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

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:

You’re sitting on the couch, about to settle in for some serious Netflix binge watching, when you see it.

A huge, hairy spider is skittering across the floor in front of you. As it gets closer, you raise your foot, ready to quash the little beastie in its tracks.

Hold on. You can’t quash a spider, can you? Shouldn’t you squash him? Or maybe you should squish him. What about squooshing him?

Actually, we’re not sure that last one is really a word.

The word “hat” wears many hats in the English language. 

Figuratively speaking, of course. 

So how did one of our favorite winter accessories become part of so many idioms and metaphors?

Hang on to your hats, while we take a closer look.

 

They’re not words so much as noises: things we grunt, groan or exclaim when something renders us incapable of expressing coherent thoughts.

Like “argh” and “ugh.” Neither sounds like an actual word, but we know when to use them.

“When my Internet goes out, I go ‘Argh!’ because I’m frustrated,” said University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan.

When the Internet comes back on and your Facebook feed is filled with graphic details of your friend's  gastrointestinal virus, that’s when you say “ugh!”

When an adjective already has an “ly” ending, how do we make it into an adverb without turning it into a tongue twister?

University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan has a colleague whose interest has been piqued by this conundrum, so she decided to look into it.

End all, be all ... be all, end all: The ordering of this phrase appears to have become a bit of a free for all.

A That's What They Say listener wanted to know why we appear to be turning this expression around, so University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan did some investigating.

Universty of Michigan QB Devin Gardner sacked by Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun during the 2013 MSU-UM football game.
User: Michigan State Spartans / facebook

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss Governor Rick Snyder’s air gun legislation veto, a new criminal justice commission, and legislation that forbids Michigan public university athletes from unionizing.


"Hoi polloi" is one of those words that's just fun to say. But some of us may be confused about what the word  means.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan  says "hoi polloi" came into English from Greek in the 17th century.

"It refers to the masses, or the majority, but I think there's something happening where you're starting to see some people use it to refer to the elite," Curzan says. 

She consulted the Corpus of Contemporary American English, which shows current usage. 

 

Curfews have always been about keeping us safe. What has changed is what we’re being kept safe from.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan says the word "curfew" has a long history that goes back to fire.

"The word first comes into English in the 14th century from Anglo-Norman, and the root of it is the word 'cover' and the word 'fire,'" Curzan says. "And for people who know French, 'couvrir' and 'feu' –  and that gives us curfew."

user Tqycolumbia / Wikimedia Commons

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a long-awaited plan to fix Michigan’s roads, job cuts to one of the state’s largest agencies, and some holiday cheer from Rep. John Dingell.

Roads deal

After weeks of hemming and hawing over how to fix the state’s roads, Michigan lawmakers have OK'd plans for a sales tax hike.

Those little questions we ask at the end of sentences to confirm what we already know are called "tag" questions – because they tag onto the end of a sentence to turn it into a little question at the end.

It could be something like, "You can speak Chinese, can't you," where you get that little confirmation question at the end.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan says we also get invariant tags, like "You can speak Chinese, right?"

Curzan says the tag "right" shows up in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1939.

Are we becoming too lazy to pronounce all of the syllables in a word?  

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan says speech economy is nothing new.

For example, the shortening of "probably" to "prolly" is old enough and well-established enough that it already appears in the Oxford English Dictionary. 

user futureatlas.com / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a bill aimed at protecting religious freedom, another that would cut off welfare payments to recipients who fail drug tests, and whether Michigan’s low gas prices will stick around.


Sometimes we have words in our sentences that don't seem to mean anything, but they have to be there.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan says the word "do" is a good example.

"It does a lot of work in English, and it's almost invisible work, because it often doesn't mean anything," Curzan says, "but it has to be in the sentence to make it grammatical. 

"The verb 'do' goes all the way back to old English, but its use as an auxiliary verb, as a helping verb, goes back only to the Renaissance. This would be in a sentence like, 'I do not know.'"

Eggcorns are not food for squirrels.

They're reinterpretations of words or phrases that sound like the originals – as in "Would you care for some holiday (hollandaise)  sauce on that turkey? And be sure to try the cold (cole) slaw."

Another eggcorn stirred an Internet hissy fit recently: "firstable," meaning "first of all."

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/yes-firstable

The post asks "What has the Internet done to our brains?"

Can blame the Web for this?


Vacant lot in Detroit.
University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss Gov. Rick Snyder’s Asia trip, the financial status of Michigan’s schools, and a new plan to sell Detroit land.


In Shakespeare's day, if you fell out of favor with someone, you could say that you "fell out of that person's books."

University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan says the expression goes back to the 16th century. Shakespeare used it in "Romeo and Juliet."

"It's when Romeo kisses Juliet, and Juliet says, 'You kiss by the book.' It's possible to read that in a couple different ways," Curzan says. "One is that she's totally smitten, and he kisses in the best way possible, as what you would read about in a book.

User _chrisUK / flickr.com

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a move to fix the state’s roads, the most recent ruling involving same-sex laws, and a new standardized test for Michigan’s public schools.


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