Maybe "Heartwood of Darkness" isn’t the best title

On a recent podcast of A Way with Words, I heard about a contest that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to win: The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. This year’s winner is If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs. I like one of the runners-up: I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen.

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Slang This

Last month, Mary and I were in Tucson, Arizona for her nephew’s PhD ceremony in Physics. I believe his dissertation is in String Theory that I think may be about orchestras or how to make Cat’s Cradles, one or the other. You might try looking up String Theory in Wikipedia: the online font of knowledge.

The day we arrived in Tucson, I had arranged with Stefanie Levine, producer of A Way With Words (not ‘Away With Words’), to talk with Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett for AWWW’s Slang This segment. How it works: Grant has three slang terms. For each one he gives the phrase and three possible meanings for the word.

They would call the motel, route it to the room, and I’d be there. What could go wrong? It did route to the room, as planned, only I hadn’t activated the phone so I got nothing.

Stefanie went to Plan B (this is radio after all and not brain surgery) and I talked to Martha and Grant on my cell phone while sitting on stairs in the shade of a palm tree. The terms were Hockey Hair, Half-Shaved, and Woodsheddin.’ Due to time constraints, they cut ‘half-shaved.’ I didn’t guess the correct answer but I remember the correct answer had to do with drinking.

For ‘hockey-hair’ and ‘woodsheddin’ you’re going to have to find out by listening. I appear about 35 minutes into the June 9, 2007 broadcast titled Blog This!

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A Way With Words

Back in February, I’d come across a word—catachresis—in my American Heritage Dictionary. I forget what I had been looking for originally. Catatonic? Doesn’t matter. Catachresis means the “misapplication of a word or phrase” such as “the use of blatant to mean ‘flagrant’.”

Mary and I have been podcasting KPBS’s A Way With Words (AWWW) and so I called them to ask what on earth the difference could be. If you’re not familiar with AWWW, it’s sort of like Car Talk for word geeks. I got a call from AWWWs’ exec producer, Stefanie Levine, and we set up a talk with Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett the hosts of the show in early March.

My call (actually, they call you) aired on May 12, 2007. Here’s the link if you’re interested in knowing the difference between blatant and flagrant (about 25 minutes into the broadcast).

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