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Springtime Twitterpation

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Springtime is the right time to feel twitterpated—you know, you’re smitten beyond a crush. Speaking of relationships, are dog owners really owners, or should they call themselves something else, like guardian or human? And if you’re up for a challenge, some adult spelling bee words, including ostreiform and langlauf. Plus, ollie ollie oxen free, toad-strangling rain, zugzwang, canceled vs. cancelled, and how to pronounce herbal, hyperbole, and inchoate. This episode first aired March 29, 2014.

Adult Spelling Bee Words

 Even adults can use a good spelling bee now and then. It’s a good way to learn words like ostreiform, meaning “having the shape of an oyster,” and langlauf, a “cross-country ski run.”

Feeling Twitterpated

 Springtime is the right time to feel twitterpated. That is, smitten like a nutty, twittering bird.

Silent “H” in Herbal

 Why do the Brits pronounce the H in herbal?

Regional Rain Metaphors

 When it rains, it pours. And when it pours, it’s called a toad-strangler. Depending on what part of the U.S. you’re from, you might also call it other names, such as frog strangler, goose-drownder, or gullywasher.


 The word yannigan, meaning “a member of a scrub team in baseball,” may come from an alteration of “young one.”

Word Group Rhyme Quiz

 What do darts, flubs, and maids have in common? Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski puts it to us in a game of rhymes.

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free

 Did you say ollie ollie oxen free to draw people out of hiding during hide-and-seek? Or maybe you said one of the other versions of this phrase, such as all-ee, all-ee, in free, or Ole Ole Olson all in free.

Possible Implications of “Being Proud” of Someone

 If you’ve accomplished something, be proud! But is it condescending to say you’re proud of someone when you had nothing to do with their success? A listener worries that the meaning of the word proud includes a sense of ownership.

Categories of Deceased in Kiswahili Language

 In the Kiswahili language, the dead go into two categories: sasha for the recently departed, and zamani for spirits not known by anyone living.

Double “L” in English Past Tense Words

 How many L’s go in past tense of cancel?

The Trouble with a High Reading Level

 If you’re mispronouncing words like inchoate and hyperbole, you can console yourself with the knowledge that you’re most likely reading at a high level.

Pet “Ownership”

 You have a dog. Are you its owner, or person, or Mommy dearest? What do you call yourself in reference to the pet?


 The term zugzwang comes from chess, and refers to that situation where you can’t make any desirable moves—like being between a rock and a hard place.


 Ombrology is a fancy word for the study of toad-stranglers.

Plural Business Names

 Why do we turn proper nouns, like JC Penney or Kroger, into possessives, as in, Penny’s or Kroger’s?


 For all the gothic architecture fans out there—hold onto the term ogival, which means “having the form of a pointed arch.”

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

Photo by Sean Winters. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

RecurringBonoboDays To ComeNinja Tune
The CylinderMilt JacksonThe Ballad Artistry of Milt JacksonAtlantic
NightliteBonoboDays To ComeNinja Tune
The FeverBonoboDays To ComeNinja Tune
Makin’ WhopeeMilt JacksonThe Ballad Artistry of Milt JacksonAtlantic
KettoBonoboDays To ComeNinja Tune
Transmission 94BonoboDays To ComeNinja Tune
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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