Sept. 26, 2017

Hundreds of years ago, the word girl didn't necessarily mean a female child. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the term "girl" could refer to a child of either sex. Only later did its meaning become more specific. Plus, some people think that referring to a former spouse as an ex sounds harsh or disrespectful. So what DO you call someone you used to be involved with? Finally, the story behind the real McCoy. This term for something that's "genuine" has nothing to do with the famous feud. Also, hairy at the heels, Spanglish, nose out of joint, punctuating abbreviations, and gaywater.


Listeners respond to our discussion about what to call a baby shower for the dad-to-be, suggesting Huggies and Chuggies, beer shower, beer for diapers, diaper kegger, baby boot camp, and Baby Fat Tuesday.

Why do we describe something that's genuine or authentic as the Real McCoy?

The expression Hell's Half Acre denotes a small patch of land or a place that's otherwise undesirable, and has been around for a century and a half.

A Courtland, Alabama, woman wonders about the phrase hairy at the heel. Along with hairy-heeled, hairy about the heels, and hairy about the fetlocks, this snobby term describes someone who is considered ill-bred, and derives from the fact that non-thoroughbred horses often have tufts of hair above their hooves.

Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a fill-in-the-blank puzzle about famous hip-hop rhymes. For example, from Run DMC, there's the verse: I'm the King of Rock / There is none higher / Sucker MC's should call me _________.

A man in Carlsbad, California, contends that the word ex for "a former partner" or "a former spouse" sounds too harsh. Is there a better term besides wasband?

Responding to our discussion about what to call a baby shower for a dad-to-be, one listener suggests the term bro bath.

A man who divides his time between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, wonders if linguistic mixtures similar to Spanglish arise at other borders. Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language by Ilan Stavans, offers a comprehensive look at this phenomenon.

A Hindi proverb that means "Unity is strength" literally translates as one and one make eleven.

Why, when writing out an abbreviated name like NATO for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, don't we use periods between the letters?

When someone's buried in a cemetery, you can visit their grave. But what do you call the place where you go to visit someone's scattered ashes? Listeners ponder that question on our Facebook group.

Hundreds of years ago, the word girl could refer to a child of either sex, and the word boy applied specifically to a servant. The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary is a useful resource for understanding which terms were in common use during what period.

A listener suggests a sartorial twist on our conversation about baby showers for dads-to-be.

Why, when someone's unhappy about something, do we say someone's nose is out of joint or out of socket?

A man in Devon, England, notes that where he lives, wetting the baby's head is a term for a baby shower for a soon-to-be dad, and involves taking the man out to a pub for copious amounts of beer.

A San Diego, California, says his high school history teacher used the phrase Chop chop wiki wiki meaning "Hurry up!" The first part of this phrase comes from similar-sounding Cantonese words--the source also of the chop in chopsticks--and the second half comes from a Hawaiian word that means "quick," and is also found in the name of the online reference work that can be edited quickly, Wikipedia.

Gaywater is a Southern term for whiskey, especially the illegal variety.


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