Sure, it’s scary to send your writing to a literary agent. But pity the poor agent who must wade through hundreds of terrible query letters a week! One of them shares excerpts from those hilariously bad query letters on a blog called SlushPile Hell. And get ready for some colorful conversation: Purple cows do exist–only they’re made with grape soda and ice cream. And yes, Virginia, there IS an English word that rhymes with “orange”! Plus, catawampus, mesmerize, all’s I’m saying, plus messing and gauming.
This episode first aired October 18, 2013.
Slushpile Hell Blog Letters
A query letter from SlushPile Hell, the blog of a curmudgeonly literary agent, reads, “Have you ever wished you had represented the author of the Holy Bible and placed it with a publisher?” Erm, sure.
The exclamation Fiddlesticks!, meaning “a trifle” or “something insignificant or absurd,” goes back to the time of Shakespeare. It endures in part because it’s fun to say.
Stiletto Made of Sugar
Dorothy Parker, known for her acerbic wit, was once described as “a stiletto made of sugar.”
What do you say when you’re in a restroom and someone knocks on the door? Many people answer Ocupado!, which has made its way from bilingual signage–including old airline seat cards from the 1960’s–to common speech.
Miss Word Pageant Quiz
Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski struts his stuff with a Miss Word beauty pageant for words beginning with “mis-.”
All’s I’m Saying
All’s, as in the common clause all’s you have to do, isn’t grammatically incorrect. It’s a valid contraction of the archaic construction all as.
The idiom dead on, meaning “precisely,” might sound morbid, but it makes sense. It’s a reference to the fact that death is certain and absolute.
Better Door than a Window
When someone’s standing in front of the TV, do you shout, “Move over!” or something more creative? How about “Your daddy weren’t no glassmaker,” or “You make a better door than a window.”
Messing and Gauming
Messing and gauming, meaning “dawdling and getting intro trouble,” comes from gaum, a term for something sticky and smeary like axle grease or mud. A baby with schmutz all over his face is all gaumed up.
No Arguing with Samuel Johnson
Oliver Goldsmith observed that there was no use arguing with lexicographer Samuel Johnson, because “when his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end of it.”
The term mesmerize, meaning to attract strongly or hold spellbound, comes from Franz Mesmer, the German doctor who purported to heal people by righting their internal magnetic forces.
Insure vs. Ensure
Insure and ensure mean two different things now, but back when the U.S. Constitution was penned, they were interchangeable. Hence the line in the preamble to insure domestic tranquility.
Catawampus, meaning “askew,” can be spelled at least 15 different ways. It likely derives from the English word cater, meaning “diagonal. ”
Jealous of the Grand Canyon
J.B. Priestley once described George Bernard Shaw as being so peevish, he refused to admire the Grand Canyon because “he was jealous of it.”
Photo by Fredrik Rubensson. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Music Used in the Broadcast
|Horny Tickle||Clutchy Hopkins||Walking Bachwards||Ubiquity|
|Skull Session||Oliver Nelson||Skull Session||Flying Dutchman|
|On The Hill||Oliver Sain||On The Hill||Vanessa Records|
|Keep On Sockin’ It Children||Phil Flowers and The Flower Shop||Keep On Sockin’ It Children||A&M Records|
|One Note Brown||The New Mastersounds||Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds||Cooker Records|
|Roctober||Clutchy Hopkins||Walking Bachwards||Ubiquity|
|Rock Dirge Pt 1||Sly Stone||Every Dog Has His Day||Selected Sound Carrier AG|
|Josus||The New Mastersounds||Tallest Man Records||Tallest Man Records|
|Freckles||The New Mastersounds||Breaks From The Border||Tallest Man Records|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|