20 episodes

That's What They Say is a weekly segment on Michigan Radio that explores our changing language. Each week University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan will discuss why we say what we say with Michigan Radio Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth.

That's What They Say Michigan Radio

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    • 4.8, 58 Ratings

That's What They Say is a weekly segment on Michigan Radio that explores our changing language. Each week University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan will discuss why we say what we say with Michigan Radio Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth.

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

    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.

    • 4 min
    TWTS: "Incidents" and "incidence" lead to instant confusion

    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.

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

    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.”

    • 5 min
    TWTS: In case you were unaware of "unawares"

    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?

    • 5 min
    TWTS: When nothing seems cut and dried

    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.

    • 4 min
    TWTS: Looking behind the eight ball

    TWTS: Looking behind the eight ball

    In a game of pool, if it's your turn and the cue ball is behind the eight ball, you're in trouble. But what does it mean to be "behind the eight ball" off the table? This week's topic comes from a listener named Clem Hawes. He says, "This [phrase] does not mean that you're behind in a temporal sense, but now I hear formulations such as 'X was behind the eight ball in responding to the pandemic,' meaning slow or inactive."

    • 5 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
58 Ratings

58 Ratings

Tosca702 ,

a modest excellence

Always a worthwhile way to spend 5 minutes a week.

CMKFish ,

Short & Fun language notes!

Fun for English language learners and also English language users!!

Kona Whirled ,

Have you ever wondered...

Have you ever wondered about the broad pallet of words that we have in the English language, and how they came to be? Have you ever wondered how spellings and usages evolved over time? If you are a “word nerd” and a lover of the power and nuances that our words can bring to literature and to spoken communication, then this show is for you! Not only is it fun and informative, but you will love the chemistry of the two hosts! You can tell that they are truly enjoying themselves, and have a passion for sharing this knowledge with their audience.

If I had any complaint whatsoever, it would be that the segments often feel too short. However, the program length is no doubt governed by the time slot(s) made available by the morning NPR news broadcast.

Whenever I hear the “That’s What They Say” introductory riff and Dr. Kurzan’s voice, I know I am going to be smiling by the end of the program! This program is a shining example of why I love and support WUOM Michigan Radio!

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