Proof in the Pudding (Rebroadcast) - 2 July 2018


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Have you ever offered to foster a dog or cat, but wound up adopting instead? There's an alliterative term for that. And when you're on the job, do niceties like "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir" make you sound too formal? Not if it comes naturally. And what about the term "auntie" (AHN-tee)? In some circles, it's considered respectful to address a woman that way, even if she's not a relative. Also, the old saying "The proof is in the pudding" makes no sense when you think about it. That's because the original meaning of pudding had nothing to do with the kind we eat for dessert today.


When people who foster rescue animals break down and adopt the animal instead, you've happily committed a foster flunk.

A native of Houston, Texas, moves to a few hundred miles north to Dallas and discovers that people there say she's wrong to call the road alongside the highway a feeder road rather than a frontage road. Actually, both terms are correct. The Texas Highway Man offers a helpful glossary of road and traffic terms, particularly those used in Texas.

A listener from Silver City, New Mexico, writes that when he was a child and pouted with his lower lip stuck out, his aunt would say Stick that out a little farther, and I'll write the Ten Commandments on it with a mop.

Snarky refers to someone or something "irritable," "sharply critical," or "ill-tempered." It goes back to a 19th-century word meaning "to snort."

According to the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, the expression throw it over the hill means "to get rid of something." In Appalachia, the phrase can also mean "wrap it up," as in bring something to a close.

Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a quiz that's all about the word for. An example: There's a cave that accommodates a large ursine mammal when it hibernates during the winter. But what's it "for"?

A listener in Billings, Montana, says his brother is an English teacher who corrects his pronunciation of forte, meaning "strong point." Pedants will insist that it should be pronounced FORT, but that reflects an assumption about its etymology that's flat-out wrong. Besides, the far more common pronunciation now is FOR-tay. The bottom line is t's a word that raises hackles either way you say it, so it's best to replace it with a synonym.

If someone spilled a box of paper clips, for example, would you say that they wasted the paper clips, even though the clips could be picked up and re-used? Although most people wouldn't, this sense of waste meaning "to spill" is used among many African-American speakers in the American South, particularly in Texas.

Our discussion of eponymous laws prompted Peg Brekel of Casa Grande, Arizona, to send us one based on her years of experience in a pharmacy, where she had to keep minding the counter even during her lunch break. Peg's Law: The number of customers who come to the counter is directly proportional to how good your food tastes hot.

Is saying Yes, Ma'am and No, Sir when addressing someone in conversation too formal or off-putting? Not if it's clear that those niceties come naturally to you.

A Milwaukee, Wisconsin, listener who heard our conversation about the phrase sharp as a marshmallow sandwich wonders about a similar expression that denotes a person who's not all that bright: sharp as a bag of marsh. Variations of this insult include sharp as a bowling ball and sharp as bag of wet mice.

A dancer in the Broadway production of The Lion King says he and his colleagues are curious about the use of the term Auntie (pronounced "AHN-tee) to refer to an older woman, regardless of whether she's a blood relative. Auntie is often used among African-American speakers in the American South as a sign of respect for an older woman for whom one has affection.

If you're in the three-comma club, you're a billionaire--a reference to the number of commas needed to separate all those zeroes in your net worth.

The verb to kibitz has more than one meaning. It can mean "to chitchat" or "to look on giving unsolicited advice." The word comes to English through Yiddish, and may derive from German Kiebitz, a reference to a folk belief that the bird is a notorious meddler.

On the face of it, the expression the proof is in the pudding doesn't make sense. It's a shortening of the proverbial saying, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Pudding is an old word for sausage, and in this case the proof is the act of testing it by tasting it.

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett.


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