Rina Miller

Weekend Edition host

Rina Miller got her start in radio on accident when she was sent to WCAR in Detroit as a temp employee. Since then, she has gained many years of experience in print and broadcast journalism, including work as a producer and program host at Radio Netherlands and as a reporter for ABC Radio News in New York. She enjoys working in public radio because the listeners are "interested, involved, and informed."

Outside the studio, Rina enjoys watching movies from the 1930s and '40s and absolutely hates karaoke. She has a deep love for animals and urges people to spay or neuter their pets, adopt from shelters and rescues, and purchase only from reputable, responsible breeders.

Q&A

What three people, alive or dead, would you like to have lunch with? Why?
Dorothy Parker, because her one-liners were the best.
Kurt Vonnegut, because he was the first writer who made me laugh out loud.
Bella Abzug, because she put her courage where her mouth was.
And if there could be a No. 4? George Clooney. You know why.

How did you get involved in radio?
By accident. I was sent to WCAR in Detroit as a temp employee, and loved the environment.

What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
Watching 1930s and '40s movies, especially those with Joan Crawford, Bette Davis or Rita Hayworth.

What has been your most memorable experience as a reporter/host/etc.?
Covering the crash of a cargo jet into a high-rise apartment complex in Amsterdam in 1992. The story was more complex than the obvious; many victims were illegal immigrants whose families were reluctant to come forward because they feared deportation. There were many substories that arose from this tragedy.

What one song do you think best summarizes your taste in music?
Leonard Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat, sung by Jennifer Warnes.

What is your favorite program on Michigan Radio? Why?
Fresh Air. Terry has an amazing range of guests, so the show's never predictable or stale.

What is one ability or talent you really wish you possessed?
To sing like Etta James.

What do you like best about working in public radio?
The listeners. They're interested, involved and informed.

Is there anyone in the broadcasting industry you find to be particularly admirable or inspiring? Who?
Jon Stewart. He's fearless without being cruel.

If you could interview any contemporary newsmaker, who would it be?
Vladimir Putin

Is there a T.V. show you never miss? If so, which one?
Mad Men

What would your perfect meal consist of?
An Indonesian rice table

What modern convenience would it be most difficult for you to live without?
The Internet

What are people usually very surprised to learn about you?
That I despise karaoke.

What else would you like people to know about you?
That I have a deep love for animals. I urge people to spay or neuter their pets, adopt from shelters and rescues, or purchase only from reputable, responsible breeders.

Ways To Connect

People sometimes get fussy with University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan for saying that the English language is always changing. But why does the English language constantly change? Is there a schedule out there somewhere saying how fast it will change? Why can’t we all keep saying the same things, all the time, forever?

But change is progress, says Curzan, and the language cannot simply stay still, for several reasons. 

Mandy / MorgueFile

The National Weather Service has issued a beach hazards statement through 8 p.m. Monday for the Lake Michigan shoreline in Michigan.

High waves and strong currents, including rip currents, are creating dangerous swimming conditions.

Beaches with particularly dangerous conditions today include:

  • South Beach in South Haven
  • Grand Haven State Park
  • Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon

We read your emails, and we're proving it today by talking about pinkies, other fingers, and humerus bones.

One of you asked about the pinky finger.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan discovered the pinky finger comes from the adjective “pinky,” which meant small.

“It at first referred to eyes,” Curzan explains. “So people with pinky eyes … like little squinty eyes.”  

But eventually its meaning moved from our eyes to our little fingers and made its way to the United States at the end of the 19th century.

We have alot to talk about today!

Wait...is it alot or a lot? My auto correct is saying a lot, but my heart is saying alot. What is going on here?!  

A lot, as one word instead of two, has a bit of a history to it, going back to Old English, says University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan.

It goes back to the Old English word hlot – a word you really got to gather a lot of air to say. 

“That combination hl was possible in Old English; a loaf of bread was a hlaf,” says Curzan. 

