Home » Episodes » Takes the Cake (episode #1616)

Takes the Cake

Play episode

What do you call a long sandwich filled with lots of ingredients? Whether you call it a sub, a hoagie, a grinder, or something else entirely depends on where you’re from. And: Martha’s visit to an Alaskan reindeer ranch reveals why you really do hear click, click, click when reindeer walk, and how these elegant animals got their name. Plus, if it’s time to dodo your baby, what will you need to do next? Also, whippersnapper, rangiferine, sidesaddle gift, a quiz about missing links, gatsby, spuckie, garibaldi, haint blue, take the cake, Zep, yampy, defulgaty and cafugelty, and the polite riposte More tea, vicar?

This episode first aired May 6, 2023.

A Dresser Helps Hold Up Your Drawers

 A misunderstanding about a play based on the 1983 movie The Dresser starring Albert Finney leads to an unintentionally amusing headline.


 A listener in Fairbanks, Alaska, says her husband has long referred to her as a whippersnapper, insisting it’s a playful term of endearment. Whippersnapper goes back to the 17th century, when boys who didn’t own horses would strut around cracking whips, imitating men who actually did use the snap of whips to urge on their horses. The term snippersnapper, meaning “a young, arrogant man,” had been in use before then and probably influenced this word’s formation. The French word freluquet is roughly equivalent to whippersnapper.

What’s the Cafugelty with Defugalty?

 Alice in Aiken, South Carolina, says that when working for the U.S. Navy, she’d hear sailors as What’s the defugalty? meaning “What’s the problem?” She wonders if defugalty is a legitimate word. It’s an intentional mispronunciation of difficulty, and it has lots of different spellings, including defulgaty and the variant cafugelty. Other examples of such wordplay include saying coinkydink for coincidence and on porpoise instead of on purpose.

A Poem to Apologize to Other Drivers

 After our conversation about how to communicate an apology to another driver while on the road, Vasiliy in Waltham, Massachusetts, composed a poem about it.

Quiz: Find the Links Between Three Words

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle challenges you to spot the missing links between words. For example, what do the following three names have in common? Jefferson, Franklin, Washington.

A Sidesaddle Gift is One for the Giver

 Alex in Lexington, Kentucky, is curious about the term sidesaddle gift. It denotes a gift that the giver ends up using at least as much as the recipient does, such as a luggage rack that a frequent guest gives to their host family. The term sidesaddle gift stems from the idea of a woman who keeps asking her spouse for a sidesaddle, then finally gives him one as a present, even though he’ll have no use for it.

Serious Mental Elvis

 San Diego journalist Kelly Davis reports that an automated transcription error resulted in the phrase serious mental Elvis.

Dodo the Baby

 Trinette in Virginia Beach, Virginia, remembers that growing up in Ascension Parish in southern Louisiana, her family would use the phrases dodo the baby or let’s go dodo. Sometimes spelled dodu, the word dodo meaning “sleep” is commonly used in many parts of the French-speaking world. This word likely derives from similar-sounding French words dodiner and dodeliner, both meaning “to nod” or “to dandle,” and is also influenced by French dormir, meaning “to sleep.” There are lots of versions of a sweet French lullaby, “Dodo l’enfant do” online.

Names for a Sandwich Made on a Long Roll Cut Lengthwise: Hoagie, Sub, Hero, and More

 Larry in Irvington, New York, is curious about local names for what’s sometimes called a submarine sandwich, which consists of a long bread roll split lengthwise and stuffed with meats, cheese, and other condiments. Larry grew up calling it a hero, but in Pennsylvania, it’s called a hoagie, and a similar version there has been called a zeppelin or zep. In New England, it’s called a grinder, and in upstate New York, this sandwich was once commonly called a torpedo or torp. In Wisconsin, it’s a garibaldi. In Louisiana, a similar sandwich that’s often filled with shrimp or catfish is called a po’ boy or poor boy. A Boston version has been called a spuckie or spukie from Italian for “long roll,” spucadella. In Cincinnati, this sandwich was long referred to as a rocket. A South African version is called a gatsby.

It’s Raining Reindeer Lingo

 Martha recently spoke at a fundraiser for radio station KUAC in Alaska. While there in Fairbanks, she explored the University of Alaska’s magnificent Museum of the North, and paid a visit to Running Reindeer Ranch, where she learned a lot about these hardy creatures. When they’re wild they’re called caribou, but if they’re domesticated, they’re called reindeer. The rein- reindeer comes from an Old Norse word hreinn, which itself means “reindeer.” In early English, the word deer was used more generally than it is now, denoting lots of different small animals with four legs. Only later did the word deer apply specifically to one particular variety of animal. Literally, then, the word reindeeris something of a pleonasm, or “linguistic redundancy,” because it means something like “reindeer animal.” Antler may derive from Latin ante ocularis, meaning “before the eyes,” and in fact an old German word for “antler,” Augensprossen literally means “eye sprouts.” If you ever need an adjective for something that has to do with reindeer, it’s rangiferine.

Pale as a Haint

 Ashley in Danville, Kentucky, says that if she’s looking pale or wan, her mother will say You look like a haint. The dialectal term haint is used throughout much of the American South to mean “ghost” or “evil spirit” and is a form of the word haunt. In the Gullah Geechee culture of South Carolina, the descendants of enslaved Africans have a long tradition of trying to ward off haints with a light shade of blue called haint blue.

More Tea, Vicar?

 Following our conversation about the expression Excuse the pig, the hog’s out walking, and other phrases used an apology or mild reprimand for eructations, Robert in Jacksonville, Florida, emailed to say that when he lived in England, the phrase he most often heard in such situations was More tea, vicar? This and other expressions such as Good evening, vicar and Another cucumber sandwich, vicar? are wry ways to suggest how one might behave if such an event happened in the company of visiting clergy. The catchphrase More tea, vicar? was popularized by British comedian Dick Emery, who recorded a song called “The Vicar of Belching-by-the-Sea.”

Doesn’t That Take the Cake!

 Edward in Fargo, North Dakota, wonders about the expression of exasperation, If that doesn’t take the cake, meaning “Well, doesn’t that beat all!” or “Isn’t that a shame!” The origins of this phrase go back more than 200 years, when enslaved black Americans would compete in competitions called cakewalks, strutting before judges and elaborating with fancy dance steps, often mocking slaveholders. The prize for the winner was a cake.

Yampy as a Box of Frogs

 Here’s a handy word from the west midlands of England: yampy, meaning “foolish” or “daft.” It may be adapted from the Scots word yamp, meaning “noisy” or “talkative,” or from yamph, “to yelp like a small dog.” In any case, if you’re under lots of pressure, you might say you’re being driven yampy as a box of frogs.

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

Music Used in the Episode

Cosmic FunkLonnie Liston SmithCosmic FunkFlying Dutchman
Campus LifeSure Fire Soul EnsembleLive at Panama 66All-Town Sound
Come Live With MeDorothy AshbyAfro-HarpingCadet
Gloria’s AnthemSure Fire Soul EnsembleLive at Panama 66All-Town Sound
A New SpringLonnie Liston SmithJID017Jazz Is Dead
Lonely GirlDorothy AshbyAfro-HarpingCadet
The Other SideSure Fire Soul EnsembleStep DownColemine Records

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More from this show

Piping Hot

The game of baseball has alway inspired colorful commentary. Sometimes that means using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. The word stuff...

EpisodesEpisode 1615