Baseball has a language all its own: On the diamond, a snow cone isn’t what you think it is, and three blind mice has nothing to do with nursery rhymes. And how do you describe someone who works at home while employed by a company in another city? Are they telecommuters? Remote workers? One writer wants to popularize a new term for this modern phenomenon: working in place. Also, a powerful essay on white privilege includes a vivid new metaphor for the pain of accumulated slights over a lifetime: chandelier pain. Plus, sunny side up eggs, count nouns, bluebird weather, harp on, think tank, thought box, and how to remember to spell Mississippi.
This episode first aired October 22, 2016.
The Dickson Baseball Dictionary
Baseball is a rich source of slang, and the Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson is a trove of such language. A snow cone, in baseball lingo, is a ball caught so that it’s sticking up out of the fielder’s glove. And which month of the year is called dreamer’s month? It’s March, when loyal fans believe that anything is possible for their team in the coming season.
Sunny-Side Up Eggs
Sunny-side up eggs sometime go by the name looking at you eggs, an apparent reference to how the yolk in the middle of the egg white makes them resemble eyes. A similar idea appears in the German name, which translates as “mirror egg,” and in Hebrew, where such eggs go by a name that translates as “eye egg.” The Japanese term, medama yaki, translates as “fried eyeball.” In Latvia, they’re “ox eyes,” and in Indonesia, “cow eyes.”
In baseball, a two-o’clock hitter is one who hits well in batting practice, but not during the game. It used to be that games traditionally started at 3 p.m., with batting practice an hour before.
“Amount” For People
An attorney in El Centro, California, is bothered by the phrase a large amount of people, because the word amount is usually applied to mass nouns, not count nouns. There are exceptions, however.
Three Blind Mice in Baseball
In baseball slang, three blind mice denotes the three umpires on the field.
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has an artful quiz about, well, art. For example, remove two letters from the end of this painting’s title, and now the couple in it has been replaced by a pale young man outside a farmhouse sporting a black T-shirt, eyeshadow, and several piercings. What’s the name of this new painting?
Calling the Kids “Mama” and “Papa”
In Arabic-speaking families, it’s not uncommon for mothers to address their children with the Arabic word for “mama” or for fathers to use the word for “father” when addressing their offspring. These words are used in this way as a term of endearment — they’re not actually thinking of them as parents! Some other languages do the same.
Play Marbles on Coattails
A listener in Honolulu, Hawaii, wonders about an expression used by her husband’s grandmother, who was from eastern Kentucky: “He left so fast, that you could have played marbles on his coattails.” The notion that a person is running so fast his coattails are stretched out perfectly flat goes back at least to the 1850’s.
Since the 1950’s, the term think tank has meant “a research institute.” But even earlier than that, going as far back as the 1880’s, think tank referred “a person’s mind.” Another slang term for one’s mind is thought box.
Counting Time with One Mississippi
A Seattle, Washington, listener wants to know why, when marking time, we say “one Mississippi, two Mississippi,” as opposed to other states or rivers. In the United Kingdom, they’re more likely to say hippopotamus. Some people count instead with the word banana, or Nevada, or one thousand one. Also, a mnemonic for spelling the pesky name Mississippi: :M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked-letter-I-humpback-humpback-I.”
In Maryland and Virginia, bluebird weather is a brief period of warm weather in autumn.
Working Out of the Office
What do you call it when you work for a corporation but aren’t based in the same place as its headquarters. Writer Michael Erard believes that the term working remotely doesn’t really characterize it, and instead has suggested working in place.
“Says” Instead of “Said”
A caller from New York City wonders about his grandmother’s use of the word says rather than said when she’s telling a story about something that happened in the past. It’s a form of the historical present tense that helps describe recounted or reported speech.
In a powerful essay on white privilege, Good Black News editor Lori Lakin Hutcherson includes the term chandelier pain to describe how painful accumulated slights can be. Medical professionals use the term chandelier pain to refer to the result of touching an exquisitely painful spot — so painful that patients involuntarily rise from the examining table or reach toward the ceiling.
To Harp on Something
Does the expression to harp on, as in “to nag,” have anything to do with the stringed instrument one plays by plucking? Yes! As early as the 16th century to harp all of one string meant to keep playing the same single note monotonously.
Why Not “Afterhand”?
We talk about something occurring beforehand, so why don’t we talk about something happening afterhand? Actually, afterhand goes all the way back to 15th-century English, even though it’s not that commonly used today.
She, the Cat’s Mother
A New Hampshire listener recalls that as a boy, when he talked friends within earshot of his mother and said referred to her as she, his mother would pipe up with “she, being the cat’s mother.” It’s an old expression suggesting that it’s insulting to refer to people in the third person if they’re present.
Photo by Japanexperterna.se. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Book Mentioned in the Broadcast
|The Dickson Baseball Dictionary|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Bikes!||The M-Tet||Hot Buttered Rum||Lugnut Brand|
|Make It For The Door||The M-Tet||Hot Buttered Rum||Lugnut Brand|
|Check Please||The M-Tet||Hot Buttered Rum||Lugnut Brand|
|Layin Low||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Colemine Records|
|The Yo-Yo||The M-Tet||Hot Buttered Rum||Lugnut Brand|
|She’s Looking Good||The M-Tet||Finger Poppin’ Time||Lugnut Brand|
|Light and Sweet, Baby||The M-Tet||Hot Buttered Rum||Lugnut Brand|
|Cook It Down||The M-Tet||Hot Buttered Rum||Lugnut Brand|
|IB Struttin||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Colemine Records|
|Mike’s New Adidas||The M-Tet||Finger Poppin’ Time||Lugnut Brand|
|So Boss||The M-Tet||Finger Poppin’ Time||Lugnut Brand|
|Stranger To My Happiness||The M-Tet||Finger Poppin’ Time||Lugnut Brand|
|Volcano Vapes||Sure Fire Soul Ensemble||Out On The Coast||Colemine Records|