National / International News

Abbas backs Hamas Gaza truce demands

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-23 01:19
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas backs calls by Hamas for an end to the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip as a condition for a ceasefire.

High cotton and southern language

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-07-23 01:00

Often it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  And on a recent reporting trip to South Carolina, I was reminded that in the rural south, how you say things can be an art. A few examples from listeners:

“Frog Strangler” -  a heavy rainstorm where even a frog would have a hard time getting out of it.  (Andy Grabel, who grew up in Georgia)

“Even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while”  -  basically means even the most incompetent of us can luck out.  (Fernando Pizzaro, who grew up all over the South)

“They’re living in high cotton,” - meaning their lives are pretty cushy and they’re doing well. Or “I’m feeling low cotton today,” meaning I’m having a bad day.   (Leslie Criss – Tupelo Mississippi)

It’s not a coincidence that nature and agriculture figure so prominently in many southern idioms. Economic realities can leave linguistic marks, and the language of the South is a window into its economic past.

“The south was much more rural than other areas,” says Walt Wolfram, professor of Linguistics at North Carolina State University and author of "Talkin' Tar Heel." “So because farming was such an important part of the culture, there are a lot of terms related to things like weather and farming and so forth.”

The phrase "stubborn as a Missouri mule" came about during a time when Missouri exported mules. The phrase "chopping in high cotton" or "living in high cotton" refers, according to some explanations, to the fact that if the cotton had grown high, the crop was abundant and a field worker would be shaded from the scorching sun. 

In southern fishing towns you get expressions incorporating the wind and the water and the fishing economy.

“It’s draped over occupations, the economy, lifestyle really,” says Gill. 

Some expressions seem to derive from the strong work ethic required for farming. It’s hard work and there’s little time or patience for slacking or whining. 

“People that want by the yard but try by the inch, should be kicked by the foot” -  If someone wants by the yard, it means “they want an enormous amount for a minimal effort, so they need to be kicked by a good foot.”   (Reggie McDaniel, Mullins South Carolina)

I would put the following phrase in the same category of work-ethic related expressions.

"When you run into someone who’s grouchy, give them a big smile and say, 'You can just get happy in the same britches you got mad in.'"  (Leslie Criss)

Perhaps otherwise put, "Snap out of it and get with the program."

Some southern expressions have made their way into broader usage. 

"Bless your heart." – Basically that means you’re too dimwitted to know any better. I think I love that one because it epitomizes the southern way of being a little bit catty but not wanting to sound too mean.  (Danelle Lane, Charlotte North Carolina)

(This famous expression may, however, actually owe its origins to the English.)

Many linguistic gems are fading.

“You don’t find these expressions nearly as much in urban areas in the South as you do in rural areas,” says Wolfram. “So the divide between the rural and urban south is in some ways becoming as sharp between the divide between northern and southern speech.”

In part it’s because more northerners are moving into Southern cities, but also some expressions just don’t seem to make it from grandparents and parents to their children as much. 

Wolfram says he hopes that southern speech – which, he adds, is quite alive and well - becomes more recognized as one of the treasures the south has to offer, and a piece of its heritage:

“There was a period in the south where some people were ashamed of talking southern, but I hope we can celebrate southern speech as part of its culture and history.”

Here are some of my favorite southern expressions and some from listeners.  Feel free to add your favorite in the comments. 

  • A long row to hoe – a difficult task
  • All hat and no cattle – all talk/show
  • Drunker than Cooter Brown – They say Cooter Brown lived on the dividing line between north and south during the Civil War. He had family on both sides and so didn’t want to fight. So he got drunk and stayed drunk for the whole Civil War so nobody would draft him.
  • Wish? Wish in one hand and pee in the other and see which one fills up first! – wishing won’t get you anywhere. The implication being you have to work for it.
  • Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – assuming everything goes right. “See you next time Grandma!” “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!”
  • Worthless as nipples on a boar hog - useless
  • Might could – possibly, a noncommittal maybe
  • Lost as a ball in high weeds – to describe someone who is very confused, hopelessly out of the loop or doesn’t know what they’re doing.
  • I wouldn’t care to – I’d be happy to
  • Crooked as a barrel of fish hooks – an untrustworthy, corrupt person
  • Catch the Devil – to have a rough/bad time

CORRECTION: The state where Andy Grabel grew up was misidentified. The text has been corrected.

