Is it cool for parents to use their children’s slang? What’s wrong with the term illegal alien? Grant and Martha discuss possible alternatives. Yehudi refers to the mysterious character who holds up strapless dresses, turns the light on in the fridge, and does lots of other things we can’t see. But why Yehudi? Also, terms from the lexicon of anatomy, an idiom puzzle, putzing around, out of pocket, long in the tooth, the ancient roots of the folksy expression even a blind pig can find an acorn, and answers to the question, “What do you call the slobber marks a dog leaves on a window?”


This episode first aired December 3, 2011.

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 Generational Gaps
Does your vocabulary mark you as old or outdated? Certain words really indicate generational gaps, like chronological shibboleths. For example, are thongs panties or flip-flops? And what do women carry around — a pocketbook, a purse, or a bag? Your answer likely depends on when you were born.

 Parents Using Kids’ Slang
At what point is it inappropriate for parents to use the slang of their offspring? Can you call your son dude, or give your kids a beatdown in Scrabble? Living with children makes for a slang-filled home, so it becomes part of your regular speech. So long as your children aren’t mortified, go for it.

 Yehudi Did It
Who is Yehudi, and what exactly does he do? In the 1930s on Bob Hope’s radio show there was a musical guest named Yehudi Menuhin. His name proved so catchy, along with sidekick Jerry Colonna’s joking phrase, “Who’s Yehudi?” that it entered the common vernacular, coming to refer to anyone, or anything, mysterious. Yehudi is, for example, the little man that turns on the light inside the refrigerator. He holds up strapless dresses. The Navy even had a secret project named Project Yehudi.

 Anatomical Dictionary
Charles Hodgson’s Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer’s Dictionary of Anatomy is chock-full of great terms. It’s best to keep the lipstick within the vermillion border, or that line where the lips meet the skin. And be careful when applying around the wick, or the corner of the mouth.

 But Word Quiz
Our Quizmaster John Chaneski has a puzzle based on clues with everything but the but. For example, when likening someone to a house, we say the lights are on, but nobody’s home. Or regarding a noisy political contest, it’s all over but the shouting.

 Putz Around
If someone’s being a bit lazy, or just moseying aimlessly, we say they’re putzing around. But the word put derives from the Yiddish for penis. Plenty of Yiddish words have made their way into the common vernacular, especially in the Northeast.

 Illegal Alien
A physician wants to know: Is it politically correct to use the phrase illegal alien? The Society of Professional Journalists have decided, collectively, to use illegal immigrant but even words like illegal or undocumented can often be inaccurate. If, for example, doctors are talking about a patient, they want to recognize the patient as an individual person, not a statistic.

 Post-It Notes
Speaking of those generational divides, did you know that Post-It notes haven’t always been around? Martha shares a listener’s funny email about that.

 Even a Blind Pig
If you’re having a tough time finding something, remember that even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while. This encouraging idiom actually comes from ancient Rome, where the concept of a blind animal turning something up lent itself to the Latin saying that a blind dove sometimes finds a pea. An 18th-century Friedrich Schiller play employed the blind-pig-and-acorn version, and the play’s translation into English and French may have brought it into modern English speech.

 New Vocabularies
What event in life introduced you to a whole new vocabulary? Going away to college, having a child, renovating a home, or even getting diagnosed with a medical condition often exposes us to huge bundles of new words. If you’re renovating a house for example, suddenly a whole slew of new words muscles its way into your vocabulary, such as backsplash, shoe molding, quarter-sawn oak, sconce, grout, and bullnose.

 Out of Pocket
What does out of pocket mean? The answer splits down racial lines. Among many African-Americans, if someone’s out of pocket, they’re out of line or unruly. For most non-African-American speakers, out of pocket is primarily used in business settings, meaning that someone is either unavailable or out of the office, or they’re paying for something with personal money, with an expectation of being reimbursed later.

 Dog Marks
What do you call those slobber marks that dogs leave on the inside of car windows? Some of our favorites are woofmarks, dog schmear, and snot kisses.

 Christian Blood
Is your name a conversation piece? A listener by the name of H. Christian Blood shares his story growing up with a colorful name. And for those of you with a comment to make, Christian Blood would remind you that he’s heard plenty of it over the years, so unless it’s really something sharp and original, it’s best not to waste your breath. And yes, his name is for real.

 Pennsylvania Dutch Saying
What crawled over your liver? This Pennsylvania Dutch idiom means “What’s the matter with you?”

 Long In The Tooth
If someone’s getting long in the tooth, it means they’re getting old, or too old for their behavior. The metaphor of long teeth comes from horses. If you look at a horse’s teeth and the extent to which their gums have receded, you can tell pretty accurately how old they are. It’s the same source as that old advice, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” which means “if someone gives you a gift, don’t inspect it too closely.”

Photo by Carnie Lewis. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer’s Dictionary of Anatomy by Charles Hodgson

Music Used in the Broadcast

Title Artist Album Label
Kohoutek Father’s Children Who’s Gonna Save The World Numero Group
Dirty Red Funk Inc Hangin’ Out Prestige
Where I’m Coming From Leon Spencer Where I’m Coming From Prestige
I Can See Clearly Now Funk Inc Hangin’ Out Prestige
Kelly’s Eye UK Groove Library Feeling The Breeze – Music De Wolfe UK Groove Library
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gerswin Songbook Verve
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  1. hippogriff says:

    I distinctly remember Jerry Colonna macronize(?) both o. He also referred to himself as a bargain counter tenor, leaving it to the audience where the hyphen went. Made at least one record as a good Chicago-style jazz trombonist. I distinctly counted at least one time in It Might As Well Be Spring with six syllables for spring. I still miss him.

    The blind hog reference escapes me; hogs hunt primarily by scent, not sight – as any truffle collector can testify.

    Woofmarks are made by children too. Is there a different set of terms for them?

    Christian Blood not intentional: Neither was that of Governor James Hoggs’ daughter, Ima. It came from a novel they liked.

    Washboard pavement still has currency. It differs from corduroy in that the latter is built that way (logs crossway to the road) while washboard is caused by a coincidence of speed and shock recovery moving and pounding an asphalt pavement in the summer time making the tires hit the same spot each time.

    Robert B: A tree growing horizontal on a cliff will grow vertical in a short distance. Alpenhorns are made from them, cut in half, hollowed, and glued back together, thus the curve at the bell.

  2. Rafee says:

    Why is it that some of the episodes (like this one) have sizes twice as much as other episodes, but the same time length? Or some of them are just shown, when downloading, to have such sizes. I’m downloading the file right now, and haven’t listened to it, but noticing the regular hour-length episodes I know that it will have the same length.