That's What They Say Funner, snuck, and LOL are all things that we're hearing people say these days.That's What They Say is a weekly segment on Michigan Radio that explores our changing language.University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan studies linguistics and the history of the English language. Each week she'll discuss why we say what we say with Michigan Radio Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth.That's What They Say airs Sundays at 9:35 a.m. on Michigan Radio and you can podcast it here.
That's What They Say

That's What They Say

From Michigan Radio

Funner, snuck, and LOL are all things that we're hearing people say these days.That's What They Say is a weekly segment on Michigan Radio that explores our changing language.University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan studies linguistics and the history of the English language. Each week she'll discuss why we say what we say with Michigan Radio Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth.That's What They Say airs Sundays at 9:35 a.m. on Michigan Radio and you can podcast it here.

Most Recent Episodes

TWTS: Droppin' the letter g? No point in worryin'

Have you been droppin' your gs? Be honest. You probably do say "thinkin'" instead of "thinking" or "goin'" instead of "going" sometimes. That's true for most speakers of English. In fact, both forms of words with "ng" endings have been around for hundreds of years.

TWTS: A couple of thoughts on "a couple of"

A couple of things can clearly be two things. For many people though, a couple of things can include three or even four things. That's because the phrase "a couple of" has some elasticity to it.

TWTS: To Zoom or not to Zoom?

Cars, planes, cameras and people have been zooming around for decades with a lower-case "z." These days, with so many of us working from home, many of us find ourselves doing a different kind of zooming — one that may require a capital letter.

TWTS: Hatching, semitrucks, and cleaners

What do eggs, Old Norse, semitrucks, and cleaners have in common? Nothing that we know of, except that we talk about all of them in this week's That's What They Say.

TWTS: Why "oneteen" and "twoteen" aren't a thing

Languages are full of patterns. They're also full of words that break those patterns. A listener named Dave Gee sent us a question about "eleven" and "twelve" which appear to belong in the pattern-breaking category.

TWTS: Take care with the implications of "take care of"

Auto-antonyms are words that can hold two, generally opposite, meanings at the same time. Once you know what they are, you'll start to see them everywhere. "Dust" is a good example. You can remove dust, like dusting a shelf, or you can add dust, like dusting a cake with powdered sugar. It's possible for phrases to work this way too.

TWTS: "Incidents" and "incidence" lead to instant confusion

Listening to someone talk about the incidence of particular types of incidents could leave anyone feeling baffled. We've even had a listener ask us whether people have started using "incidence" as a hybrid of "incident" and "instance." We don't think so. However, since we're talking about homophones here, it's likely people are just confused.

TWTS: Does one bad apple spoil the others? Not according to the Osmonds

As stories of police brutality and anti-police brutality protests continue to dominate the headlines, you may have noticed some people placing the blame on "a few bad apples." However, as a listener named Louis Finkelman recently wrote to us, this expression "has changed its meaning 180 degrees in the past few decades."

TWTS: Does one bad apple spoil the others? Not according to the Osmonds

TWTS: In case you were unaware of "unawares"

Were you aware that "unawares" is a thing people say? Maybe you've seen it recently it in relation to COVID-19 – things like "The governor's announcement caught some people unawares," and "We have no excuse to be caught unawares in an outbreak. We wanted to know, where did that "s" come from?

TWTS: When nothing seems cut and dried

In the weeks and months that have turned our world upside down, we've been watching headlines for words and phrases that keep coming up. One we've noticed in coverage of COVID-19 is "cut and dried." Now, there are plenty of things we can literally cut and dry, including flowers, meat, and wood. You know what's not always cut and dried though? Issues and answers. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

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