Remember the classic films Dogumentary and $3000? Those were their working titles, before they became Best In Show and Pretty Woman. We look at how movie titles evolve and change. Also, is Spanglish a real language? And balaclavas, teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, buying liquor at the packie, making a train take a dirt road, and that weird sensation when you meet a stranger you feel like you already know from your friends’ Facebook updates!
This episode first aired November 10, 2012.
Would some Hollywood classics still have been box-office hits if they’d stuck with their original names? Take Anhedonia, which later became Annie Hall. Or $3000, which became Pretty Woman. And can you guess the eventual title of the movie originally called Harry, This is Sally?
Describing Flavor in Words
Here’s a puzzler: try to explain what malt tastes like without using the word malty. Or, for that matter, describe the color red. Defining sensory things is one of the great challenges that dictionary editors confront. Imagine writing and entire Dictionary of Flavors.
Make a Train Take a Dirt Road
If she’ll make a train take a dirt road, does that mean she’s pretty or ugly? Nicole from Plano, Texas, overheard the idiom in the Zach Brown Band’s song “Different Kind of Fine.” The idea is an ugliness is so powerful it can derail a train. But as Zach Brown sings, looks aren’t all that makes a lady fine.
Almost “Amous” Word Game
Our Quiz Master John Chaneski has a game about aptronyms for famous folks, or shall we say folks who were Almost Amous. In this puzzle, you drop the first letter of a famous person’s last name in order to give them a fitting new occupation. For example, a legendary bank robber might become an archer by losing the first letter of his last name. See if you can come up with others!
If you spend any time on Facebook, then you’ve probably had the experience of knowing a whole lot about someone, even though they’re just a friend or relative of a friend. And meeting them can be a little weird, or even a slightly creepy. There’s a word for that odd connection: foafiness, as in Friend-Of-A-Friend, or foaf.
If John Wayne asked you to fetch his possibles, what would you go looking for? This term simply means one’s personal belongings, and is found in Western novels and movies.
A grandmother in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is curious about the advice don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs. This idiom is used as a warning not to presume that you know more than your elders, and may be connected with the old practice of henhouse thieves poking holes in an eggshell and sucking out the yolk. Variants of this expression include don’t teach your grandmother how to milk ducks or don’t teach your grandmother to steal sheep.
If you behave in a struthonian manner, then it means you’re behaving like an ostrich. This play term comes from struthos, the ancient Greek word for ostrich. Actually, according to the American Ostrich Association, the old belief that an ostrich will stick its head in the sand is a myth.
The Mighty Ducks
Jeremy Dick, a listener from Victoria, Australia, grew up in Canada loving the movie The Mighty Ducks. But once he moved down under, he realized the Aussies call it Champions. What’s that all about? Do Australians not think ducks are mighty? TV Tropes explains some reasons why titles change, like, for example, idioms that don’t translate, even across English speaking countries.
Where Do You Buy Alcohol?
What do you call the place you purchase adult beverages? Is it a liquor store or a package store? Package store is common in the Northeast, while folks in Milwaukee know it as the beer depot, and Pennsylvanians might call it the ABC store. Tell us your preferred term!
Is Spanglish a Language?
Spanglish. What’s it all about? Is it a real language, or just a funky amalgam? Ilan Stavans‘ book Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language traces the varieties of Spanglish that have sprung up around the country, and includes his controversial translation of the first chapter of Don Quixote into Spanglish. Still, by academic standards, Spanglish itself is not technically a language.
“Doozy” is Not from the Car
On a previous episode, we discussed the origins of doozy, and boy did we get some responses! Many of you called and wrote to say that the Duesenberg luxury car is the source of the term. While the car’s reputation for automotive excellence may have reinforced the use of term, the problem is that the word doozy appears in print at least as early as 1903. The car, however, wasn’t widely available until about 1920.
Would you be intimidated if someone tried to rob you while wearing a balaclava? What about a ski mask? Trick question: they’re the same thing! The head covering recently made popular in the Pussy Riot protests is known as a balaclava. The name comes from the Port of Balaclava on the Black Sea, an important site in the Crimean War, and the headgear worn there to protect against the bitter cold.
Here’s one to clear up this confusing rule: i before e, except when you run a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbor. Got it?
Photo by David Barrie. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Dictionary of Flavors by Dolf De Rovira, Sr.|
|Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language by Ilan Stavans|
|Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes|
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Chicano||Dennis Coffey||Instant Coffey||Sussex|
|Also Sprach Zarathustra||Deodato||Prelude||CTI|
|Ivory and Blue||Menahan Street Band||The Crossing||Daptone|
|Magic Ride||The Counts||Magic Ride 45rpm||Aware|
|What’s Up Front That Counts||The Counts||What’s Up Front That Counts||Westbound Records|
|Ain’t It Heavy||The Soul Searchers||Blow Your Whistle||Vampi Soul|
|We The People||The Soul Searchers||We The People||Sussex|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|