Ding Ding Man - 29 October 2018

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In 1803, a shy British pharmacist wrote a pamphlet that made him a reluctant celebrity. The reason? He proposed a revolutionary new system for classifying clouds--with Latin names we still use today, like cumulus, cirrus, and stratus. Also: when reading aloud to children, what's the best way to present a dialect that's different from your own? Finally, recycling our trash demands close attention. Professionals in the recycling business say it's important to be sure that an item is truly recyclable. If you're only guessing when you toss it in the blue bin, then you're engaging in wishcycling -- and that does more harm than good. Plus, T Jones, diegetic vs. non-diegetic, affixes, solastalgia, and since Sooki was a calf.

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On Twitter, @HerbertStyles ponders what it would be like if all the punctuation marks went to a party.

Katrina in Williamsburg, Virginia, asks if it's pretentious to use the word said to describe something previously referred to. Using said to mean the aforesaid or the aforementioned is far more common in legal documents, but there's nothing inherently incorrect about using it in other contexts, or using it in an ironic or jocular way in social media. In fact, speakers of English have been using said this way for more than 700 years.

In film production, the term diegetic refers to a sound that occurs within the story itself that the characters supposedly hear, whereas non-diegetic sound refers to background music or narration. For example, the tune played by the pianist in Casablanca is diegetic, while the stirring background music during the training sequences in the movie Rocky is non-diegetic. Diegetic comes from a Greek word that means narrative.

Brad from Allen, Texas, is curious about a slang term he's heard only in Texas, used to refer affectionately to a mother or grandmother: T Jones. Most uses of this term for a parent or grandmother seem to occur in the Dallas area. It's been around since the 1970s, but not much more is known about the expression or its origin.

Recycling companies discourage what they call wish-cycling. That's when people err on the side of tossing a questionable item in the recycling bin, like a tinfoil lid from a cup of yogurt or some other material that they hope is recyclable. Those items can gum up the works at the Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF, causing costly delays or damage.

How is a popular tune like a butterfly? Quiz Guy John Chaneski says the answer to this riddle involves an adjective ending in the letter Y. So do all the other answers in this week's puzzle.

Cara in San Diego, California, notes that the word monologue refers to something spoken by one person while dialogue involves two people speaking, and that a bicycle, has two wheels, and a unicycle has one. So why aren't they monocycles and dicycles? The di- in dialogue is from the Greek word dia- meaning through. For a thorough exploration of these and other affixes in English, check out Michael Quinion's affixes.org.

Solastalgia is psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change, or by change to a place that has been familiar. Coined by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, solastalgia combines the Greek root -algia, meaning pain, and solas-, suggesting both desolation and a lack of solace.

Monica in Tallahassee, Florida, says that while reading the book Flossie and the Fox to her children, she wondered: What's the right way for a parent to render dialect if the dialect is not one's own?

Gerald from San Diego, California, says his mother, who was from North Carolina, used the phrase since Sooki was a calf to mean for a long time. The words sook and sookie are among many traditionally used to call cows from the pasture. The phrase since Sooki was a calf falls in line with several other fanciful phrases to indicate a long time, including since Hector was a pup or since Pluto was a pup or since Christ left Chicago.

In the early 19th, a shy British chemist named Luke Howard self-published a pamphlet called Essay on the Modifications of Clouds, which proposed a taxonomy of cloud formations. To his surprise, the pamphlet captured the public imagination, turned Howard into a reluctant celebrity, and inspired artists from the German writer Goethe to the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The Latin terms Howard proposed for various types of clouds, such as cirrus, stratus, and cumulus, are still in use today.

Rod from Dallas, Texas, recalls that when something wasn't quite right, his favorite aunt, who was born and raised in Arkansas, would exclaim Don't that just frost ya?

Inspired by Luke Howard's groundbreaking Essay on the Modifications of Clouds, the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley penned his poem The Cloud, an example of personification.

Mike from Green Bay, Wisconsin, says his dad claims to have coined the term radke for a half-finished beer, and that the term is widespread. Is it? More widespread and well-documented terms for such unfinished drinks are wounded soldier and grenade.

Rachel, who moved from Nebraska to attend school in College Park, Maryland, says her friends were surprised when she referred to the driver of an ice cream truck as the ding ding man. Indeed, this term seems to be limited largely to Omaha, Nebraska, and parts of that state. The term ding ding man has also been applied to the conductor of a trolley car.

Tracy in northern Idaho writes that her young son refers to egg nog as chicken milk.

This episode is hosted by Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette.

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