A Way with Words — language, linguistics, and callers from all overAuthor: Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, produced by Stefanie Levine
18 Aug 2018

A Way with Words — language, linguistics, and callers from all over

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A fun weekly radio show about language seen through culture, history, and family. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers who have questions and stories about linguistics, old sayings, word histories, etymology, regional dialects, slang, new words, word play, word games, grammar, family expressions, books, literature, writing, and more. Email your language questions to words@waywordradio.org or call with your questions toll-free *any* time in the U.S. and Canada at 1 (877) 929-9673. From elsewhere in the world: +1 619 800 4443. All past shows are free: http://waywordradio.org/. On Twitter at http://twitter.com/wayword.

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    Criss Cross Applesauce

    How do languages change and grow? Does every language acquire new words in the same way? Martha and Grant focus on how that process happens in English and Spanish. Plus, the stories behind the Spanish word "gringo" and the old instruction to elementary school students to sit "Indian Style." Finally, the English equivalents of German sayings provide clever ways to think about naps, procrastination, lemons, and more. Also: catawampus, raunchy, awful vs. awesome, Man Friday, and no-see-ums.

    FULL DETAILS

    If you're looking forlorn and at a loss, a German speaker might describe you with a phrase that translates as "ordered but not picked up." It's as if you're a forgotten pizza sitting on a restaurant counter.

    Sitting on the floor Indian style, with one's legs crossed, is a reference to Native Americans' habit of sitting that way, a practice recorded early in this country's history in the journals of French traders. Increasingly, though, schools across the United States are replacing this expression with the term criss-cross applesauce. In the United Kingdom, however, this way of sitting is more commonly known as Turkish style or tailor style.

    A nine-year-old from Yuma, Arizona, wants to know the origin of catawampus. So do etymologists. Catawampus means "askew," "awry," or "crooked." We do know the word has been around for more than a century, and is spelled many different ways, such as cattywampus and caddywampus. It may derive from the Scots word wampish, meaning to "wriggle," "twist," or "swerve."


    How sour is it? If you speak German, you might answer with a phrase that translates as "That's so sour it will pull the holes in your socks together."

    A sixth-grade teacher in San Antonio, Texas, is skeptical about a story that the gringo derives from a song lyric. He's right. The most likely source of this word is the Spanish word for "Greek," griego, a term applied to foreigners much the same way that English speakers might say that an unintelligible language is Greek to me. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, imitated the sound of foreigners with the word barbaroi, the source of our own word barbarian.

    The board game Clue inspired this week's puzzle from our Quiz Guy John Chaneski. It also inspired him to create an online petition to give Mrs. White a doctor's degree.

    What's the meaning of the word raunchy? A woman in Indianapolis, Indiana, thinks it means something naughty or ribald, but to her husband's family, the word can mean "icky" or otherwise "unpleasant." She learned this when one of them mentioned that her husband's grandfather was feeling raunchy. What they mean was that he had a bad cold. The word raunchy has undergone a transformation over the years, from merely "unkempt" or "sloppy" to "coarse" and "vulgar."

    A German idiom for "I'm going to take a nap" translates as "I have to take a look at myself from the inside."

    A native of Colombia wants to know: Do different languages add new words in similar ways? He believes that Spanish, for example, is far less open to innovation than English.

    Awesome and awful may have the same root, but they've evolved opposite meanings. Awful goes back more than a thousand years, originally meaning "full of awe" and later, "causing dread." Awesome showed up later and fulfills a different semantic role, meaning "fantastic" or "wonderful."

    More listeners weigh in on our earlier discussion about the word gypsy, and whether it's to be avoided.

    A listener in Norwich, Connecticut, is going through a trove of love letters her parents sent each other during World War II. In one of them, her father repeatedly used the word hideous in an ironic way to mean "wonderful." Is that part of the slang of the time?

    An astute German phrase about procrastination translates as "In the evening, lazy people get busy."

    A young woman is puzzled when her boyfriend's father says he was looking for someone who needs a Good Boy Friday. It's most likely a reference to Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe. The title character spends 30 years on a remote tropical island, and eventually saves the life of an islander who becomes his helper. Crusoe decides to call him Friday, since that's the day of the week when they first encountered each other. Over time, English speakers began using the term Man Friday to mean a manservant or valet, and later the term Girl Friday came to mean an office assistant or secretary.