Today we  will be discussing pooh and all its forms. Not Winnie the Pooh or the other type of pooh you are thinking. No, no. We are talking all about exclamations of today and yesteryear.

Although many of us do not shout out “pooh” when faced with something shocking or aggravating, University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan does.

GaborfromHungary / MorgueFile

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory that will be in effect from noon across the region from noon until midnight today. 

High temperatures combined with high humidity will create a heat index of around 100 degrees this afternoon.

West Michigan is also under an air quality alert, which means pollutants are expected to be in the unhealthy range for people with respiratory problems. Weather officials say delaying things like using gas-powered lawn mowers or filling up your car can help lessen pollution.

Numbers, unlike silly language, make sense. They have rigid rules and you can always understand the carefully constructed patterns. Eighteen is related to eight, fourteen is related to four. Umpteenth is related to...wait. What's an umpty?

“Umpty is an indefinite number,” says University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan. “Usually a large number, goes back to 1904. It represents, apparently, the dash in Morse Code.”

Sometimes we wake up on the wrong side of bed, and most of us find the sunshine the next day. But an ancient fellow by the name of Richard Grant White seemed to always be a bit cranky, and he took his crankiness out on language.

There were many words and phrases that White griped about in his 18th century grammar book, Words and Their Uses Past and Present.

There are many words in our language that are just plain fun. But what exactly do they mean? University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan did a deep dive this week into colorful, sassy words. 

Let’s start with the ever-popular term, bumbershoot. What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of a bumbershoot?  

It means an umbrella.

An update from DTE:  Sunday, June 28, 2015 – 11 a.m. 

DTE continues to make progress in restoring the nearly 150,000 customers who lost electric service Saturday due to sustained, strong winds and heavy rain that knocked down trees and power lines throughout southeast Michigan.

DTE crews have restored service to about 60,000 customers, leaving about 90,000 customers to be restored.

We’ve got winning on the brain, but not because our lotto tickets finally paid off. It’s because of sports and Coach Carol Hutchins finding herself as the second-winningest active coach of softball and the winnigest coach in the University of Michigan’s athletic department history.

Winningest has been around since at least the mid-20th century, but winning in the Charlie Sheen sense, has been around even longer, says University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan. 

“Found missing.” “Gone missing.” “Went missing.” If you have ever seen the side of a milk carton you are familiar with these phrases. But these curious expressions just sound wrong … and British.

“This is a Briticism, and I think why Americans are noticing it is that it is absolutely on the increase in American English,” says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan.

“Over the last 15 years, the phrase 'go missing', 'went missing' has increased tenfold.”

We all must learn to evolve with the times and begrudgingly accept that words like “ridic” and “selfie” are part of the lexicon. But must our beloved Scrabble be tainted as well? University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan explains Scrabbling in a post-selfie stick world.

"On May 21, 6,500 new words were announced that were going to be added to the Collins Official Scrabble word list and this made headlines in the news," Curzan says. "Including a headline like 'Scrabble Adds Even More Garbage Words to its Dictionary.'"

    

Sometimes it’s tricky to know if you are putting the right emPHASis on the right SylLAble. Even Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan has had her doubts when it comes to what syllable to stress and when.

“I, for much of my life, at least for as long as I've been using this word, have said “AFFluent.” But, at the university, I will go to talks and talk to colleagues and sometimes they will say “affLOOent,” Curzan says. 

MorgueFile

Soggy. Drenched. Waterlogged. That sums up the final weekend of May 2015.

It rained intermittently throughout Michigan Saturday, and sometimes the skies opened and it poured.

Parts of Kalamazoo County saw nearly three inches of rain; an inch or more fell through many other areas of the state.

Capitulate, and its often confusing cousin, recapitulate, sound similar, but have completely different meanings. Why is that and how do we sort out all of this confusion? Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan cracked open the Oxford English Dictionary and other sources to find the answers.

“Capitulate, which for most of us means to give in to something, that you capitulate, is one thing,” Curzan explains. “But recapitulating is not giving in again, it’s to summarize something.”

