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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Freedom||Linda Sikhakhane||Two Sides, One Mirror||Self Release|
|Lotus Flower||The Souljazz Orchestra||Rising Sun||Strut|
|Memory Loss||Deltron 3030||Deltron 3030||Deltron Partners|
|Les Masques Africains||Florian Pellissier Quintet||Cap De Bonne Esperance||Heavenly Sweetness|
|Tribal Dance||Charles Lloyd Quartet||Love-In||Atlantic|
|Kalahari Lives||Johnny Mbizo Dyani||Rejoice / Together||Cadillac|
|Mastermind||Deltron 3030||Deltron 3030||Deltron Partners|
|Sosuni||Xander Bice||Canyonlands||Self Release|
|Heck Shimmers||Xander Bice||Canyonlands||Self Release|
|The Other Side||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Step Down||Colemine Records|