Why do spelling bees include such bizarre, obsolete words as cymotrichous? Why is New York called the Big Apple? Also, the stinky folk medicine tradition called an asifidity bag, the surprising number of common English phrases that come directly from the King James Bible, three sheets to the wind, the term white elephant, in like Flynn, Australian slang, and what to call foam sleeve for an ice-cold beverage can.
Tagged with “spelling” (6)
If you’re in Bangladesh, the expression that translates as “oiling your mustache in anticipation of the jackfruit tree bearing fruit” makes perfect sense. In English, it means “don’t count your chickens.”
A discussion thread on Reddit with this and many other examples has Martha and Grant talking about odd idioms in other languages.
A Marine stationed in California says that growing up in North Carolina, he understood the expression fixin’ to mean “to be about to.”
Some office workers say their word processor’s spellchecker always flags the words overnighted and overnighting. Are those words acceptable in a business environment?
“You really love peeled potatoes.” That’s a translation of a Venezuelan idiom describing someone who’s lazy. Grant and Martha share other idioms from South America.
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a word puzzle called “Blank My Blank.”
A woman in Burlington, Vermont, says her mother used to use the expression land o’ Goshen! to express surprise or amazement. Where is Goshen?
A Yankee transplant to the South says that restaurant servers are confused when he tells them, “I’m all set.” Is he all set to continue his meal, or all set to leave?
A woman in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, remembers a ditty she learned from her mother about “thirty purple birds,” but with a distinctive pronunciation that sounds more like “Toidy poipel blackbirds / Sittin’ on a coibstone / Choipin’ and boipin’ / And eatin’ doity oithworms.” Here’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers version.
Martha offers excellent writing advice from the former editor of People magazine, Landon Y. Jones.
A former Texan wonders if only Texans use the terms Mamaw and Papaw instead of Grandma and Grandpa.
Martha shares some Argentine idioms, including one that translates as “What a handrail!” for “What a bad smell!”
A West Point graduate says he and fellow members of the military use the expression He has seen the elephant to mean “He’s seen combat.” Grant explains that this expression originated outside the military.
Do you flesh out a plan or flush out a plan?
Another Argentine idiom goes arrugaste como frenada de gusano. It means “You were scared,” but literally, it’s “You wrinkled like a stopping worm.”
Have you ever been Plutoed (demoted)? Is your inbox clogged with "bacn" (spam by personal request)? Are you a lifehacker (master at optimizing everyday routines)? Jonathon Keats, artist and author of Virtual Words, explains how science and technology influence language, and vice versa.
Incensed by a "no tresspassing" sign, Jeff Deck launched a cross-country trip to right grammatical wrongs.
He enlisted a friend, Benjamin D. Herson, and together they got to work erasing errant quotation marks, rectifying misspellings and cutting unnecessary possessive apostrophes.
The Great Typo Hunt is the story of their crusade.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been circling the globe, hitting the reset button on America’s foreign relations. But then someone at the State Department tried - and failed - to translate “reset” into Russian. Russians know all a synonym of reset, thanks to the Matrix franchise. Now the Kremlin is urging more Americans to learn Russian. Also, middle class Pakistanis prefer English to Urdu. Plus, a new e-book on the historical roots and enduring appeal of spelling the Canadian English way. Now, just what is it about spelling that gets people so agitated? It’s only a matter of time till someone goes to war over this.
Joe appears on The Agenda with Steve Paikin to discuss Imagining the 21st Century Transit System. He suggest playing a drinking game while you’re listening to this: “Every time I utter the phrase “rock solid,” take a sip of soyaccino.”