Bluff The Listener Our panelists tell three stories about how something thought to be modern actually isn't, only one of which is true.
NPR logo

Bluff The Listener

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/391441763/391443670" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

Bluff The Listener

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/391441763/391443670" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Our panelists tell three stories about how something thought to be modern actually isn't, only one of which is true.

BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis and we're playing this week with Kyrie O'Connor, Charlie Pierce and Faith Salie. Here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you Bill.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Right now it's time for the WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on air.

Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME.

TYLER THIRLOWAY: Hi, this is Tyler Thirloway from Seattle.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Seattle?

THIRLOWAY: It's great.

SAGAL: And what do you do there?

THIRLOWAY: I build bamboo bicycles.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That's really funny. That's a great Seattle joke. Of course you do. What do you really do?

THIRLOWAY: That's what I really do.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You build bicycles out of bamboo?

THIRLOWAY: Yeah, the bicycle frame out of bamboo.

SAGAL: And what happens - I'm not saying this happens a lot - what happens if you run - you're riding your bike along and you run into a hungry panda?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, welcome to the show Tyler. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Tyler's topic?

KURTIS: Been there, done that.

SAGAL: We think we live in a brave new world of annoyances - spam emails, pop up ads, YouTube comments, public radio pledge breaks. What if it turns out that some of those annoyances are not so modern after all? Our panelists are going to tell you three stories about something we thought was very new, goes back a long way, but only one of them was the one we saw in the news this week. Guess that true story and you'll win Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail. Are you ready to do this?

THIRLOWAY: I am.

SAGAL: Let's do it then. OK, Tyler, first let's hear from Charlie Pierce.

CHARLIE PIERCE: Recently translated manuscripts discovered in the depths of the Vatican Library revealed a curious restriction that was placed by Pope Paul III on the participants on the Council of Trent, the gathering of Catholic churchmen and intellectuals summoned to meet the rising tide of Protestantism that met for eight years from 1545 to 1563. Given the temper and volatility at the time, Paul III wanted simplicity and concision in all writings. So the Pope mandated that no personal communication between Council representatives could exceed 250 letters in length. Thus, did Pope Paul III invent Twitter?

(LAUGHTER)

PIERCE: This is a remarkable find, said Father Giuseppe Carbonara (ph), the Vatican Library curator who oversaw the translation of the newly unearthed documents. It was the social media of the day, except that it was very carefully moderated. It was all business. No anonymous slander or cat pictures allowed.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Twitter, or a version thereof with the 16th century Council of Trent. Your next story of something that's way older than we thought comes from Kyrie O'Connor.

O'CONNOR: Written language was invented a little over 5,000 years ago, and only a millennium later, language found its true purpose - customer complaints. That's when a Mesopotamian guy named Ea-nasir sold the messenger of a guy named Nanni (ph) a bad batch of copper ingots. Nanni fired off a clay tablet that read in part, what do you take me for that you treat somebody like me with such contempt? He asked for his money back. No word on what Ea-nasir's response was, but Nanni's clay tablet, unlike your one star Yelp review, made it into a museum.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: A customer complaint from the Mesopotamia of 4,000 years ago. Your last story of an early ancestor comes from Faith Salie.

FAITH SALIE: Girls who cannot stop sending messages to guys they think are cute - this is a totally modern phenomenon - if by modern you mean post-Renaissance. Turns out 18th century young ladies gave themselves carpal tunnel syndrome due to overzealously communicating by waving their fans. Carpal tunnel is today associated with repetitive keyboard typing, but a historian from the University of Essex has discovered that the bony, milky wrists of the 1700s simply couldn't take the repeated stress of trying to flag down suitors with the flick of a fan. The semaphore of fans was an art, offering scores of messages. When a lass twirled it in her right hand it meant I'm engaged to another. Drawing it across her pale cheek until the handle met her lips said, you may kiss me. Holding it in the left hand and pointing it downward proclaimed I'm about to flash you my ankle. Yo, check it out.

(LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Jemima Burtwhistle, a doctoral candidate says, I stumbled across multiple diary entries from London society girls who all complained about similar forearm pain. One attributed the incessant tingling to having had her wrist once brushed by the Prince of Bohemia.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: One of these things goes back much older than we thought. Was it from Charlie Pierce, Twitter, a primitive version thereof was used at the Council of Trent for communication between the Cardinals? From Kyrie O'Connor, customer complaints found on an ancient Mesopotamian clay tablet? Or from Faith Salie, carpal tunnel syndrome not caused by typing but by flirting with fans in 19th century London? Which of these is the real story of modernity in antiquity?

THIRLOWAY: I think I'm going to go with the customer complaint from ancient Mesopotamia.

SAGAL: You're choosing Kyrie's story of the ancient Mesopotamian whining? Well, we spoke to someone familiar with the real story.

LAUREN DAVIS: Hey, just think about how much work that it took to make this customer service complaint. You had to pound into the clay, then you had to have somebody carry the tablet.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: That was Lauren Davis. She's a contributing editor for the website io9.com. They wrote about the ancient customer complaint from Mesopotamia. Congratulations Tyler. You got it right. You earned a point for Kyrie O'Connor just for being honest. You've won our prize. Carl Kasell, the one and only will record the greeting on your home voicemail. Thank you so much.

THIRLOWAY: Thank you Peter. Thank you Kyrie.

SAGAL: Fun to talk to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: Well, you got to do me right or I'm going to do you wrong. Well, you've got to do me right or I'm going to do you wrong.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.