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Not Only Gertrude, but Mabel, Too

Our conversation about women who use the nicknames Gertie or Gert as jokingly affectionate terms for each other, prompted a listener in Melbourne, Australia, to speculate that it’s a nod to Gertrude Lawrence, an English performer who rose to...

Pronunciation of Measure

Anna, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, wonders if it’s okay to pronounce the word measure as ‘meɪʒər (rhyming with “hey sure”) instead of ‘mɛʒər (rhyming with “treasure”). This pronunciation is...

Heads Up! It’s a Meteor

“Well, Butter My Buns and call me a biscuit!” Martha and Grant talk about great catch phrases from old-time radio comedies. Also, why do we speak of a meteoric rise? Don’t meteors plummet? What do you keep in a Fibber McGee drawer...

Call Me a Biscuit

Well, shut my mouth and call me Shirley! Butter my buns and call me a biscuit! A listener shares several of these humorous imperatives. Grant explains that the roots of these phrases probably go back to the 1940s. Phil Harris, the bandleader on Jack...

Origin of Truckin’

In a 1936 episode of Jack Benny’s radio show, a woman says that her father sprained his ankle the night before while truckin’. This has an A Way with Words listener confused; she thought trucking was a term from the 1970s. Grant clears...