    The term no-see-ums refers to those pesky gnats that come out in the heat and humidity and are so tiny they're almost invisible. The term goes back at least as far as the 1830's, and is heard particularly in the Northeastern United States.

    This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett.

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Podcast listeners, contact us with your questions and comments! Email words@waywordradio.org or call toll-free 24 hours a day (877) 929-9673 in the US and Canada. Everywhere else call +1 (619) 800-4443.
    https://waywordradio.org/
    Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. All rights reserved.


  • Posted on 13 Aug 2018

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    Whistle Pig (Rebroadcast) - 6 August 2018

    The stories behind slang, political and otherwise. The dated term "jingoism" denotes a kind of belligerent nationalism. But the word's roots lie in an old English drinking-house song that was popular during wartime. Speaking of fightin' words, the expression "out the side of your neck" came up in a feud between Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa--and let's just say the phrase is hardly complimentary. Finally, a German publishing company has declared that the top slang term among that country's youth is a name for someone who's completely absorbed in his cell phone. That word is...Smombie! And if you're guessing that Smombie comes from "zombie," you're right. Plus, thaw vs. unthaw, dinner vs. supper, groundhog vs. whistle pig, riddles galore, speed bumps and sleeping policemen, pirooting around, and kick into touch.

    FULL DETAILS

    Riddle: This two-syllable word has five letters. If you remove letters from it one by one, its pronunciation is still the same.

    A husband and wife have a heated dispute. The topic? Whether thaw and unthaw mean the same thing.

    What English speakers call speed bumps or sleeping policemen go by different names in various parts of the Spanish-speaking world. In Argentina, traffic is slowed by lomos de burro, or "burro's backs." In Puerto Rico that bump in the road is a muerto, or "dead person." In Mexico, those things are called topes, a word that's probably onomatopoetic.

    A St. Petersburg, Florida, listener says when she used to ask her mother what was for dinner, her mom's answer was often Root little pig or die, meaning "You'll have to fend for yourself." An older version, root hog or die, goes all the way back to the memoirs of Davy Crockett, published in 1834. It refers to a time when hogs weren't fenced in and had to find most of their own food.

    The German publisher Langenscheidt declared Smombie as the Youth Word of the Year for 2015. A portmanteau of the German borrowings Smartphone and Zombie, Smombie denotes someone so absorbed in their small, glowing screen that they're oblivious to the rest of the world. Runner-up words included merkeln, "to do nothing" or "to decide nothing"--a reference to Chancellor Angela Merkel's deliberate decision-making style--and Maulpesto, or "halitosis"-- literally, "mouth pesto."

    Puzzle Person John Chaneski proffers problems pertaining to the letter P. What alliterative term, for example, also means "wet blanket"?

    A San Antonio, Texas, caller wonders: What's a good word for a shortcut that ends up taking much longer than the recommended route? You might call the opposite of a shortcut a longcut, or perhaps even a longpaste. But there's also the joking faux-Latinate term circumbendibus, first used in 17th-century England to mean "a roundabout process."

    A listener from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, sent us this riddle: I begin at the end. I am constant but never the same. I am frequently captured but never possessed. What am I?

    Jingoism, or "extreme nationalism," derives from a drinking-hall song popular in the 1870's, with the belligerent refrain: "We don't want to fight but by jingo if we do / We've got the ships, we've got the men, and got the money too / We've fought the Bear before and while we're Britons true / The Russians shall not have Constantinople." The term jingo came to denote "fervent patriot espousing an aggressive foreign policy."

    In rugby and soccer to kick into touch means to "kick a ball out of play." The phrase by extension can mean to "take some kind of action so that a decision is postponed" or otherwise get rid of a problem.

    The Twitter feud between Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa has a listener wondering about the phrase talk out the side of your neck, meaning to "talk trash about someone." It's simply a variation of talking out of the side of one's mouth.

    When they happen to say the same word at the very same time, many children play a version of the Jinx! game that ends with the declaration, You owe me a Coke! Martha shares an old version from the Ozarks that ends with a different line: What goes up the chimney? Smoke!

    Many listeners responded to our conversation about the use of the term auntie to refer to an older woman who is not a blood relative. It turns out that throughout much of Africa, Asia, as well as among Native Americans, the word auntie, or its equivalent in another language, is commonly used as a term of respect for an older woman who is close to one's family but not related by blood.

