Recently, I came across the Public Radio show, A Way with Words with Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and I am finding it not only educational but also interesting and entertaining. If you are interested in improving or getting to know your language better, I highly recommend it.
“A fish stinks from the head down.” When an Indianapolis woman is quoted saying that, she’s accused of calling someone a stinky fish. She says she wasn’t speaking literally, insisting that this is a turn of phrase that means “corruption in an organization starts at the top.” Who’s right?
Good news if you’ve wondered about a word for recognizable images composed of random visual stimuli—that image of Elvis in your grilled-cheese sandwich, for example. It’s pareidolia.
Dude, how’d we ever start using the word “dude“? The Big Grantbowski traces the word’s origin–it’s over 125 years old. Here’s a poem about dandy dudes from 1883, the year the word zoomed into common use. Ben Zimmer at Visual Thesaurus also has a very good summary of what is known about “dude.”
You can also listen to their recorded shows or subscribe to their pod cast at: www.waywordradio.org