Broadcast on COAST TO COAST: July 17, 2003
AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER -- names used in slang.
RS: Take "Johnny come lately." That's an opportunist who tries to gain from something started by others.
AA: We certainly wouldn't call our buddy Slangman David Burke in Los Angeles a Johnny come lately. But we did ask him to put together a report about names used in slang ...
RS: And what he did was put together a completely fictional interview with movie actress Reese Witherspoon. The only thing real about this story is that Reese Witherspoon is the star of a brand-new sequel to "Legally Blonde," a comedy in which she plays a young lawyer who becomes politically active.
SLANGMAN: "Well, I want to welcome you to Slangman's Slang Hollywood Report. Yesterday I spoke with Reese Witherspoon over a cup of joe."
RS: "A cup of joe."
AA: "A cup of coffee."
SLANGMAN: "A cup of coffee. A few years ago we didn't know Reese Witherspoon from Adam, we didn't know her at all. Now she's known as the star of the new movie 'Legally Blonde 2.' I told her that I don't mean to be a doubting Thomas (that's someone who's always very doubtful, doesn't believe anything), I don't mean to be a doubting Thomas but jeez Louise (now jeez Louise is an expression of surprise), but jeez Louise I really wondered if John Q. Public was ready for another movie. Now John Q. Public simply means the average person, John Q. Public."
SLANGMAN: "It could be anyone. I wondered if John Q. Public was ready for another movie about a former plain Jane. That's a woman who's not ugly, she's not pretty, she's just plain. So I wondered if they were ready for a movie about a plain Jane who grows up to be a rich, beautiful Jack of all trades."
RS: "Someone who does everything."
AA: "Or in this case, a Jill of all trades."
SLANGMAN: "You know, that's interesting. For some reason some of these expressions we have -- for example, Joe Blow, which is an expression for men meaning anyone: 'Every Joe Blow thinks he can become president.'"
RS: "There's not a Jill Blow."
AA: "No, because it doesn't rhyme."
SLANGMAN: "Right, there's no feminine form of that. So oftentimes we do use the masculine form, even though it refers to women. Well, now I mean there's nothing Reese's character can't do -- that's why she is a Jack of trades. In the movie, she tries to change some United States laws. Now, I don't know jack about politics."
RS: "I don't know anything."
SLANGMAN: "I don't know anything. It means absolutely nothing. I don't know jack about politics, but if someone asked me if one young girl could change the law, I'd say: 'No way ... '"
RS: "Jose! (Laughter)"
SLANGMAN: "Jose. Of course, that comes back to the rhyming slang, no way Jose. It means absolutely not. But Reese manages to get enough people to put their John Hancock -- "
RS: "Their signature."
SLANGMAN: "Their signature, because John Hancock -- one of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence -- signed his name very largely, very big. So she got a lot of people to put their John Hancock on an important bill, resulting in a new United States law. True -- I'm not jacking you around. Now to jack someone around means to mislead them.
"Well, I asked Reese the following question: You've made millions of dollars in the movies 'Legally Blonde' and 'Legally Blonde II,' what comes next. 'Well,' she responded, 'probably Uncle Sam.'"
RS: "Uncle Sam."
SLANGMAN: "Right, the tax man, the tax person, Uncle Sam. Well, I'm afraid that's all the time we have, for Pete's sake."
RS: "For Pete's sake."
SLANGMAN: "Well, for Pete's sake is something you simply say out of amazement, out of surprise, out of frustration, out of disappointment. 'For Pete's sake, I broke my computer.' 'For Pete's sake, how are you!' So anything -- surprise, disappointment -- it's just another way to say, I have a lot of emotion here."
AA: And that's what makes him the one and only Slangman, David Burke. In fact, his book "The Slangman Guide to Street Speak Two" has a whole chapter on names used in slang. You can find out more about his materials at slangman.com.
RS: And you'll find our programs at voanews.com/wordmaster and our e-mail address is email@example.com. With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.