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Words of the Year

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What’s your choice for 2010’s word of the year? Mama grizzly? Starwhacker? Who could forget vuvuzela? Martha and Grant discuss the five-oh in Hawaii 5-0, and whether the tagline “I approve this message” is grammatical. Also, is the phrase “it is what it is” annoying or merely philosophical? This episode first aired November 15, 2010.

Word of the Year Candidates

 What’s your choice for the word or phrase that best captures the zeitgeist of 2010? Grant shares some of his “word of the year” candidates, including refudiate, mama grizzly, starwhacker, and of course, vuvuzela.

Hawaii Five-0

 Is the TV show Hawaii Five-0 named for Ford Mustang 5.0 engines in police cruisers? No, and it’s correctly typed with a zero instead of the letter “O.”

It Is What It Is

 It is what it is. A new transplant to California has noticed this phrase popping up more and more. Where does it come from? Is it annoying or merely philosophical?

Obamacare for Word of the Year

 Grant talks about another “Word of the Year” contender, Obamacare.

Word Ladders Puzzle

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a puzzle called “Word Ladders.”

Adult Entertainment

 After passing by an establishment featuring adult entertainment, an Asheville, N.C., man began wondering: When did the word adult come to refer to “material not suitable for children”?

I Approve This Message

 Political candidates end their TV ads with the statement “I approve this message.” Is that ungrammatical?

Etymology of Memes

 The internet abounds with memes. Grant explains that this word was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. More about them at Know Your Meme.


 Another word of the year candidate is immappacy, which is formed by analogy with “innumeracy,” and means the inability to understand maps.

Jive Turkey

 A La Mesa, California, woman thinks the term from 1970s films, jive turkey, deserves reviving.

Irresistible First Lines

 “They shot the white girl first.” That’s how Toni Morrison’s novel, Paradise, begins, and it’s a great example of an irresistible first line. Martha shares others sent in by listeners. She also reads from a Michael Cunningham essay about why a first line must be authoritative.

Headline Capitalization

 A reader of The Atlantic magazine is surprised to find that they’re not capitalizing letters in headlines the way they used to.

Serial Commas

 Martha argues in favor of the serial comma, citing a recent newspaper caption: “The documentary was filmed over three years. Among those interviewed were his ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.” How’s that again?

Another Country Heard From

 A San Diego woman says that when her baby starts crying in another room, her in-laws have a habit of saying, “Another country heard from!” This expression’s roots go back to elections in the 19th century, and was originally “another county heard from.”

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

Photo by Phil Roeder. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Episode

Paradise by Toni Morrison

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