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Playlist: Diana Prince's Portfolio

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Big Picture Science (Series)

Produced by Big Picture Science

Most recent piece in this series:

Eclectic Company

From Big Picture Science | Part of the Big Picture Science series | 54:00


We present a grab bag of our favorite recent science stories – from how to stop aging to the mechanics of cooking pasta. Also, in accord with our eclectic theme – the growing problem of space junk.   


  • Anthony Wyss-Coray – Professor of neuroscience at Stanford University
  • Oliver O’Reilly – Professor of mechanical engineering, University of California Berkeley.
  • Moriba Jah – Professor of aerospace and engineering mechanics, University of Texas


A Way with Words (Series)

Produced by A Way with Words

Most recent piece in this series:

Tribble Trouble (#1564)

From A Way with Words | Part of the A Way with Words series | 54:00

29428205440_29b7bf8b37_w_small Responding to our conversation about a word to denote the exact halfway point between deep depression and euphoria, a listener in Libreville, Gabon, suggests placid.

Do you describe someone with a sloppy appearance as being unkempt or unkept? A garden that's been neglected might be described as unkept, but when it comes to personal appearance, someone who's disheveled is far more commonly described as unkempt, a word that derives from the past participle of Middle English kemben, meaning "to comb." Disheveled is related to the French word for "hair," cheveaux, and originally referred to someone with tousled hair or who is lacking hair entirely.  

Steven in Cavendish, Vermont, remembers this saying from his Cockney grandfather: There I was on the dog and bone, with me mate Charlie, when my trouble and strife took a tumble on the apples and pears, and I couldn't Adam and Eve it. It's a bit of Cockney rhyming slang that translates as "There I was on the phone, with my friend Charlie, when my wife took a tumble on the stairs, and I couldn't believe it." Such slang has been around since the mid-19th century, and has spawned further slang terms: apples can mean "stairs," apple-dancing means "to steal from multi-story buildings." By extension, the word fruit can mean "stairs," as can oranges and lemons. In addition to trouble and strife for "wife," there's also joy of my life, or simply joy. Another bit of rhyming slang for "trouble" is Barney, short for Barney Rubble. Often used among the criminal underclass, rhyming slang is intended to be difficult for outsiders to understand. In French back slang, the word femme for "woman" becomes meuf.

We talked about pangrams in an earlier episode, which prompted a delicious one from Laura in Colt's Neck, New Jersey: I quickly mixed up a dozen jelly donuts for the big variety show.

It's another cryptic crossword from Quiz Guy John Chaneski! The clues involve wordplay, and if the clue includes a definite article, it's part of the answer. For example, what Biblical name is suggested by the clue "A barrier for first man"?

Trevor in Austin, Texas, notes that when his young son was talking about drawing a cat, but erasing part of it, the boy used the term deleting rather than erasing. Should he correct his son, or is this a natural evolution of language in the digital age? In 1490, publisher William Caxton told the story of two people from different parts of England discussing a transaction involving eggs. There was some initial confusion when the one from the north of English used the term eggs, from Old Norse, while the other from the south used eyren, from Old English. After these terms coexisted and competed for a while, the term eggs won out. Perhaps in the same way, erase and delete will coexist for years before one becomes obsolete. 

Elsie from Fredericksburg, Texas, wonders if a gunnysack and a burlap bag are the same thing. Both are made from coarse fabric, but the word gunnysack is actually redundant, because the gunny goes back to a Sanskrit word that means "sack." Tow sack is another term for a bag made of coarse fabric.

Polly, a library worker in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, wonders about the correct term for the fuzzy puffball atop a warm hat. Is it a tribble or a pompom? The word tribble first appeared in the classic Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." In the 1967 script by screenwriter and novelist David Gerrold, the Starship Enterprise is overrun by cute, furry creatures called tribbles who do little more than coo and reproduce. Gerrold's coinage has since migrated into mainstream culture. The word pompom has been around since the 1500s, and may be related to pomp, meaning "ostentatious display."

The new Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction is a comprehensive, quotation-based online resource that's a delight for language lovers of all kinds, and a treasure trove for sci-fi fans.
It's the work of lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower and grew out of the crowdsourced Science Fiction Citations Project, which later led to a print historical dictionary, Brave New Words, edited by Jeff Prucher. (Bookshop|Amazon) Some entries, like earthborn and dirtsider, remain outside the cultural mainstream. Warp speed, on the other hand, originated in a 1952 science fiction work, and is now widely known from the name for the all-out vaccine-development effort, Operation Warp Speed.

Bud in Council Bluffs, Iowa, says when he was fishing but no one was catching anything, an acquaintance observed, We must be holding our mouths wrong. There are several versions of that expression, including You must be holding your mouth wrong or That fisherman is holding his mouth wrong, It's all in how you hold your mouth or Are you holding your mouth right? These all reference a useless additional act that may or may not help what you're doing. The idea of holding one's mouth correctly to accomplish a task goes back at least as far as the 1890s.

After we puzzled over a caller's use of the term Jack Roses to signal a sudden shift in conversational topics, Christye from Abilene, Texas, wrote to say that when that happens to her, she says, You didn't put your blinker on! The word blinker is one of several for those rear lights on a car that serve as turn indicators, turn signals, or taillight.

Wayne from Wayland, Massachusetts, says a co-worker was fond of the saying One hand washes the other and both hands wash the face. The saying suggests that working together, two can accomplish what one can't. It can also connote the idea of One good turn deserves another or I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine, which can also imply the idea of graft and corruption. The saying goes back to ancient Rome, where Manus manum lavat literally meant "one hand washes the other," and appears in The Satyricon by Petronius. (Bookshop|Amazon)

On HBO's Not Necessarily the News, comedian Rich Hall offered sniglets,
goofy made-up words for things and ideas that don't already have names, like aquadextrous, describing someone able to use their toes to turn off the bathtub faucet, or laminites, those happy couples depicted in photos inside brand-new picture frames. Such neologisms are usually blends or portmanteau words that combine elements to form a new word. A listener says that her mother's sniglet for "trying to hide one's sneeze behind a facemask" is trying to go incognsneeto.

Novelist Jodi Picoult has some no-nonsense advice for writers who just can't seem to get started.

This episode is hosted by Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette.

WNYC's Fishko Files (Series)

Produced by WNYC

Most recent piece in this series:

WNYC's Fishko Files: Sviatoslav Richter

From WNYC | Part of the WNYC's Fishko Files series | 07:12

Saraflat_medium_small Sviatoslav Richter, born March 20 1915, was a pianistic phenomenon, whose broad musical range was backed up by dazzling technique. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, WNYC's Sara Fishko considers his musical gifts as well as his unconventional life.  With guests Michael Kimmelman (NY Times critic, pianist and sometime music writer), pianist Vladimir Viardo, and the late pianist and music critic Harris Goldsmith.

*The excerpts from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition"  are from Richter's live recording made in Sofia, Bulgaria, on February 25, 1958 

Latin Perspective - Latin Jazz Hour (weekly) (Series)

Produced by Tony Vasquez

Most recent piece in this series:

Latin Jazz Perspective (B-10)

From Tony Vasquez | Part of the Latin Perspective - Latin Jazz Hour (weekly) series | 59:00

Yvettei_small A weekly radio show featuring the best in classic and contemporary Latin Jazz Music, hosted by 16 year veteran Tony Vasquez