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Thrown For A Loop

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We all lead busy lives—so are speed reading courses a good idea? Plus, if you hear someone speaking with a British accent, do you tend to assume they’re somehow more intelligent? And some common English surnames tell us stories about life in the Middle Ages. Plus, a 29-letter word for the fear of the number 666, games and riddles, military brats, knocked for a loop, the first dirty word, and book recommendations for math lovers. This episode first aired December 21, 2013.


 What do you call it when you’re out in public with friends but they’re all staring at their own cell phones? A listener from Santa Monica, California, suggests that the word techgether.

Speed Reading Classes

 Are speed reading classes a waste of time? Not if you want to skim instead of read.

Fear of the Number 666

 A Kentucky cross-country runner had a case of hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, or fear of the number 666.

The Frequency Illusion

 After you notice a certain word for the first time, chances are you’ll start seeing it all over the place. That’s known as the frequency illusion, coined by linguist Arnold Zwicky, and it happens because of confirmation bias.

Two Hookers and Two Lookers Riddle

 What has two hookers, two lookers, four stiff-standers, four diddledanders, and a wig wag?

Animal Kingdom Counterparts Quiz

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski have a game matching people with their animal kingdom counterparts.

Military Brat

 Is the term military brat a pejorative?

Books on Onomastics

 Many common English surnames–such as Taylor, Miller, Shoemaker, Smith, and many others–tell a story about life in the Middle Ages. Two good books on the study of names, also known as onomastics, are The Surname Detective and a Dictionary of English Surnames, both by Colin D. Rogers.

Jack Handy Quote

 “The face of a child can say it all. Especially the mouth part of the face.” That deep thought is brought to you by Jack Handy.

Etymology of Moose

 The plural of moose is moose. The word’s roots are in the name of the animal in the Algonquian language Abenaki.

Duck Duck Gray Duck

 Listeners who grew up playing the children’s game Duck Duck Gray Duck insist that this Minnesota version of Duck Duck Goose is more complicated and therefore more fun.

Accent Implying Intelligence

 Why do so many Americans think British accents automatically connote intelligence?

Southern Sentence about a Dilemma

 In parts of the South, it’s not uncommon to end a sentence about a dilemma with the word one, short for one or the other, as in “I’m going to quit my job or get fired, one.”

The First Dirty Word

 How did the first person to say a dirty word know it was a dirty word? Geoffrey Hughes’ Encyclopedia of Swearing is a great source on this.

Books for Math Lovers

 For the math lovers out there: Listeners on our Facebook page recommend Fermat’s Enigma by Simon Singh, and In Pursuit of The Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed The World by Ian Stewart.

Origin of “Thrown for a Loop”

 The idiom thrown for a loop most likely derives from boxing and the image of someone knocked head over heels.

Waiting for a Bone Riddle

 A riddle: What runs over fields and woods all day, under the bed at night sits not alone with its tongue out, waiting for a bone?

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

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters . Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

The Surname Detective by Colin D. Rogers
Dictionary of English Surnames by Colin D. Rogers
Encyclopedia of Swearing by Geoffrey Hughes
Fermat’s Enigma by Simon Singh
In Pursuit of The Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed The World by Ian Stewart

Music Used in the Episode

Caretera PanamericanaPiero UmilianiTo-Day’s SoundLiuto Records
Truck DriverPiero UmilianiTo-Day’s SoundLiuto Records
Green ValleyPiero UmilianiTo-Day’s SoundLiuto Records
Mellow (Version)Karl Hector and The MalcounsSahara SwingStones Throw
Tidal StreamPiero UmilianiIl Corpo SoundtrackSound Work Shop
PrincessPiero UmilianiIl Corpo SoundtrackSound Work Shop
Softly SonoraThe CabildosCrossfireVroommm
Mystical BrotherhoodKarl Hector and The MalcounsSahara SwingStones Throw
BorderlandThe CabildosCrossfireVroommm
Habana KeynoteThe CabildosCrossfireVroommm
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

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1 comment
  • I never thought about it, but my parents (Deep South, y’all) added that post-dilemma “one” in my hearing as I was growing up in San Diego! I suppose it’s short for “one or the other.”

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