    A Las Vegas, Nevada, listener says her South Dakota-born mother always refers to supper as the last meal of the day and dinner as the largest meal of the day. It's caused some confusion in the family. Linguist Bert Vaux has produced dialect maps of the United States showing that in fact quite a bit of variation in the meaning of these terms depending on which part of the country you're from.

    How do you make the number one disappear? (You can do it if you add a letter.)

    Whistle pig, woodchuck, and groundhog are all terms for a type of large squirrel, or marmot, found in the United States. The name whistle pig, common in Appalachia, is a jocular reference to the sound they make.

    On our Facebook group, a listener posted a photo of a doubletake-worthy sign in her local grocery, which reads We Now Offer Boxes to Bag Your Groceries.

    Pirooting around can means "whirling around," as well as "prowling" or "nosing around." This expression is most commonly heard in the American South and Southwest. Piroot is most likely a variant of pirouette and is probably influenced by root, as in root around. Similarly, rootle is a dialectal term that means to "root around" or "poke about."

    What do you call that force that keeps you lounging on the couch rather than get up the energy to go outdoors? A listener calls it house gravity.

    This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett.

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Podcast listeners, contact us with your questions and comments! Email words@waywordradio.org or call toll-free 24 hours a day (877) 929-9673 in the US and Canada. Everywhere else call +1 (619) 800-4443.
    https://waywordradio.org/
    Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. All rights reserved.


  • Posted on 06 Aug 2018

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    Up Your Alley - 30 July 2018

    Martha and Grant have book recommendations, including a collection of short stories inspired by dictionaries, and a techno-thriller for teens. Or, how about novels with an upbeat message? Publishers call this genre "up lit." Plus, a clergyman ponders an arresting phrase in the book Peter Pan: What does the author mean when he says that children can be “gay and innocent and heartless”? Finally, watch out: if you spend money freely, you just might be called . . . . a dingthrift. Plus, waterfalling, pegan, up a gump stump, spendthrift, vice, cabochon, cultural cringe, welsh, and neat but not gaudy.

    FULL DETAILS

    The slang term birdie refers to drinking from a bottle without touching it with your lips. You might ask for a sip, for example, by promising Don't worry--I'll birdie it. This sanitary sipping method is also jokingly called waterfalling.

    A listener in Southampton, New York, puzzles over the language at the end of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, in which the narrator assures that the story will continue so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless. What does heartless mean in this context?

    If you're a pegan, then your diet is limited to a combination of paleo and vegan.

    Judy from Tallahassee, Florida, is curious about the word spendthrift, which means someone who spends money freely. The word thrift in this case means wealth, and is the past participle of thrive. A more obvious word that means the same thing: spendall. Another is dingthrift, someone who dings, or makes a dent in, their savings.

    The term cultural cringe refers to a tendency to regard one's own culture as inferior to that of another.

    Quiz Guy John Chaneski's shares Writer's Math, a puzzle in which the names of numbers hidden within consecutive letters in a sentence. For example, what number lurks in the sentence Launch yourself on every wave?

    Alice in Atlanta, Georgia, seeks a term for an adult who has lost both their parents. The best that English can offer is probably adult orphan or elder orphan.    

    Vice is a noun meaning bad behavior, but it's also an adjective referring to an official who is second in command.  Karen, a seventh-and-eighth-grade history teacher in Waco, Texas, says her students wonder why. These two senses of vice come from two separate Latin words: vice, meaning in place of, and vitium, meaning fault or blemish. The two English descendants of these words ended up being spelled exactly the same way, even though they mean completely different things.

    The little-used word famulus means assistant, and originally referred to the assistant of a sorcerer or scholar.

    Rod in LaPorte, Indiana, has Welsh ancestry, and always wondered if the expressions to welsh on a bet suggests that the Welsh are dishonest. The verb to welsh and the noun welsher are  indeed mild ethnic slurs. To welsh dates back to at least the 1850s, and because it may offend, should be replaced by other words such as renege, waffle, or flip-flop. Similarly, taffy, another old word for the Welsh, long carried similar connotations of being a habitual liar and cheater.

    Chandler from Chesapeake, Virginia, wonder about a term her in-laws use to mean in abundance, as in We have strawberries up the gump stump. The expression seems to have evolved from an earlier phrase possum up a gum tree or possum up a gum stump, referring to a hunted animal that's trapped. Over time, it became the rhyming phrase up a gump stump, and like the phrase up the wazoo, came to mean in abundance.

