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Steamed Bun

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This week: Do you ever find yourself less-than-specific about your age? Listeners share some of their favorite phrases for fudging that number, like: “Oh, I’m 29, plus shipping and handling.” Also in this episode: • Since ancient times, people have hidden messages in clever ways. Nowadays, coded messages are sometimes concealed in pixels. • Uber-silly German jokes: Did you hear the one about the two skyscrapers knitting in the basement? It’s silly, all right. • The origin of hello, the creative class, all wool and a yard wide, get some kip, a handful of minutes, and jeep.

This episode first aired March 18, 2017. It was rebroadcast the weekends of September18, 2017, and April 15, 2019.

Ways to Say Your Age

 In our Facebook group, listeners share ways to refer to someone who’s lived a half-century or more: 50-plus, member of the 600 Month Club, 29 plus shipping and handling, the 40th anniversary of my 30th birthday, and Jack Benny-plus.

Why Don’t We Call the Kitchen the Cooking Room?

 There’s the living room, the dining room, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the TV room. So why don’t we call the kitchen the cooking room?

Origin of Hello

 The hell in hello has nothing to do with the Devil’s abode. The word is related to similar shouts of greeting, such as hallo or halloa. Several languages have similar exclamations, such as Swedish hej, which sounds like English hey.

Not Old, Just Young for a Long Time

 A listener in our Facebook group reports that sometimes he says he’s not old — he’s just been young for a really long time.

Must Needs

 A man in Del Mar, California, wonders about the expression must needs meaning “must by necessity.” Is it a regionalism, pretentious, or perhaps used just for emphasis?

Tricky Plural Word Quiz

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a tricky quiz with false answers. For example, if the plural of mouse is mice, then what’s the false plural of spouse?

Antwitz Anti-Jokes

 A listener has been baffled for years by a riddle told a German friend. It goes, “What’s the difference between a frog? Answer: The greener it is, the faster it swims.” It’s an example of an antiwitz or “anti-joke,” a popular form of German humor that has the structure of a traditional joke, but involves absurd imagery and lacks a satisfying punchline. In China, a similarly silly type of humor goes by a name that translates as “cold joke.”

Hindi Dance Proverb

 A popular Hindi proverb about blaming everyone but oneself translates as “One who knows no dance claims that the stage is tilted.”

Creative Class Origins

 The term creative class has been around for a century, but it was popularized by economist and sociologist Richard Florida and his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class. Florida uses the term to refer to artists, designers, tech producers, and other knowledge workers whose products and ingenuity invigorate local economies.

More Antiwitz “Jokes”

 The translation of one silly German antiwitz joke begins, “Two thick feet are crossing the street…” Another starts, “Two skyscrapers are sitting in the basement knitting…” They go downhill from there.

All Wool and a Yard Wide

 All wool and a yard wide means “reliable and trustworthy.” The phrase was part of advertisements in the late 19th century, touting material produced by textile mills that wasn’t shoddy, which meant it was not made from the shredded fiber of old scraps.

Handful of Minutes

 In Appalachia, the term handful of minutes refers to something small, as in, “She’s no bigger than a handful of minutes.”


 Steganography is the practice of concealing messages within text, digitized data, or other objects. The word derives from Greek words that mean “covered writing.”

Jeep Name Origins

 A listener in Ypsilanti, Michigan, wonders how the Army vehicle called a jeep got its name. Answer: It was associated with Eugene the Jeep, a strange creature from the 1930s comic strip, Popeye. Lexicographers and etymologists find no evidence to support the idea that it comes from the words “general purpose.”

Fudging Your Age

 In a discussion our Facebook group, a woman shares her mother-in-law’s favorite expression for fudging her age.

Stir Crazy

 A triathlete in Traverse City, Michigan, calls to say she’s going stir-crazy while recuperating from an injury. The term stir-crazy makes sense if you know that stir is an old synonym for “prison.”

Plenty Nine

 A witty euphemism from our Facebook group for discussing one’s age: I’m plenty-nine.

Kip Means Sleep

 “Time to get kip” means “time to get some sleep.” Kip goes all the way back to an old Dutch word that means “brothel.”

Muffin Anti-Joke

 The tradition of the German antiwitz or anti-joke includes a groaner that starts with a couple of muffins sitting in an oven. When one muffin complains about the heat, the other muffin exclaims incredulously, “Oh my god, a talking muffin!”

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

Photo by Lydia Liu. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

The Rise of the Creative Class

Music Used in the Episode

74 Miles AwayCannonball Adderley74 Miles Away / Walk TallCapitol Records
Clean Up WomanBetty WrightI Love The Way You LoveAlston
The CrossingMenahan Street BandThe CrossingDaptone
Put On TrainGene HarrisGene Harris The 3 SoundsBlue Note
Repeat After MeThe Three SoundsSoul SymphonyBlue Note
Peace Of MindGene HarrisTone TantrumBlue Note
Light OutMenahan Street BandThe CrossingDaptone
Ruffneck JazzDJ GreyboyFreestylin’Ubiquity Records
PanaceaDJ GreyboyFreestylin’Ubiquity Records
Singles PartyDJ GreyboyFreestylin’Ubiquity Records
Volcano VapesSure Fire Soul EnsembleOut On The CoastColemine Records

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