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

At the behest of a colleague, University of Michigan Professor Anne Curzan started poking into the history of ham. The word, that is.

“When you think about it, ham-handed is a really weird way to say something is clumsy or awkward,” says Curzan.

So how does a beloved lunch meat also become an idiom for the ineffectual?


Few words carry the cultural weight of a decade like the 1960s mantra, groovy. It can seem hard to separate the word from the period, but, according to University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, the ‘60s were not the birthplace of the groove. Nor has the word always meant what we use it to mean today.


“You’re going to feel a little pinch.” We’ve all heard some variation of this phrase before, either at a doctor’s office or a clinic, and we all know what follows: some type of medically necessitated pain.

But is it just the shot that’s hurting us?

For University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, the answer might be more than just the bloodwork. “Can the words we use actually affect the experience a patient has in terms of pain?” she asks.


The passive voice is infamous as a style choice that we’re supposed to avoid. But for University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, this isn’t a rule that should be set in stone.

“The advice, ‘never use the passive voice,’” says Curzan, “is a bit too sweeping to be entirely helpful.”

It’s easy to take for granted, but we use some pretty curious words for clothing. Blazer? Galoshes? What’s the story there?

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, our resident expert on language, puts on her etymology hat to shed some light on what we call what we wear.


University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan has such a busy schedule, it's sometimes hard to find the time to produce our weekly "That's What They Say" discussion.

That led me to use the expression running from pillar to post, which in turn prompted a "hey, I wonder where that comes from" moment. 

We have lots of those moments, as do our listeners and readers, and that's why TWTS exists.

Where does the pillar to post reference originate?

Like spending a weekend binge-watching House of Cards, some things we do not because it’s the correct thing, but simply because it feels right.

As it turns out, pronunciation can be like this too.

“Sometimes what dictionaries and grammar books tell us is technically correct in the language doesn’t sound quite right,” says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan. “Which can leave us in a bit of a bind.”

There’s a lot of slang out there for things that are “good:” wicked, sick, even the word bad.

During one of her classes, University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan heard a new one (at least, for her): savage.

“So savage now means ‘good?’” asks Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller.

“Slang likes to turn things on its head,” says Curzan, “and make words that mean bad things, mean good things.”

Maybe that’s why we love to come up with slang words for the act of getting drunk.

If you attended a symposium in the 18th century, you likely did so with an "adult beverage" in hand.

Now, the word symposium strikes a different image: a group of academics talking research, nary an "adult beverage" in sight. Why the change of heart, academia?

Our own resident academic, University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, is at hand to provide some needed insight into the language of academia.


Dorothy is a listener with a problem: The misusage of the words hung and hanged is killing her sanity.

For Dorothy, it seems like many people can’t tell the difference between the two words to save their lives. But, as it turns out, the distinction may be just that simple.

“The verb hang has two past tenses,” says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, “one of which is lethal.”


What comes to mind when you think of something being "full of teeth?" For many people, it’s probably a creepy image, like a shark’s mouth or a root canal. But as it turns out, the English word “toothsome” means the opposite.

“It’s a good thing,” says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan.

To understand why, we may have to rethink our understanding of the word “tooth.”

Is it “healthy eating” or “healthful eating?” Is there even a difference?

For some people, there is. Anne Curzan, professor of English literature at the University of Michigan, is ready to lead us into the nuanced world of grammarians, where some distinctions are a little more complicated than they seem.


When you say the word controversial, do you say “controver-shall?”

Do you say “frustra-shun” for frustration, or “shtreet” for street?  

If so, you’re not alone. But what the h is going on with those pronunciations? Is this a Michigan thing?

Those are the questions a listener posed for us today, and our own University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan is ready to help us sound out an answer. But in order to do that, we’ll have to take a close look at the mechanics of how we say what we say.


We're happy to have an enthusiastic word-nerd audience with lots of suggestions and questions.  

Douglas, who listens to us from Atlanta, wants to know about discomfit vs. discomfort.

He wrote: “I once was discomfited by discomfort, never discomforted by discomfit.”

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan started digging.

Bob from Kalamazoo's been wondering about something: What's going on with "absolutely?" Does it mean yes, no, or something else?

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan delved into the question.

"Luckily for us, there was a study in 2007 by Hongyin Tao at UCLA, who used four spoken databases of American English to try to figure out what's going on with 'absolutely.' He looked at two ways 'absolutely' occurs," Curzan says.

"One he called the "dependent absolutely." This is when 'absolutely' occurs before an adjective, as in 'absolutely right,' 'absolutely perfect,' or 'absolutely wrong.'

It’s that time of year when University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan is asked for her opinion about all kinds of language disputes.

Curzan is one of about 200 panel members of American Heritage Dictionary, which sends out a user ballot every September.

This year one of the questions is: "How many syllables in the word 'miniature?'

Some people use four syllables, but the word is commonly pronounced with three, as in "mini-ture."

Let's do the shimmy today! Did you know that the name of the move you do with your hips comes from women's undergarments? In fact it might be a corruption of chemise, says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan. 

Some think of shimmy as a dance, others as a maneuver to climb up something, but it gets confused with shinny all the time.

"A lot of people do now shimmy up trees, but it was originally shinny up," says Curzan.

Chick. Woman. Lady. Gal. Kitten. Doll. It seems like there are over a hundred names for the opposite of the male sex! I call my mom a woman and my sister a girl. Both are over the age of 25. Why is it so difficult to decide what to call women? I mean girls. I mean …females?

Whether to say girl or woman could depend on who is using the term, says University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan.  

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.”

Pages