It’s hard enough to get a new word into the dictionary. But what happens when lawmakers get involved? New Jersey legislators passed a resolution as part of an anti-bullying campaign urging dictionary companies to adopt the word upstander. It means “the opposite of bystander.” But will it stick? And: 18th-century abolitionist Sojourner Truth was born in New York State, but for most of her childhood, she spoke only Dutch. There’s a good reason for that. Plus, practical tips for learning to converse in any foreign language: Think of it like an exercise program, and work out with a buddy. Also, rhyming slang, “kick the bucket,” “behind God’s back,” world-beaters, Twitter canoes, a slew of slang terms for that yep-nope hairstyle, the mullet.

This episode first aired October 16, 2015.

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 Upstander
Plenty of people write to dictionary editors asking for words to be added. It almost never works. But what if politicians make a special request? To urge adoption of the term upstander, as in “the opposite of bystander,” to honor those who stand up to bullies, the New Jersey State Senate passed a resolution urging two dictionary publishers to add it. Unfortunately, dictionaries don’t work that way. Even so, whether a word is or isn’t in the dictionary doesn’t determine whether a word is real.

 Defugalty vs. Difficulty
If you’re having difficulty parsing the meaning of the word defugalty, or difugalty, the joke’s on you. It’s just a goofy play on difficulty, one that’s popular with grandparents.

 To Summer and Winter
To “summer and winter” about a matter is an old expression that means “to carry on at great length” about it.

 Generic House of Worship
A television journalist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wants a generic term for “house of worship” to use in place of the word church in news reports. Synagogue, temple, sanctuary, and mosque are all too specific. What’s a fitting alternative?

 Life Cycle Riddle
Here’s a riddle: What flies when it’s born, lies when it’s alive, and runs when it’s dead?

 “And” Rhyming Words Quiz
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game based on rhyming words with the word and in the middle. For example, what rhyming phrase is another name for Confederate flag?

 Foreign Language Fitness Program
A teacher in Dallas, Texas, is trying to learn Spanish in order to chat casually with some of his students. He’s having some success with the smartphone app DuoLingo. But an app won’t necessarily give him the slang vocabulary he needs. A good way to learn a new language is to approach it as you would a fitness program. Set reasonable goals, commit to the long term, don’t expect results overnight, and if possible, practice with a buddy or a trainer.

 Bud, Get In!
A Tallahassee listener remembers as a child misunderstanding the sign at the Budget Inn as an exhortation–as in “Bud, get in!”

 English Rhyming Slang in the US
English rhyming slang had a short run of popularity in the western U.S., thanks in part to Australians who brought it over (and then, again, thanks to a scene in Ocean’s Eleven). But even in the U.K., it’s now mostly defunct.

 World-Beater
Is there a word for that mind-blowing moment when you think you’ve heard it all, but then something happens that’s completely out of your realm of experience? You might call this phenomenon a marmalade dropper. Others might call it a world-beater. Have a better term for it?

 Twitter Canoe
When a conversation on Twitter gets so crowded that replies contain more handles than actual comments, the result is a tipping Twitter canoe.

 Dutch Language in America
For the first nine or ten years of her life, the 18th-century abolitionist Sojourner Truth spoke only Dutch. She later used her accent to great effect in her stirring speeches. As Jeroen Dewulf, director of Dutch Studies at University of California, Berkeley, points out in an article in American Speech, as late as the mid-18th century, there were so many Dutch slaveholders in New York and New Jersey meant that up to 20 percent of enslaved Africans in those states spoke Dutch.

 Cutting vs. Tearing Off a Check
“Cutting a check” is a far more common phrase than “tearing off a check,” because for years checks weren’t perforated, so bankers had to actually use a metal device to cut them.

 Origin of Kick the Bucket
The idiom “kick the bucket,” meaning to die, does not originate from the concept of kicking a bucket out from under one’s feet. It has to do with an older meaning of bucket that refers to the wooden beam often found in a barn roof, where an animal carcass might be hung.

 Space Between Rain Drops
A listener from California says her family’s way of remarking on rain is to mention the space between falling drops. So a 12-inch rain means there’s about a foot between one drop and the next. Tricky, huh?

 Skinnymalink
The term skinnymalink, or a skinny marink, is one way the Scots refer to someone who’s thin. In the United States, the term goes back to the 1870’s.

 Mullet Slang
“Kentucky waterfall,” “North Carolina neck warmer,” and “Tennessee top hat” are all terms for the mullet hairstyle.

