It’s a brand-new season of A Way with Words! Grant has big news, too: He’s used up his last Metrocard, packed up his belongings, and moved to the Left Coast. He reports on some features of California language there that are already catching his ear. Also in this episode, what’s the real meaning of decimate? And what does it mean when someone says don’t leave your endgate up?

This episode first aired September 26, 2009.

Download the MP3.

 California Language
It’s a brand-new season of A Way with Words! Grant has big news, too: He’s used up his last Metrocard, packed up his belongings, and moved to the Left Coast. He reports on some features of California language there that are already catching his ear.

 Names for a Dog Park
A Wisconsin community is about to open its first dog park. But what to name it? “Scentral Park”? “Unleashed”? Martha and Grant try to help.

 Skid Row
Why do we call a run-down area skid row? Here’s a picture of a skid road from Out West, vol. 19, ed. Charles F. Lummis, 1902, Out West Company, Los Angeles

 Yiddish Palindrome
A Philadelphia listener has a Yiddish twist on an old palindrome: “Unable I was ere I saw Elba, nu?”

 Words of Numbers Quiz
“If you’re writing out the names of numbers, what three numbers require six e’s and no other vowels?” Quiz Guy John Chaneski has the answer in his latest word puzzle.

 Don’t Leave Your Endgate Up
Instead of saying “Good-bye” or “So long,” a Hoosier says, his great-grandfather used to say, “Don’t leave your endgate up.” What’s up with that?

 Shining Me On
“Are you shining me on?” means “Are you trying to fool me?” But what does shining have to do with tricking someone?

 Shantytown Names
Grant talks about the surprising beauty to be found in, of all things, the names of shantytowns.

 Rock Climbing Beta
Rock climbers use the term beta to refer to any information they receive about a route before climbing it. Is it related to beta as in “beta-testing software”?

 Decimate Etymology
The word decimate has a grisly etymology. It derives from a Latin military term meaning “to execute every tenth man in an army unit”— the penalty for a failed mutiny. As a result, some sticklers insist that the English word decimate should be used only to indicate “destroying a fraction of something” rather than “destroy completely” or “utterly wipe out.” Who’s right?

 Pittsburgh Language
A Pittsburgh woman reports that when she went away to college, she was surprised to find people correcting her grammar when she’d say things like “the car needs washed” or “the kids need picked up.” She wonders if she’s been saying it wrong all these years.

 Library-Themed Ben & Jerry’s
There’s a new Facebook group called People for a Library-Themed Ben & Jerry’s Flavor. They say that libraries are awesome, B&J ice cream is tasty, so why not combine the two and convince Ben & Jerry’s to produce a new flavor with a library theme? Candidates so far include “Gooey Decimal System” and “Rocky Read.” Do you have others? Tell us about it in the forum.

 Pronouncing Bagel
A 14 yr-old teenager pronounces the word bagel as BEH-gul, rather than BAY-gul. Her family thinks she’s crazy. Who’s right?

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

Photo by John Fowler. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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