    Book recommendation time! Martha's reading Dictionary Stories by Jez Burrows, short stories based on example sentences from dictionaries, and Grant recommends Julia Durango's The Leveler, a techno-thriller for teens about virtual worlds.

    Named for anesthesiologist Dr. Virginia Apgar, the Apgar score--a measure of a newborn's appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration--is both an eponym and an acronym.


    Publishers use the term up lit to describe contemporary novels with an upbeat message focusing on kindness and empathy.

    Shawn, who lives in Washington State, is used to hearing the phrase right up your alley to describe something that's particularly fitting for someone. Then she heard a British vlogger use the phrase right up your street in the same way. Since the early 1900s, the phrases right up one's alley, or right down one's alley, or the more old-fashioned in one's street, all mean pretty much the same thing. Both up one's alley and up one's street suggest the idea of a place that's quite familiar. In its original sense, alley meant a wide space lined with trees, deriving from the French alee.

    Publishers use the term up lit to describe contemporary novels with an upbeat message focusing on kindness and empathy.

    To have one's work cut out comes from an earlier phrase to have all one's work cut out. Picture a tailor who's working as fast as possible with the help of an assistant who's cutting out the pieces to be sewn. If you have your work cut out for you, you have a big job ahead, with a series of smaller tasks coming at you thick and fast.

    A cabochon is a convex gem or bead that's highly polished but not faceted.

    Scott from Copper Canyon, Texas, wonders about a expression he heard from his childhood in the Deep South: neat but not gaudy. He understood it to mean appropriate, but not over the top. The expression goes back to 1600s and has many variations. Early versions and elaborations included as Neat but not gaudy, said the devil when he painted his tail pea-green, or Neat but not gaudy, said the devil when he tied up his tail with a red ribbon. Sometimes the artistic creature was a monkey.

    Twitter user @crookedroads770 observed that his two-year-old son referred to an owl as a wood penguin.

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

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Podcast listeners, contact us with your questions and comments! Email words@waywordradio.org or call toll-free 24 hours a day (877) 929-9673 in the US and Canada. Everywhere else call +1 (619) 800-4443.
    https://waywordradio.org/
    Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. All rights reserved.


  • Posted on 30 Jul 2018

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    Piping Hot - 23 July 2018

    The game of baseball has always inspired colorful commentary. Sometimes that means using familiar words in unfamiliar ways. The word "stuff," for example, can refer to a pitcher's repertoire, or to the spin on a ball, or what happens to the ball after a batter hits it. Also: nostalgia for summer evenings and fond terms for fireflies, plus a word to describe that feeling when your favorite restaurant closes for good. "Noshtalgia," anyone? And: homonyms, forswunk, sweetbreads, get on the stick, back friend, farblonjet, and taco de ojo.

    FULL DETAILS

    Fireflies have lots of different names in English, including lightning bug, lighter fly, glowworm, and third-shift mosquito. These insects have similarly poetic names in other languages. In Brazil, it's a vagalume or wandering light, and the Hebrew term for it translates as little ember or little spark.

    Jeff, a junior-high band director from Lafayette, Indiana, led a spring concert as part of the Bernstein at 100 celebration featuring work by Leonard Bernstein (pronounced BERN-steyn) as well as composer Elmer Bernstein (pronounced BERN-steen). Since these surnames are spelled the same, but pronounced differently, Jeff wonders: Are they homographs, homonyms, or heteronyms?

    To be forswunk means to be totally worn out from overwork. It's from forswink, meaning to exhaust by labor.

    Chelsea says that after moving from the Midwest to Norfolk, Virginia, she was confused by traffic reports indicating that a local bridge was open. Turns out the bridge is a drawbridge, and by open, the announcers were saying that the bridge was lifted for boats and barges, and therefore not open to cars. This is an example of polysemy, or the fact that words have more than one meaning. Another example is Janus words, also known as antagonyms or enantiodromes, such as cleave, which can mean either to stick together or to split.

    In Spanish, taco de ojo literally means taco of the eye, but in Mexican slang, it's the equivalent of English eye candy, or someone who's very nice to look at.

    Quiz Guy John Chaneski's puzzle involves dropping a letter from a fictional character to form the name of a new one. For example, if the clue is: He once used the Force to turn people to the Dark Side, but now all he does is hang out in bars and toss pointy objects at a board, who would that fictional character be?

