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Sticky Wicket

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Is listening to an audiobook for a book club somehow “cheating”? Is there no substitute for engaging with the printed page, or do audiobooks adds a whole new dimension? Plus, a mocktail os an artisanal beverage without alcohol. Is there a more positive term that doesn’t imply there’s something missing? Also: dibbly-dobbly, sledging, and sticky wicket — the game of cricket has a language all its own! And a rhyming cruise quiz, congee, silly mid-off, hot dish, an irresistible newspaper headline, clean as seven waters, hold your peace, velar, conlangs, Howzat? and more.

This episode first aired August 19, 2023.

Names for Mocktails but More Inviting

 The word mocktail refers to a carefully crafted non-alcoholic drink. A listener feels that such beverages should have a more positive name that doesn’t refer to what they lack. Is there a better term for these concoctions? Do you have a better word than, say, hentail or near beer?

Dibbly-Dobbly, Sledging, and Silly Mid-Off

 The term sticky wicket, meaning “a difficult situation” comes from the game of cricket. When wet, the grassy playing field known called the wicket will cause the ball to bounce erratically, creating an unpredictable, challenging surface. The phrases batting on a sticky wicket or playing on a sticky wicket have come to suggest more generally being in an awkward, perplexing situation. Cricket has produced lots of colorful terms, including dibbly-dobbly, silly mid-off, and sledging, the last of these referring to the act of taunting or insulting other players in order to rattle their confidence or concentration.

Sad Farmers Hate This One Amphibian Trick

 An article in a 1906 edition of the Minneapolis Journal carried the inviting headline: Noisy Hungry Frogs Sadden Farmer’s Life: They Scare His Cattle and They Also Eat His Flannel Shirt.

As Clean as Seven Waters

 Nell from Virginia Beach, Virginia, remembers her great-grandfather and her grandmother using the phrase as clean as seven watersto mean “spotlessly clean.” The word waters in this case is analogous to washes or rinses, so being cleaned with seven waters suggests that something will be quite clean indeed. In the biblical book of 2 Kings, Namaan, who suffers from a dreadful disease, is told to wash seven times in the muddy Jordan River, which cures him. In many religious traditions the number seven symbolizes purity and cleanliness.

Rhyming Cruises

 All aboard! Cap’n John, a.k.a. as Quiz Guy John Chaneski, invites you on a series of rhyming cruises. Just as a booze cruise features lots of alcoholic beverages, John’s excursions have themes that also rhyme with the word cruise. For example, one type of booze cruise could be marketed specifically to people who make and sell their own beers and ales. What rhyming name would you give to such a cruise?

He Began to Wonder When the Hot Dish’s Measurements Were Nine by Thirteen

 Cher from Minneapolis, Minnesota, shares a funny story about her Alabama-born pastor, who was being welcomed to his new congregation with hot dish. The preacher had always understood the term hot dish as a slang term meaning “a sexy, scantily clad woman.” In Minnesota, however, a hot dish is a casserole.

The Have-in-It

 A listener shares a funny childhood misunderstanding: Her four-year-old kept referring to something in the have-in-it. It took a while before she realized the word he meant was cabinet. The family got such a kick out of the boy’s logic that they still use that word today.

Congee, Kanji, Jook, Juk, Etc. — A Well-Traveled Food and Its Well-Traveled Names

 The boiled rice dish known as congee does congeal when cooled to make a kind of porridge, but those two words aren’t related. Congeal is related to French congelé, the past participle of French congeler, “to freeze.” Congeal and congeler share a Latin root with gel, gelatin, jelly, and gelato. Congee comes from Tamil (pronounced something like /kañci/), and variations of the name appear in most languages of India. The more modern spelling is kanji, and it’s also called jook or juk. The name jook comes from a Cantonese word 粥 that also inspired the Thai and Hawaiian names for this dish. In Japan congee is known as okayu (おかゆ), and in Sri Lanka, it’s called kenda.

Hold Your Peace vs. Hold Your Piece

 When reading Geraldine Brooks’s novel March ​​(Bookshop|Amazon), a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, listener noted the author uses both the phrases I held my peace and I would hold my piece referring to the act of refraining from speaking. Which is correct? To hold one’s peace refers to “keeping silent,” as in “maintaining peace or stillness,” as in the traditional injunction at weddings, or forever hold your peace. On the other hand, to say one’s piece means to give voice to one’s part of a discussion — like presenting a piece of prepared oratory or a prewritten position paper.

What’s Next? The Ford Fricative? Saab Sibilant?

 The Range Rover Velar has nothing to do with the linguistic term velar, which is pronounced VEE-lurr, and describes a consonant produced by the back of the tongue against the soft palate, such as K or G. The automotive Velar is pronounced vuh-LARR, and derives from the Italian word velare, meaning “to veil” or “to cover.”

What We Get out of Listening to Audiobooks vs. Reading Books

 What’s the difference between reading a printed book and listening to the audiobook version? Irish novelist Colm Tóibín has compared it to “the difference between running a marathon and watching a marathon on TV.” Yet audiobooks offer opportunities for hands-free reading while doing otherwise boring tasks, and the growing number of high-quality recordings read by talented voice artists. The narration of Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead (Bookshop|Amazon) by actor Charlie Thurston made a splendid book even more powerful.

The French R in Rouge vs. The English R in Red vs. The Spanish R in Carro

 Silas, a 10th-grader in Madison, Wisconsin, is working on his own conlang, or constructed language. He wonders how and why the French uvular R sound, as in the French word rouge, came about, as opposed to the rolled Spanish R in carro. As Trask’s Historical Linguistics (Bookshop|Amazon) notes, this sound continues to spread throughout eight European languages in what’s called a phonemic shift. Western European languages have a coronal R formed along the alveolar ridge at the front of the mouth. Around the 17th or 18th century, this uvular R developed as a characteristic of the speech of the elite, and as such, was increasingly imitated.

GUFF: General Use Free Food

 Kirsten in Evanston, Illinois, reports that when she and her husband lived in a co-op at the University of Michigan, they and their friends used the acronym GUFF for “general use free food,” which anyone was free to eat. The word GUFF proved so handy that they still use it today, and the word has extended to mean items that are fair game for anyone, be it food or beer or other things such as detergent.

Need a Little Walking Around Geetus?

 Sheila in Charlotte, North Carolina, remembers her father used to ask the kids if they needed any geetus, meaning “Do you need any money?” This word for money is spelled several ways, including geedus, geetis, geetas, gheetus, and geets, as in Give me some geets. Its origin is uncertain.


 Attend a cricket match and you’re likely to hear the query Howzat? or How’s that? It’s traditionally used to appeal to an umpire to reconsider a call.

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

Books Mentioned in the Episode

March by Geraldine Brooks ​​(Bookshop|Amazon)
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Bookshop|Amazon)
Trask’s Historical Linguistics (Bookshop|Amazon)

Music Used in the Episode

Inner FreedomLinda SikhakhaneTwo Sides, One MirrorSelf Release
Lotus FlowerThe Souljazz OrchestraRising SunStrut
Memory LossDeltron 3030Deltron 3030Deltron Partners
Les Masques AfricainsFlorian Pellissier QuintetCap De Bonne EsperanceHeavenly Sweetness
Tribal DanceCharles Lloyd QuartetLove-InAtlantic
Kalahari LivesJohnny Mbizo DyaniRejoice / TogetherCadillac
MastermindDeltron 3030Deltron 3030Deltron Partners
SosuniXander BiceCanyonlandsSelf Release
Heck ShimmersXander BiceCanyonlandsSelf Release
The Other SideSure Fire Soul EnsembleStep DownColemine Records

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