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Spicy Jambalaya

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Teen slang from the South, and food words that are tricky to pronounce. • High schoolers in Huntsville, Alabama, told Martha and Grant about their slang, including a term particular to their hometown. • How do you pronounce the name of that tasty Louisiana specialty, jambalaya? Is the first syllable “jum” or “jam”? • Which syllable do you stress when pronouncing turmeric? • Pronouncing water is, of course, pretty simple … so you might be surprised it can be pronounced at least 15 different ways! • Plus gnat flat, looking brave, vog, Russian mountains, high hat, whisker fatigue, chihoo, and fuhgeddaboudit!

This episode first aired June 16, 2018.

Huntsville Teen Slang

 During a visit to Lee High School in Huntstville, Alabama, we collected a treasure trove of slang, including a term that seems to be particular to the Huntsville area: forf, which as a verb means to fail to follow through on commitments, and as a noun denotes the kind of person who does that, or in other words, a flake. Thanks to our friends at WLRH in Huntsville for inviting us.


 Jared in Liberty, New York, wonders when and how the term fuggedaboudit originated and how came to be popularly associated with the New York metropolitan area. The films of Martin Scorsese had a lot to do with that. The word doesn’t always literally mean “forget about it.” It can also be used to mean “No problem!” or “Certainly!” or “Don’t mention it!” As you can imagine, a slangy and primarily oral term like this has a lot of different spellings: fuhgeddaboudit, fuggedaboudit, fuggedaboutit, fuhgeddaboutit, fuggetaboutit, fuhgetaboutit, fuhgedaboudit, fahgetaboutit, fugedaboudit, fugetaboutit, forgetaboutit, forgettaboutit, fuhgettaboutit, and probably more.

Russian Moutnain

 The Spanish term for rollercoaster, montaña rusa, or “Russian mountain,” refers to the earliest versions of rollercoasters, which were sledding Russian slopes built from wood and covered with ice. Oddly enough, the Russian for roller coaster, ???????????? ?????, literally translates as “American slides.”

Turmeric Pronunciation

 Pearl, a youngster in Massachusetts, asks how to pronounce the name of the East Indian spice turmeric. The accent falls on the first syllable and pronouncing that first R sound is optional.

Snack Slang

 Students at Lee High School in Huntstville, Alabama use the slang terms snack and whole meal. A snack is an attractive person and if you’re better than a snack, you’re a whole meal!

Rhyme and Time Brain Quiz

 “Rhyme and Time” is the name of this week’s puzzle from Quiz Guy John Chaneski. All the answers are rhyming words separated by the word and. For example, what do you call the technique for narrowing the aspect ratio of a wide-screen movie so it will fit on your TV screen?

Looking Brave

 Peg in Papillion, Nebraska, has been reading Winston Graham’s Poldark series, which is set in Cornwall around the turn of the 19th century. The characters sometimes greet each other with, “You’re looking brave.” Although brave usually means courageous, it’s also been used to mean finely dressed or excellent. This sense also appears in the related Scots term brawf and as well as braw, all of which may derive from the Italian word bravo, meaning good or brave.

Forgetting Your Own Idiolect

 Aiya from Toronto, Canada, finds that whenever he moves to a new location, he adopts some of the local dialect, which feels a bit uncomfortable. At one point, for example, he found himself unable to recall if he used on accident or by accident to refer to something that happened accidentally. It’s natural to pick up some of the lingo of those around you, so no need to overthink it. In the case of the phrases on accident versus and by accident, though, something very interesting is going on.

Micro-Housing Words

 The housing shortage in crowded urban areas has led to ever smaller domiciles known as micro-units. Even smaller ones are sometimes called nano units or gnat flats.

Pronouncing Jambalaya

 Gary from Santa Maria, California, has been arguing with a friend for years over how to pronounce that tasty Louisiana mix of meat, vegetables, and rice called jambalaya.

Vog Air Pollution

 Vog is the air pollution caused when sulphur dioxide and other volcanic gases react with oxygen. The word vog is a portmanteau of volcano and fog.

“Instructions on Not Giving Up,” a Poem

 Martha reads the poem “Instructions on Not Giving Up” by the poet Ada Limón. Used with permission.

Chihoo! A Samoan Cry

 Rachel from San Diego wonders whether the exuberant Hawaiian cry chihoo! is onomatopoetic — that is, if the sound of the word resembles what it actually denotes. The cry is not originally Hawaiian. It’s a version of the Samoan war cry known as a fa’aamu, sisu, or ususu. The Honolulu Advertiser‘s Lee Cataluna has written about its use in Hawaii.

Spookasem, Ghost’s Breath

 In South Africa, the word spookasem is a term for cotton candy, although it literally translates as ghost’s breath. Elsewhere in the English-speaking word, the sweet stuff is also called candy floss or fairy floss.

To High-Hat Someone

 Cindy in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is going through her mother’s diary from the 1930’s and finds the term high-hat used as a transitive verb. To high-hat someone means to act in a supercilious, condescending, affected manner, as if wearing a top hat or other tall, fancy hat. In a somewhat similar way today, the slang term to cap someone can mean to be boastful.

Pronunciations of Water

 In the United States alone, there are 15 different pronunciations of the word water!

Whisker Fatigue

 Cats’ whiskers, or vibrissae, are exceedingly sensitive. If a cat seems reluctant to eat out of a particular bowl, she may be bothered by whisker fatigue.

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

Music Used in the Episode

Big SchleppDave Pike SetAlbumMPS Records
MatharDave Pike SetNoisy Silence – Gentle NoiseMPS Records
DoveCymandeCymandeJanus Records
Hand Clapping SongThe MetersHand Clapping Song 45rpmJosie
PowerhouseChester ThompsonPowerhouseBlack Jazz
Inside StraightCannonball AdderlyInside StraightFantasy
FugCymandeSecond Time RoundJanus Records
Love BowlLonnie SmithLive at Club MozambiqueBlue Note
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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