When deciding whether to say “thee” as opposed to “the” [pronounced thuh], it’s about more than just sounding fancy, says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan. 

Not too long ago, Curzan received an email outing her for saying “the” [thuh] instead of “thee,” a pet peeve of the listener. But it’s more complicated than one is always right and the other is always wrong. In fact, both pronunciations are legitimate and have their time and place.

Flowers are a popular way to honor Mother's Day, so we decided to take a look at some expressions that seem to have floral origins.

First, there's "a bed of roses."

"This phrase has been around longer than I was expecting," says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan.

Copy editors around the country are mulling over what to do about the pronoun "they" used as a singular, because the issue just won't go away.

So we decided to revisit the topic, because increasingly "they" is what's used in everyday language.

"The issue is what to do with a noun where the gender is unknown or unspecified.

Take two slices of bread, put something tasty on them, slap the slices together, and you've got a sandwich, right?

Well, you may call it a "sanwich" or "samwich," and you're certainly not alone.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan recently heard someone making fun of a person for saying "samwich," and thought that wasn't very kind.

There are plenty of English words that mean "nonsense."

One of them is "malarkey."  It's certainly fun to say, and it got a lot of attention when Vice President Joe Biden, in his debate with Sen. Paul Ryan: "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey."

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, who specializes in linguistics, says while "malarkey" sounds like it's Irish in origin, there's no clear answer about where it comes from.

Given how common the compound word "child care" is, you would think we could agree on whether to spell it as one word or two.

And that's just the tip of the compound iceberg.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan says That's What They Say listener Adam e-mailed a question about "fundraise."  

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan has been thinking about diminutives lately, particularly "ette."

"The word 'cigarette' is clearly more diminutive than 'bullet,' but they actually share the same diminutive suffix," Curzan says. 

"I did an interview recently about suffixes for women – like 'ess,' 'ette,' and 'trix,' and it had me thinking about some etymological facts that not everyone is aware of about the history of 'ette.'

"Even the most euphemistic terms we have for where the toilet is, can sometimes not feel quite euphemistic enough."

That's what University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan said on "That's What They Say." 

And it's true: We have lots of different names for the place where we perform that private function. 

We're humans, and we don't always get along, but there are degrees of disagreement – and some colorful words to describe them, like "brouhaha."

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan says the word comes from French.

flickr

When it comes to schools, pot and guns in Michigan, who's the boss? This week, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss an executive order that puts control of the state's worst performing schools in the governor's hands, whether legalizing recreational marijuana would be good for Michigan, and a skirmish in Ann Arbor over openly carrying weapons in schools.

 

Have you ever actually had a bee in your bonnet? Yes?

Now we want to know why you were wearing a bonnet in the first place, but we’ll let that go.

We know you spent hours carefully selecting that bonnet, making sure it complemented your calico dress and brought out the blue in your apron, only to have the whole thing ruined by one nasty little bee.

That’s What They Say listener Helga has noticed a disturbing trend.

She’s concerned about how often she’s been hearing “off of.” For example, turning “off of” Division St. onto Huron St.

Helga thinks this is redundant, and she’s not alone. “Off of” has received plenty of criticism online and in style guides.  

There are some people though, who just like to watch the world burn.

We’d like to stress that That’s What They Say is a safe place for word enthusiasts to confide language pet peeves without fear of ridicule or judgment. 

When host Rina Miller worried her frustration with people who say “gantlet” instead of “gauntlet” made her a Miss Snooty Pants, we assured her, she’s not. 

In fact, when it comes to “gauntlet” vs. “gantlet,” Miller isn’t alone.

 

Valentine’s Day was yesterday, and maybe you’re still aglow from the candle-lit dinner you shared with your beloved at a fancy French restaurant.

Maybe you’re thinking about how, after the cheese plate, the chocolate mousse and a whole lot of wine, you finally got up the nerve to whisper “I love you.”

Just then the music swelled, and you waited with bated breath for your beloved’s response:

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