Spicy Jambalaya - 18 June 2018

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Teen slang from the South, and food words that are tricky to pronounce. High schoolers in Huntsville, Alabama, give Martha and Grant an earful about their slang -- including a term particular to their hometown. All we can say is: Don't be a "forf"! And: How do you pronounce the name of that tasty Louisiana specialty: Is it JUM-buh-lye-yah or JAM-buh-lye-yah? And which syllable do you stress when pronouncing the spice spelled T-U-R-M-E-R-I-C? Finally, the word spelled W-A-T-E-R is of course pretty simple . . . so you might be surprised it can be pronounced at LEAST 15 different ways! Plus gnat flat, looking brave, vog, Russian mountains, high hat, whisker fatigue, chi hoo -- eh, fuggedaboudit!

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During a visit to Lee High School in Huntstville, Alabama, we collect a treasure trove of slang, including a term that seems to be particular to the Huntsville area: forf, which as a verb means to fail to follow through on commitments, and as a noun denotes the kind of person who does that, or in other words, a flake. Thanks to our friends at WLRH in Huntsville for inviting us.

Jared in Liberty, New York, wonders when and how the term Fuggedaboudit originated and how came to be popularly associated with the New York metropolitan area. The films of Martin Scorsese had a lot to do with that. The word doesn't always literally mean forget about it; it can also be used to mean No problem! or Certainly!

The Spanish term for rollercoaster, montana rusa, or "Russian mountain," refers to the earliest versions of rollercoasters, which were Russian slopes for sled built from wood and covered with ice. Oddly enough, the Russian for roller coaster translates as "American mountain."

Pearl, a youngster in Massachusetts, asks how to pronounce the name of the East Indian spice turmeric.The accent falls on the first syllable, and pronouncing that first r sound is optional.

Students at Lee High School in Huntstville, Alabama use the slang terms snack and whole meal. A snack is an attractive person, and if you're better than a snack, you're a whole meal!

"Rhyme and Time" is the name of this week's puzzle from Quiz Guy John Chaneski. All the answers are rhyming words separated by the word and. For example, what do you call the technique for narrowing the aspect ratio of a wide-screen movie so it will fit on your TV screen?

Peg in Papillion, Nebraska, has been reading Winston Graham's Poldark series, which is set in Cornwall around the turn of the 19th century. The characters sometimes greet each other with You're looking brave. Although brave usually means courageous, it's also been used to mean finely dressed or excellent. This sense also appears in the related Scots term brawf and as well as braw, all of which may derive from the Italian word bravo, meaning good or brave.

Aiya from Toronto, Canada, finds that whenever he moves to a new location, he adopts some of the local dialect, which feels a bit uncomfortable. At one point, for example, he found himself unable to recall if he used on accident or by accident to refer to something that happened accidentally. It's natural to pick up some of the lingo of those around you, so no need to overthink it. In the case of the phrases on accident versus and by accident, though, something very interesting is going on.

The housing shortage in crowded urban areas has led to ever smaller domiciles known as micro-units. Even smaller ones are sometimes called nano units or gnat flats.

Gary from Santa Maria, California, has been arguing with a friend for years over how to pronounce that tasty Louisiana mix of meat, vegetables, and rice called jambalaya.

Vog is the air pollution caused when sulphur dioxide and other volcanic gases react with oxygen. The word vog is a portmanteau of volcano and fog.

Martha reads the poem "Instructions on Not Giving Up" by the poet Ada Limon. Used with permission.

Rachel from San Diego wonders whether the exuberant Hawaiian cry Chi hoo! is onomatopoetic--that is, if the sound of the word resembles what it actually denotes. The cry is not originally Hawaiian. It's a version of the Samoan war cry known as a fa'aamu or sisu or ususu. The Honolulu Advertiser's Lee Cataluna has written about its use in Hawaii.

In South Africa, the word spookasem is a term for cotton candy, although it literally translates as ghost's breath. Elsewhere in the English-speaking word, the sweet stuff is called candy floss or fairy floss.

Cindy in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is going through her mother's diary from the 1930's and finds the term high hat used as a transitive verb. To high hat someone means to act in a supercilious, condescending, affected manner, as if wearing a high hat. In a someone similar way today, the slang term to cap someone can mean to be boastful.

In the United States alone, there are 15 different pronunciations of the word water!

Cats' whiskers, or vibrissae, are exceedingly sensitive. If a cat seems reluctant to eat out of a particular bowl, she may be bothered by whisker fatigue.

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

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