 Behind God’s Back
To say that something’s “behind God’s back” is to say that it’s really far away. This may refer to Isaiah 38:17, which includes the phrase “for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” In the Caribbean in particular, the saying behind God’s back is idiomatic. Lisa Winer writes of it in detail in her Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago.

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

Photo by Trevor Pritchard. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago by Lisa Winer

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Forever Loving You Jackie Mittoo Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio One Attack
Good Times Jackie Mittoo Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio One Attack
Score of Memories Jackie Mittoo Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio One Attack
Bold and Black Ramsey Lewis Another Voyage Cadet
Kind Girl Jackie Mittoo Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio One Attack
Guiding Light Jackie Mittoo Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio One Attack
Jump The Fence Jackie Mittoo Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio One Attack
Uhuru Ramsey Lewis Another Voyage Cadet
Waiting For Love Jackie Mittoo Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio One Attack
Hard To Give Jackie Mittoo Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright play hits from Studio One Attack
Volcano Vapes Sure Fire Soul Ensemble Unreleased Unreleased

5 Responses

  1. EmmettRedd says:

    How about worship-house?

  2. deaconB says:

    EmmettRedd said
    How about worship-house?

    In more than one of the Louis L’Amour novels, a character will boast “I’ll tear down his meathouse”, meaning that he’d soundly thrash his opponent.

    My late wife and I were reading the L’Amour books together in the 1980s, and she thought that was an interesting term.  She posited an argument between a big beefy woman and her similarly-built fella. She threatens to tear down his meathouse, and he responds in kind.  Does he refer to her body as a meathouse?  Seems awfully masculine.  And calling it a cathouse would really put him in the doghouse.

    But I think you’ve hit upon the answer.  He would refer to her body as a house of worship, and before you know it, they’d be wrestling around, but in a highly friendly manner.

    Worship house is rather uncommon in my experience.  Church services, weddings, funerals, and church suppers are held in a meetin’ house, wearing Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes.

  3. Dick says:

    I’m surprised they didn’t mention house of worship or place of worship.  They are both very common terms.  In fact church is usually used exclusively for Christian groups.  You never hear about the Jewish church or Muslim churchChurch of Satan may be the exception.

  4. deaconB says:

    Dick said
    I’m surprised they didn’t mention house of worship or place of worship.  They are both very common terms.  In fact church is usually used exclusively for Christian groups.  You never hear about the Jewish church or Muslim churchChurch of Satan may be the exception.

    “Church” originally meant “assembly”.

    As I understand it, early in the history of the journeyman tradition, itinerant printers had to go to the printers’ church – a guild, rather than a religious organization – for permission to practice the trade.  They had to demonstrate proficiency and pay dues.  I’m not sure if any guilds other than printers called their local organizations churches.us organization – prove himself before the master journeyman, and pay dues.  I’m not sure if any other skilled trades called their locals churches or not.

    In England in the 1700, there was a crown monopoly on printing by The Stationers Company.  It goes on about it quite extensively in the biography of Thomas Paine, as I remember it.  That wouldn’t be true in other countries.  The Stamp Act of 1765 was only practical because of that monopoly; those were tax stamps, postage stamps not having been invented until much later.  Benjamin Franklin wasn’t just a printer in Philadelphia; he was the first successful printer in Lancaster, PA and other cities, where he would provide the equipment and a partner would operate the business.  His “franchising” gave him incentive to become politically active as well as the income to devote time to it.

    I can’t find anything online to validate “church as printer’s guild”, but I think I read of it in the Inland Printer in the early 1970s.  In locking up quoins to hold handset type in place, however, a tool was used sorta like the chuck key for an electric drill.  It became known as a “church key” long before the crown cap or the flat-lid beer can was introduced.  Possessing a church key went a long way towards establishing bona fides before the master of the local printers church.  And I can’t find anything online to validate that, either.

     

    Not having much luck with online searches this week.  The Armistice was effective “the 11th hour, the 11th day, the 11th month” which was 6 hours after it was signed at Compiegne, but apparently that was local (sun) time.  What time would that have been in GMT?  And how did it happen that it was signed at 5 AM?  Were they up all night, not reaching an agreement before then?  Why didn’t I think to ask these dumb questions in a junior high history class?

  5. jkrosenbaum says:

    I think the term “Congregation” is a good generic term to use when people are involved in any house of worship regardless of the religion.