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

As of today, we're okay with "as of" and "as from"

It appears that as of today, there isn't much concern about the phrase "as of." Perhaps that's because it's such a simple phrase. Two words, two letters each, nothing flashy. But this is That's What They Say, and when Michigan Radio's chief engineer Bob Skon asked us about the distinction between the phrases "as of today" and "as from today," we had to check it out.

Seeing double with "duplicate" and "reduplicate"

Recently, English Professor Anne Curzan was giving a talk in Washington about reduplication. In reduplication, a form is repeated in a straightforward way, like "no-no" or "boo-boo," or with a vowel change like "flip-flop" or "mish-mash." During Curzan's talk, someone in the audience raised their hand and said, "You keep using the word 'reduplication.' Isn't that redundant? Why don't you just say 'duplication'?" Fair question.

Cloudy with a chance of small talk

Talking about the weather can be about so much more than sunny days and stormy nights. Last week, we talked about the subtle routines we follow when opening and closing a conversation. This week, we decided to look at the interesting roles weather can play in those routines.

Going through the conversational motions

Even when it comes to the most interesting conversations, there's usually a routine to how they start and how they end. Think of how your conversations usually start. Generally, you don't just walk up to someone or call them on the phone and immediately start talking about something specific. You usually say something like "hello" or "hey" or "what's up?" to get things going. Sometimes you might even make your opener a question like, "Hi, how are you?"

When standard English doesn't make sense

Among the many odd things about standard varieties of English is the "s" at the end of "knocks" as in "She knocks on the door." If you were to change "she" to "I," "you," "we," or "they," the "s" would go away, and "knocks" would become "knock." Why does t hird person singular tense get an "s" tacked on the end?

Whether it's "in shambles" or "a shambles," it's still a mess

If your life is in shambles, you probably have bigger things to worry about than grammar. This week's topic comes from a listener who wanted to know the origin of "in shambles." Soon after we received this question, a co-worker told us she was surprised to learn this phrase, used to refer to a mess or state of disorder, was originally "a shambles."

The gift that keeps on "gifting"

A few weeks ago on Reddit, someone posted a clip from the Ellen Degeneres Show. The guest was Candice Payne, the Chicago woman who rented hotel rooms for homeless people during last month's polar vortex. The post's headline was, "Ellen gifts $50k to Candice Payne, Chicago woman who help over 122 homeless people during brutal cold winter last week." In the comments below the post, one user asked the question, "When did 'give,' the verb, give way to 'gift,' the noun, becoming the verb?

On behalf of language nerds (like us), we look at "on behalf of"

-

The plot of "Sharknado" is a little implausible, but the popularity of "nado" is a fact

The words and phrases that pop culture inserts into our everyday language never cease to amaze us here at That's What They Say. A listener recently wrote to use about one in particular. Laurel wanted to know what we think about "nado" as in the movie "Sharknado."

The plot of "Sharknado" is a little implausible, but the popularity of "nado" is a fact

If you think you know this idiom, you may have another "think" coming

Last week, we talked about how easy it can be to misinterpret an idiom, especially when a key word sounds very similar to another word. Before we go any further, look at the following sentence and fill in the blank with the first word that comes to mind: "Let me tell you, if you think that, you've got another ____ coming."

If you think you know this idiom, you may have another "think" coming

Back To Top