClubBuena Vista Social ClubNonesuch
Try A Little TendernessSoul FlutesTrust In MeA&M Records
Observation is No CrimeFela and Afrika 70ZombieKnitting Factory Records
153rd St. ThemeLarry WillisInner CrisisGroove Merchant
Inner CrisisLarry WillisInner CrisisGroove Merchant
Out On The CoastLarry WillisInner CrisisGroove Merchant
Trust In MeSoul FlutesTrust In MeA&M Records
Funk In The HoleRoy AyersVirgin Ubiguity 2Rapster
Wandering StarDavid AxelrodMarchin’MCA Records
MirageThe MonophonicsIn Your BrainUbiquity
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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1 comment
  • I just listened to this episode, while driving this evening. I love the term “reduplicative copula”(though my favorite term I learned from your show is still “paralinguistic restitution”). I haven’t noticed “the thing of it is, is…” , but I was immediately reminded of Andy Griffith’s “What it was, was football” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_It_Was,_Was_Football and
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNxLxTZHKM8), which was especially appropriate because as I was driving, and still as I type this, it was during the Superbowl.

    While I’m here: I figure that “penultimate” is consciously or subconsciously associated with “pinnacle”. Also, your example peninsula led me to a “well, duh” realization that Insulin is so named because it comes from the “islets of Langerhans”.

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