    Kevin, a longtime vegetarian in St. Louis, Missouri, queasily recounts how he accidentally ordered sweetbreads in a fancy restaurant, thinking they were some kind of deep-fried bread, only to discover that it's a kind of meat--a thymus gland, or the pancreas of a lamb. The origin of the misleading term sweetbreads is uncertain. In his book Cupboard Love, Mark Morton suggests that this name is a marketing ploy to make organ meat more appealing, like the similarly euphemistic terms Cape Cod turkey for codfish, Welsh rabbit for a cheese-and-toast dish, and Rocky Mountain oysters for deep-fried bull testicles.

    Like the brand name ASICS, which derives from an acronym, the name of NECCO wafers is also an acronym--at least partially. The candy takes its name from that of the New England Confectionary Company.  

    Iris from Cave Junction, Oregon, wonders about the expressions get on the stick, meaning get going, and piping hot, meaning extremely hot. While some have associated the phrase get on the stick with an automotive origin, a more likely etymology involves an old dialectal use of stick meaning a rate of speed, and to cut stick meaning to go away quickly. Piping hot, on the other hand, refers to liquid so hot that it forces a kettle to make a whistling sound. Similarly, the Japanese dish shabu-shabu has a name imitative of its piping-hot, hissing broth.

    What do you call a firefly in Jamaica? A peenie-wallie. For a lovely use of this term, check out Valerie Bloom's poem Two Seasons. Better yet, listen to the audio.

    Katie from Mansfield, Texas, is curious about the term ruthless meaning merciless or having no remorse. In the 13th century, the word ruth meant the quality of being compassionate. Ruthless appeared in the language shortly thereafter, but the word ruth itself faded away. Linguists refer to such terms as unpaired words or missing opposites. Another example is disconsolate; although the word consolate was used centuries ago, it's no longer used today.

    Stepmother's blessing is a slang term for hangnail.

    Ben in Sydney, Australia, writes with a suggestion for a word describing that feeling you get upon discovering that your favorite restaurant has closed. He calls it noshtalgia, and shares a touching story about his own experience with it. Noshtalgia, he says, is a combination of nosh, meaning to eat, and nostalgia, from Greek words that literally mean return home pain.

    Sarah from Leyden, Massachusetts, wonders about the many ways baseball commentators and sportswriters use the word stuff, as in The stuff is there, but the command is off, or The kid's got great stuff, but he's only got one pitch. The term most often refers to a pitcher's repertoire, and has been used that way since at least 1905. Stuff may also refer to the spin a pitcher adds to the ball, as well as the batter's effect on the ball's trajectory. A fantastic resource for all such lingo is Paul Dickson's book,  The Dickson Baseball Dictionary.

    Why do we use the plural for pieces of clothing worn below the waist, like trousers, pants, shorts, and jeans?

    The expression back friend is an old term that means an enemy who pretends to be a friend. It's more insidious than the modern coinage, frenemy.

    Elliott, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, asks about the Yiddish word variously spelled farblonjet, farblunget, and other ways, meaning lost, befuddled, confused. It may derive from a Polish term meaning to go astray.

    The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form, also known as OEDILF, includes a limerick by Sheila B. Blume that illustrates the use of the Yiddish word farblunget, meaning confused or befuddled.

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

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Podcast listeners, contact us with your questions and comments! Email words@waywordradio.org or call toll-free 24 hours a day (877) 929-9673 in the US and Canada. Everywhere else call +1 (619) 800-4443.
    https://waywordradio.org/
    Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. All rights reserved.


  • Posted on 23 Jul 2018

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    Copacetic (Rebroadcast) - 16 July 2018

    Brand names, children's games, and the etiquette of phone conversations. Those clever plastic PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes -- but where did the word PEZ come from? The popular candy's name is the product of wordplay involving the German word for "peppermint." Also, the story behind that sing-songy playground taunt: "Neener, neener, NEEEEEEEEEEner!" Listen closely, and you'll hear the same melody as other familiar children's songs. Finally, the process of ending a phone conversation is much more complex than you might think. Linguists call this verbal choreography "leave-taking." It's less about the literal meaning of the words and more about finding a way to agree it's time to hang up. Also, Hold 'er Newt, copacetic, drupelet, pluggers, pantywaist, this little piggy, and the word with the bark on it.

    FULL DETAILS

    When an Austrian candy maker needed a name for his new line of mints, he took the first, middle, and last letters of the German word Pfefferminz, or "peppermint, "to form the brand name PEZ. He later marketed the candies as an alternative for smokers, and packaged them plastic dispensers in the shape of cigarette lighters. The candy proved so popular that now PEZ dispensers come in all shapes and sizes.

    A Georgia caller says when her grandfather had to make a sudden stop while driving, he'd yell Hold 'er Newt, she smells alfalfa! This phrase, and variations like Hold 'er Newt, she's a-headin' for the pea patch, and Hold 'er Newt, she's headin' for the barn, alludes to controlling a horse that's starting to bolt for a favorite destination. Occasionally, the name is spelled Knute instead of Newt. The name Newt has long been a synonym for "dolt" or "bumpkin."

    Lord Byron continues to make readers think with these words about language: But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which make thousands, perhaps millions, think.

    Why does the playground taunt Neener, neener, neener have that familiar singsongy melody?

    Jeffrey Salzber, a theater lighting designer and college instructor from Essex Junction, Vermont, says that when explaining to students the need to be prepared for any and all possibilities, he invokes Salzberg's Theory of Pizza: It is better to have pizza you don't want, than to want pizza you don't have.

    Quiz Guy John Chaneski's latest puzzle involves changing a movie plot by adding a single letter to the original title. For example, the movie in which Melissa McCarthy plays a deskbound CIA analyst becomes a story about the same character, who's now become very old, but still lively and energetic.

    Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Although there are many proposed etymologies for the word copacetic, the truth is no one knows the origin of this word meaning "fine" or "extremely satisfactory."

    A drupe is a fleshy fruit with a pit, such as a cherry or peach. A drupelet is a smaller version, such as the little seeded parts that make up a raspberry or blackberry. It was the similarity of druplets to a smartphone's keyboard that helped professional namers come up with the now-familiar smartphone name, Blackberry.

    A caller from University Park, Maryland, wonders what's really going on when someone says That's a great question. As it turns out, that is a great question.

    This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had corned beef and cabbage, this little piggy had none. At least, that's the way a caller from Sebastian, Florida, remembers the children's rhyme. Most people remember the fourth little piggy eating roast beef. Did you say it a different way? Tell us about it.

    The Japanese developers of an early camera named it Kwannon, in honor of the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Later, the company changed the name to Canon.

    A Zionsville, Indiana, man recalls that when his mother issued a warning to her kids, she would add for emphasis: And that's the word with the bark on it. The bark in this case refers to rough-hewn wood that still has bark on it--in other words, it's the pure, unadorned truth.

    A customer-service representative from Seattle, Washington, is curious about the phrases people use as a part of leave-taking when they're finishing a telephone conversation. Linguists who conduct discourse analysis on such conversations say these exchanges are less about the statements' literal meaning and more about ways of coming to a mutual agreement that it's time to hang up. Incidentally, physicians whose patients ask the most important questions or disclose key information just as the doctor is leaving refer to this as doorknobbing or getting doorknobbed.

    Tokuji Hayakawa was an early-20th-century entrepreneur whose inventions included a mechanical pencil he called the Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil, and later renamed the Ever-Sharp Pencil. Over time his company branched into other types of inventions, and its name was eventually shortened to Sharp.

    A rock or particle of debris out in space is called a meteoroid. If it enters the earth's atmosphere, it's a called meteor. So why is it called a meteorite when it falls to earth?

    If someone's called a pantywaist, they're being disparaged as weak or timid. The term refers to a baby garment popular in the early 20th century that snapped at the waist. Some people misunderstand the term as pantywaste or panty waste, but that's what linguists jokingly call an eggcorn.

    A pair of Australian men interrupted their night of partying to foil a robbery, and captured much of it on video. They went on to give a hilarious interview about it all, in which one mentioned that he "tripped over a sign and busted my plugger." The word plugger is an Aussie name for the type of rubber footwear also known as a flip-flop.

    This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett.

    --

    A Way with Words is funded by its listeners: http://waywordradio.org/donate

    Podcast listeners, contact us with your questions and comments! Email words@waywordradio.org or call toll-free 24 hours a day (877) 929-9673 in the US and Canada. Everywhere else call +1 (619) 800-4443.
    https://waywordradio.org/
    Copyright Wayword, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation. All rights reserved.


  • Posted on 16 Jul 2018

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