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The Big Cheese

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Is it time to replace the expression “the mentally ill”? Some argue the term unfairly stigmatizes a broad range of people. Also, the winter sport of… skitching, which involves snowy roads, leather shoes — and car bumpers. Needless to say, don’t try this at home. And: We’ve all used the phrase “put on your shoes and socks.” But when you think about it, socks should come first, shouldn’t they? The reason we use this phrase has more to do with your tongue than your feet. Plus, epizootics, the big cheese, horse kickles, nimrods, who vs. that, and a handful of Turkish proverbs. This episode first aired July 12, 2014.

Too Many Cheetahs

 A father of five shared with us his kids’ favorite joke. (Yes, it’s terribly corny.)

The Big Chiz

 Calling a hotshot the big cheese comes from the word chiz, which in both Persian and Urdu means “thing.”


 Don’t try this at home, but the winter pastime of grabbing a car’s rear bumper and getting dragged along an icy road is called skitching.

Turkish Proverb for Listening

 A Turkish proverb about listening and paying attention: To one who understands, a mosquito is a lute. To one who does not understand, a drum and zurna are little.

That vs. Who

 Is it okay to say the person that did it, or should you say the person who did it? Both are fine, although who is probably preferable in that it acknowledges that person’s humanity.

Word Quiz: Not Me, But We

 Our groovy Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a quiz about the language of the 1960’s, updated for the Me Generation.


 How did Nimrod, the name of a mighty hunter and a great grandson of Noah, come to mean a lamebrain idiot?


 Smoking cigars is sometimes known as herfing, and a herf is a lively gathering of like-minded puffers.

Attracted To Shiny Objects

 A caller thinks he once heard a word that means “attracted to shiny objects.” The best we can do is neophilia.

Shoes and Socks

 Put on your shoes and socks. Born and bred. Lock and load. The reason these phrases are illogically ordered probably stems from the way one forms vowels in the mouth. If you think too hard about these terms, they start to look preposterous, the etymology of which, as it happens, has to do with putting things in the wrong order.

Replacing the Term “Mentally Ill”

 Some people argue that the phrase the mentally ill should be scrapped, because it’s stigmatizing and fails to take neurodiversity into account.

Social Media Whatnot

 The word whatnot has seen a resurgence in the last few years, especially on Twitter and whatnot.

Chemistry is a Language

 With all its specialized notation and rules and means of expressing ideas, is it correct to say that chemistry is a language?

Turkish Proverb for Anticipation

 A Turkish proverb about overly optimistic anticipation: Do not roll up your trousers before reaching the stream.


 The epizootic is a type of imaginary ailment. You’d know it if you saw it—it’s like the horse kickles, but you don’t break out.

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

Photo by Paul Wilkinson. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Music Used in the Episode

Don’t Hate, CongratulateRobert WalterSuper Heavy OrganMagna Carta Records
911 BeatTimmy Timeless35th and AdamsTimeless Takeover
CabrilloRobert WalterSuper Heavy OrganMagna Carta Records
HardwareRobert WalterSuper Heavy OrganMagna Carta Records
Tom vs. GaltTimmy Timeless35th and AdamsTimeless Takeover
34 SmallRobert WalterSuper Heavy OrganMagna Carta Records
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla FitzgeraldElla Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song BookVerve

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