Pickle, baboon, cupcake, snorkel, pumpkin, Kalamazoo—let’s face it, some words are just plain funny. But what makes some words funnier than others? Martha and Grant consider this question with an assist from Neil Simon’s play (and movie) The Sunshine Boys. Also in this episode: “There are three words in the English language that end in -gry. Angry and hungry are two of them.” The hosts explain how this aggravating riddle works—and doesn’t work. And what’s a shivaree?
This episode first aired May 16, 2009.
The Funniest Words
Pickle, baboon, cupcake, snorkel, pumpkin, Kalamazoo—let’s face it, some words are just plain funny. But what makes some words funnier than others? Martha and Grant consider this question with an assist from Neil Simon’s play (and movie) The Sunshine Boys.
Words Ending in “-gry”
Do you know this diabolical riddle? “There are three words in the English language that end in -gry. Angry and hungry are two of them. What’s the third?” The hosts explain that the answer’s not as simple as you might think.
Does the expression to boot, as in “I’ll sell you this Hummer and throw in a free tank of gas to boot,” have anything to do with booting up a computer?
Duck on a Junebug
In an earlier episode, the hosts discussed the phrase “all over it like a duck on a junebug,” which refers to doing something with great eagerness. Martha shares an email from a Wisconsin listener who’s watched plenty of ducks interact with junebugs and offers a vivid description of what that looks like.
Word Quiz Vowel “A”
In this week’s puzzle, Quiz Guy John Chaneski is looking for phrases in which the only vowel is the letter “A.” Try this clue: “This person said, ‘I have spent all my life with dance and being a dancer. It’s permitting life to use you in a very intense way. Sometimes it is not pleasant, sometimes it is fearful, but nevertheless, it is inevitable.” Hint: The speaker’s first name is the same as one of this show’s hosts.
What do you call the wheeled contraption that you push around the grocery store? Shopping cart? Shopping carriage? Shopping wagon? Buggy? A former Kentuckian wonders if anyone besides her calls them bascarts. Check out this dialect map featuring these and other names for this device.
Newlywed Hazing Shivaree
One definition of a shivaree is “a compliment extended to every married couple made up of beating tin pans, blowing horns, ringing cowbells, playing horse fiddles, caterwauling, and in fine, the use of every disagreeable sound to make the night hideous.” Also spelled charivari, this old-fashioned form of hazing newlyweds often involved interrupting them in the middle of the night with a raucous party. A former Hoosier calls to discuss boyhood memories of a shivaree and wonders about the source of this term.
How do you pronounce February? Is it FEB-roo-air-ee or FEB-yew-air-ee?
A Scissors vs. A Pair of Scissors
A husband and wife have a long-running dispute over whether the word scissors is singular or plural. Is it a scissors or a pair of scissors?
Australia and Austria
The names Australia and Austria are awfully similar. Is it a coincidence?
Pandemics vs. Epidemics
The H1N1 virus has a lot of people wondering about pandemics vs. epidemics. Grant explains the difference.
Etymology of Coin
Martha explains the origin of the word coin, as in “to coin a phrase.”
Photo by Chi King. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Books Mentioned in the Broadcast
|Baboon by Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben|
|The Night Worker by Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben|