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A Way with Words



A radio program and podcast about language.



Last Build Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2018 19:39:48 +0000

 



Crusticles and Fenderbergs

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 19:39:48 +0000

A second-generation Filipino-American finds that when he speaks English, his personality is firm, direct, and matter-of-fact. But when he speaks with family members in Tagalog, he feels more soft-spoken, kind, and respectful. Research shows that when our linguistic context shifts, so does our sense of culture. • Why do we describe movies that are humorously [...]


Media Files:
http://feeds.waywordradio.org/~r/awwwpodcast/~5/4WISlLRpF8o/180212-AWWW-Crusticles-and-Fenderbergs.mp3




Bun in the Oven

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 20:24:51 +0000

How many different ways are there to say you have a baby on the way? You can say you’re pregnant, great with child, clucky, awkward, eating for two, lumpy, or swallowed a pumpkin seed? • The story behind the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It’s older than the Mary Poppins movie. • Made-up foreignisms, like the one you [...]


Media Files:
http://feeds.waywordradio.org/~r/awwwpodcast/~3/ZhPfBv2kNN4/180205-AWWW-Bun-in-the-Oven.mp3




Uropygium

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

The scientific name for that part of a fowl otherwise known as the pope’s nose or the bishop’s nose is uropygium. The Greek root of this word, pyge, meaning “rump,” is also found in the English adjectives callipygian, which means having a shapely butt, and dasypygal, which means having hairy buttocks. This is part of [...]



Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is Older Than Mary Poppins

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

The mouthful supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is often associated with the song by the same name in the 1964 movie Mary Poppins. But versions of this word were around for decades, including in a 1949 song called “Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus.” That similarly formed the basis of an unsuccessful copyright infringement lawsuit against brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, who wrote the [...]



Awvish

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

If you’re not feeling quite right, you might describe yourself as awvish. This dialectal term used in parts of Northern England may derive from a local pronunciation of the word half. This is part of a complete episode.



Towards vs. Toward

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Which is correct, toward or towards, meaning in the direction of? If you’re in the United States, the far more common term is toward. This is part of a complete episode.



Grandmother = One Pound

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Our earlier conversation about gram weenies, another name for ultralight backpackers, prompted a San Diego, California, man to write with the story of Bill Lear, the inventor of the LearJet, who once said he’d trade his own grandmother for a one-pound reduction of weight in the design of one of his aircraft. As a result, [...]



What’s Cookin’?

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A San Diego, California, man says a colleague jokingly greets him with “What’s cookin’ good lookin’?” It’s a version of a question popularized by a Hank Williams song that goes “Hey, good-lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” This greeting goes back to at least the 1920s. This is part of a complete episode.



Little Known Meanings of List and Blow

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

The rarely used English noun list, meaning desire or craving, is entirely different from the word list that denotes a series of things. The little-used meaning is at the root of the term listless, which in its original sense meant a lack of desire. Similarly, the word listy is an old term that means desirous. [...]



Easrspace

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A Black Mountain, North Carolina, man is trying to popularize the word earspace, which he feels can be used in two different ways. One sense is the available time a person has to take in something by listening, as in “I have earspace for a new podcast.” The other meaning suggests things that sound somewhat [...]



Breathe a Scab

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A Traverse City, Michigan, man is curious about the phrase his mother-in-law uses: breathing a scab. She uses it to indicate that someone who’s pushing limits or otherwise on thin ice metaphorically. The phrase is far more commonly breeding a scab, and it describes someone whose behavior risks retaliation, such as a punch in the [...]



NRG Grammagram

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Our conversation about rebuses and grammagrams prompted several listeners to note that people in scientific fields sometimes use the letters NRG as a stand-in for the word energy. This is part of a complete episode.



Wordsmith

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

The term wordsmith is formed by analogy with older words such as blacksmith, goldsmith, silversmith, and locksmith — all denoting skill and expertise with a particular medium. This is part of a complete episode.



For the Birds

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A listener in Evansville, Indiana, wonders: Why do we say when something is undesirable that it’s for the birds? This is part of a complete episode.



Rick and Morty Word Game

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle is based on a Twitter thread that involves intentionally misunderstanding the name of the adult cartoon show Rick and Morty. For example, isn’t Rick and Morty what occurs when you die and your body gets all stiff? Oh no, wait that’s…. This is part of a complete episode.



Lapidary Prose

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Lapidary prose is so elegant and precise that it’s worthy of being carved into stone. Lapidary comes from Latin lapis, meaning stone, and is related to the brilliant blue stone, lapis lazuli, and the word dilapidated, from a Latin word meaning to destroy — originally, to pelt with stones. This is part of a complete [...]



A Bird’s Bishop’s Nose

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A woman in Omaha, Nebraska, is puzzled when a friend refers to the fatty tail bump of a cooked chicken as the bishop’s nose. It may have to do with that part’s resemblance on a cooked chicken or turkey to a human nose, or perhaps to a bishop’s miter, and may reflect anti-Catholic sentiment in [...]



Ways to Say Someone is Pregnant

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A father-to-be in Susanville, California, wonders about how many different ways there are to say a woman is pregnant. He likes the term great with child, but isn’t crazy about knocked up. Fortunately, there are more than 120 terms, including: swallowed a pumpkin seed, swallowed a watermelon seed, lumpy, clucky, awkward, eating for two, to [...]



Fake Foreignisms

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 16:51:47 +0000

In our Facebook group, Laurie Stiers shared the fake German name her father used for bacon: oinkenstrippen. That prompted a discussion of other faux foreignisms, such as pronouncing Target as tar-ZHAY or Kroger as kroh-ZHAY.   This is part of a complete episode.



Flying Pickle

Mon, 29 Jan 2018 18:28:15 +0000

How would you like to be welcomed to married life by friends and neighbors descending on your home for a noisy celebration, tearing off the labels of all your canned foods and scattering cornflakes in your bed? That tradition has almost died out, but such a party used to be called a shivaree. • The [...]


Media Files:
http://feeds.waywordradio.org/~r/awwwpodcast/~3/tlqD4MvGg9Y/170129-AWWW-Flying-Pickle.mp3




James Baldwin Quote

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

In 1963, the writer James Baldwin was the subject of a profile in LIFE magazine, in which he observed, “You think your pain and heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” This is part of a complete episode.



Squinnines and Grinnies

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A woman who has spent most of her life in Des Moines, Iowa, says she’s always used the word squinny for chipmunk, but doesn’t hear it outside of her hometown. The term is definitely specific to Iowa, but an even more common word for the same striped animal in that area is grinnie. This is [...]



Can You Munch on Yogurt?

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Can you munch frozen yogurt, or does the verb to munch imply that whatever’s being eaten has some crunch or resistance to it? This is part of a complete episode.



That Smarts!

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A listener in Abilene, Texas, wonders about the expression that smarts! The verb to smart, meaning to sting or cause sharp pain, goes back more than a thousand years. The adjective smart, meaning intelligent, evolved from that sense of something sharp. This is part of a complete episode.



Flying Pickles Roam the Seas

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Among whale-watchers, the term flying pickle is used to refer to a newborn baby humpback whale breaching the surface. This is part of a complete episode.



Shivaree, Charivari

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A shivaree, also spelled charivari, is a raucous tradition of playing tricks on a newlywed couple. The practice was immortalized in the 1955 musical Oklahoma! This is part of a complete episode.



Gadarene

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

The adjective gadarene describes something headlong or precipitate, such as a gadarene rush to pass legislation. It derives from a story in the gospel of Matthew in which Jesus visits the land of the Gadarenes and casts out demons from someone possessed by them. The exorcised demons invade a herd of swine, driving the animals [...]



Is there a Difference Between Hanged and Hung?

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

An opera singer from Ontario, Canada, just finished a run of La Faniculla del West with the Virginia Opera. His character is put to death by hanging. Is it correct to say his character was hanged? Or was his character hung? This is part of a complete episode.



Pollyfox, Bollyfox

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A San Diego, California, listener recalls that growing up in Mississippi, friends and family would use the terms bollyfox or bollyfoxing, referring to a sassy way of walking. The more common version is pollyfox, meaning to waste time or lollygag. This is part of a complete episode.



Collective Noun for Librarians?

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

After Martha gave a presentation to the Special Libraries Association’s Southern California chapter, she was left wondering whether there’s a good collective noun for a group of librarians. A dewey? This is part of a complete episode.



Is it Better to Look up Unknown Words While You Read or After?

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Martha and Grant share tips and tricks for learning unfamiliar words in a book without breaking up the narrative. A handy online resource for quick lookups is OneLook.com, which lets you search several dictionaries at once. This is part of a complete episode.



Ermahgerd! A Word Puzzle!

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Quiz Guy John Chaneski’s puzzle this week was inspired by the Gersberms meme, and involves adding R sounds to book titles to create books with entirely different plots. For example what George Orwell novella would be about a horse, a duck, a dog, and several pigs, and how they get rid of people and start [...]



Bucklebuster

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

In theater slang, a bucklebuster is a line that’s sure to get a big laugh. This is part of a complete episode.



Where Does the “Plumb” in “Plumb Crazy” Come From?

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A woman in Hemet, California, wonders about plumb crazy, as in totally, completely crazy. The plumb in this case has to do with a plumb line, a line often weighted with lead to determine verticality. This plumb derives from Latin word for the element lead, plumbum, which is abbreviated on the periodic table as Pb. [...]



Yean, No, No, Yes

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Leah, a nine-year-old from Argyle, Texas, heard her mother answer a question with “No, no, no, absolutely yes.” Why did her mother seem to give contradicting answers at the same time? Short answer: there are two things going on: the surface meaning of sentence and the metanarrative. We’ve talked about yeah, no in 2015 and [...]



Avocado vs. Alvocado

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A woman in Puyallup, Washington, disagrees with her husband about the pronunciation of avocado. She pronounces it as if it were spelled alvocado, with an L, but the standard pronunciation is ah-voh-KAH-doh. A small minority of English speakers insert an l sound in the first syllable, which arises from the way the tongue works inside [...]



A Lazy Wind

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A listener shared a story in our Facebook group about hearing the term lazy wind, which refers to the kind of wind that’s so bitterly cold that it seems to go straight through you, rather than going around you. This is part of a complete episode.



Happy as Larry

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 18:49:26 +0000

New research shows that you may be less influenced by superstitious behavior like walking under ladders or the magic of four-leaf clovers if you’re reading about it in another language. • Sometimes not cursing will catch someone’s ear even more than a real curse word. • In what sport do you enjoy a glass-off and [...]


Media Files:
http://feeds.waywordradio.org/~r/awwwpodcast/~3/CQZCNIDcZWg/180122-AWWW-Happy-as-Larry.mp3




Gliding with the Locals

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Among paragliders, the expression the locals refers not to humans, but to birds. If the locals are able to soar without flapping their wings, then paragliders know that conditions are good for flying. This is part of a complete episode.



Happy as Larry Meaning and Origins

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A woman in Perote, Alabama, wonders about the phrase happy as Larry, meaning very happy. This expression is commonly heard in Britain and Australia. It may derive from a jocular reference to the biblical Lazarus, who presumably would have been happy to be raised from the dead. Or it might be some sort of rhyming [...]



Biwingual

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Someone does both paragliding and hang gliding is jokingly said to be biwingual. Really! This is part of a complete episode.



Piffle Swearing Replacement

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A Los Angeles, California, man says his mother studiously avoided swearing. Instead of a curse word, she substituted the word piffle, which was often even more effective than a four-letter word because it was so unexpected. Piffle is most likely onomatopoetic, suggesting a disgusted exhalation through pursed lips. It’s common in the United Kingdom, and [...]



Cus, Cumies, and Cumulous Clouds

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

The slang of paragliding includes the terms cus, pronounced like “cues,” and cumies, also known as cumulus clouds, which indicate good lift is available. For paragliders, the term cloud street refers to a line of cumulus clouds that stretches for miles, suggesting ideal conditions for flying. This is part of a complete episode.



John Henry Signature

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A San Antonio, Texas, woman wonders about the phrase to ask for your John Henry, meaning to ask for your signature. It’s a variant of the far more common phrase, to ask for your John Hancock, a reference to the bold signature of John Hancock, one of the original signers of the U.S. Declaration of [...]



Less Superstitious in Another Language

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

New research published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that people who speak more than one languagetend to be less superstitious if they’re reading or thinking in a different language. This is part of a complete episode.



Al Desko

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

To eat al desko is a joking term for having lunch at work without leaving the office. It’s a play on al fresco, meaning “in the openair.” This is part of a complete episode.



Go Out for the Messages

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A listener in Huntsville, Alabama, says that in her native Scotland, the phrase send out for messages means to send someone to go shopping. The phrase stems from a time when the person going out to do the shopping or run other errands would also pick up the postal mail, sometimes at the local store. [...]



Toey, an Australianism

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

Our discussion about finding a word that means both nervous but excited prompted several suggestions from listeners. A listener in Melbourne, Australia, contributed another term used in his part of the world: toey. If you’re toey, you’re full of anxious anticipation — an allusion, perhaps, to a horse pawing at the ground. This is part [...]



Live and Learn and Forget it All

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

A Fort Worth, Texas, woman remembers her grandfather used to say, “You live and learn, then you die and forget it all.” She wonders if he made it up. Turns out, the phrase goes back to the 1840s and may allude to the brevity of life or to putting trivial matters into perspective. This is [...]



What People Call a Playground Slide

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:51:47 +0000

The piece of playground equipment you slide down goes by several different names, depending on which part of the U.S. you’re from: slide, sliding board, sliding plank, and sliding pond. This is part of a complete episode.