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What A Coinkydink! That’s My Accent, Too!

Hello, everybody, it’s another newsletter from A Way with Words.

Over the weekend, our latest episode concentrated on the ever-popular topic of words people mispronounce on purpose, the pronunciation of “beaux arts,” and the history of the term “Jody” as it is used in the military. Grant even chants a bit of a Jody cadence!


Our online-only minicast bonuses continue, too. A caller wanted us to figure out where she is from by just listening to her voice! Find out how we did:


Yet another book by David Crystal came in the mail last week, this one called, “Txting: The Gr8 Deb8.” His take–like ours–is that texting language, including that used in online chatting, emails, and on telephones, is nothing new and nothing to worry about.

Read more about Crystal’s ideas here:

Oxford University Press blog:




A different David wrote this past week to ask about the word “sloodepooping,” which he found in the book “Hanna Coulter” by Wendell Berry.

In the narrator’s reflection about her first husband, Beery writes “We would get something to eat, go to a movie maybe, take one of our drives, stop a while at one of Virgil’s pretty places for a little ‘sloodepooping,’ as he called it, though he treated me with the strictest honor, according to the old rules.”

David’s guess was the the word was particular to Beery, and from our research into it, that appears to be correct. We cannot find it, nor likely variants, anywhere else but in Beery’s book. Clearly, it means necking, canoodling, petting, or something similar.

Edward in Noblesville, Indiana, wrote to ask about the two meanings of “out of pocket.”

He writes, “A colleague of mine from Montana was collaborating long distance with coworkers in west Texas, who have to our ears a strange usage of the phrase ‘out of pocket.’ I had understood it to mean an expense you had to pay yourself directly, that you were not getting reimbursed for nor had the use of someone else’s money for. Here, it apparently just means ‘unavailable.’ […] Any ideas?”

The original sense of “out of pocket” from 1693 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) was to be broke or to have lost money on a transaction.

Later meanings meant that one was fronting money for some purpose that would be reimbursed or repaid later. A variant of this, especially in the insurance industry, are costs paid *without* reimbursement by a customer or client when all other major costs are covered by a business, employer, or other enterprise.

The first cite for “out of pocket” meaning “unavailable or unreachable, usually said of a person” is around 1946, although the usage is probably older than that.

The Dictionary of American Regional English marks the “unavailable” meaning as Southern and South Midlands, which is that narrow part of the country just above the South, that runs from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania. DARE’s data is a bit dated, however, and my current understanding of “out of pocket” is that both meanings are now widespread throughout the United States with no strong regional variation.

Sarah wrote to ask if the word “elsewise” is real. Yes, Sarah, it is indeed a real word. Not common, but it is real. Webster’s 1913 unabridged dictionary includes it and says it means “otherwise.”

In the papers this week (and of interest to us), was Virginia Heffernan’s thumbsucker piece for the New York Times about trying web sites outside the Anglosphere. “Thumbsucker” is a mildly derogatory bit of journalism slang about a writer’s attempt at a thoughtful piece related to Big Ideas, but in the end, one that is more colored with self-centeredness than it is with informing or enlightening the reader. Still, it’s a bit engaging.

When was the last time you participated in web sites written in a language you don’t really know? Read Virginia’s thoughts here:


That’s all for this newsletter. We post new content to our discussion forum throughout the week, as do your fellow listeners, so drop by to join the conversations already underway:


Best wishes,

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

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I’ll Be John Browned

The phrase I’ll be a John Brownor I’ll be John Browned means “I’ll be damned” or “I’ll be hanged.” It’s a reference to the militant abolitionist John Brown, who in 1859 led 21 men on a raid of...