Two rare Amur leopards born at zoo

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:55
A pair of Amur leopards, which zookeepers say are on the brink of extinction, are born at Leicestershire's Twycross Zoo.

Queen's horse fails drugs test

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:51
Estimate, a racehorse owned by the Queen, has tested positive for the prohibited substance morphine.

Conflicting Obamacare Rulings Set Stage For Supreme Court Face-Off

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting views of the subsidies available under Obamacare. The problem is the language in one subsection of the 950-page law — boiling down to just three words.

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Airlines Cancel Service To Israel Amid Heightened Aviation Safety Concerns

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

A number of major airlines have suspended service to and from Tel Aviv as the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza intensifies. That's leaving passengers to find other arrangements.

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U.S. Intelligence Tracking What Happened To Flight MH17

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

Senior U.S. intelligence officials say they have proof that a surface-to-air missile was launched when the airliner went down and have ID'd people in a recorded conversation implicating the culprits.

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Long GOP Primary Season Gives Democrats Time To Fill Campaign Coffers

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

If Democrats lose control of the Senate this fall, it likely won't be for lack of campaign money. The prominent female candidates in particular have healthy campaign accounts.

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The Challenge Of Keeping Tabs On The NSA's Secretive Work

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

Congress is supposed to hold U.S. spy agencies accountable. But as Edward Snowden's disclosures revealed, intelligence officials have not always provided a full or accurate picture.

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Atlantic City's Casino Crisis: A Cautionary Tale

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

With the announcements of the planned closures of the Showboat and Trump Plaza casinos, the New Jersey town that once had the monopoly on gaming in the northeast is at a crucial turning point.

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5 Managers Detained In Shanghai Expired-Meat Scandal

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

Chinese regulators suspended operations at Shanghai Husi Food, owned by Illinois-based OSI group. State media reported that stale meat was packaged for sale under "tacit approval" of senior managers.

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How A Chokehold, Aka Neck Restraint, Is Supposed To Work

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

After a New York man died during a police takedown, police trainers say properly administered "neck restraint" moves do not result in choking and are safer than alternatives like Tasers.

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Obama Adviser: Civilian Toll In Mideast Makes Cease-Fire Critical

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

Steve Inskeep speaks with President Obama's Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken about the administration's next moves in Gaza and Ukraine.

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Taking Stock Of 2 Tech Giants: What's Next For Apple And Microsoft

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

Microsoft's new CEO is getting a lot of love from Wall Street, but the company is struggling to stay relevant. And Apple has found its footing again, mostly through a massive stock buyback program.

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Congress And Biden Aim For Job Training That Actually Leads to Jobs

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

Vice President Joe Biden has been traveling the country to learn about the best ways to train workers. He announced the results Tuesday as the president signed a workforce training bill into law.

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What Do The New Obamacare Rulings Mean For People Getting Subsidies?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:45

The Affordable Care Act was the subject of two conflicting court opinions Tuesday. One upheld the subsidies that help middle- and low-income people afford health insurance; the other rejected them.

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Engineering firm to create 40 jobs

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:40
A Londonderry-based engineering firm is to create 40 new jobs after bringing a new investor on board.

New inquiry over council boss money

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:36
A new police investigation is launched into unlawful pension salary supplements paid to the chief executive of Pembrokeshire council.

Giant python gets a health check

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:35
Zoo team gives an enormous reticulated python its annual check-up, including using ultrasound to scan its heart.

15th record inquiry nurse suspended

BBC - Wed, 2014-07-23 00:33
Another nurse is suspended as part of an inquiry into the alleged falsification of patient records at south Wales hospitals, taking the total to 15.
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