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A Yankee Dime

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Remember misunderstanding certain words as a child? Maybe you figured “cat burglars” only stole cats, or assumed guerrilla fighters must be angry apes. Martha and Grant discuss childhood misunderstandings about language. Also this week, Yankee dimes, culch piles , hanging crepe, educational rubrics, and whether the language you speak influences the way you think. This episode first aired October 9, 2010.

Childhood Language Misunderstandings

 There’s a point when children understand just enough of their native language to be confused by homophones and metaphors. What misunderstandings do you remember? Maybe you thought cat burglars stole only cats, or that you might be swept out to sea by the undertoad? The hosts discuss childhood misunderstandings about language.

Ye Olde Letter “Y”

 Some business owners give their establishments names like “Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe.” What most people don’t realize is that the letter Y in this case is a vestige of a letter we no longer use, and has a “th” sound. More about this letter here.

Culch Piles

 A woman from upstate New York says her stepfather used to keep small dishes in various rooms to collect small odds and ends like paper clips and rubber bands. He called them culch piles. Martha has the story on this term.

Mento Stimulation Puzzle

 Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a puzzle based on the candy called “Mentos.” It’s called Mento Stimulation. Example: What kind of minty candy would be appropriate for musicians?

Paid with a Yankee Dime

 A North Carolina man says he was surprised as a child when he did a chore for his grandmother, and the Yankee dime she promised him turned out to be a peck on the cheek.

Beginning with Prepositions

 A Texas caller says her child’s middle-school teacher insists that students should never begin a sentence with a preposition. The hosts are shocked, shocked.

Harry Potter en Español

 Martha describes a funny linguistic misunderstanding she had while trying to read Harry Potter in Spanish.


 Predictive text on cellphones can result in some amusing accidental substitutions. The word for that: textonym.

Language Shaping Thought

 Does the language you speak shape how you think? The hosts discuss an essay on that topic adapted from the new book Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Buy Deutscher

Tray of Charlotte

 Reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, an Indiana listener is stopped short by the sentence “She carried a tray of charlotte.” Who or what is charlotte?

Hanging Crepe

 Someone who paints a negative or pessimistic picture is said to be hanging crepe. Martha has the origin.

Etymology of Rubric

 The word rubric derives from a Latin word for “red.” Originally, it referred to red letters used as section headings in religious texts and the like. Rubric has since become a term used in modern educational jargon, as in grading rubric. What’s the connection?

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

Photo by Ilaria. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Books Mentioned in the Episode

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Buy Deutscher
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Music Used in the Episode

Night GliderRichard “Groove” HolmesNight GliderGroove Merchant
Groovin’ For Mr. GRichard “Groove” HolmesComin’ On HomeBlue Note
Charly ThemeRavi ShankarCharly Original SoundtrackWorld Pacific
BusrideReuben WilsonBlue ModeBlue Note
Got To Get Your OwnReuben Wilson and The Cost of LivingGot To Get Your OwnCadet
Main TitleRavi ShankarCharly Original SoundtrackWorld Pacific
Flat Backin’Jack McDuffMoon Rappin’Blue Note
Let’s Call The Whole Thing OffElla Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book Verve

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