Betsy Kaplan

Producer

What's In a Name?

Mar 26, 2015
Natalie Maynor / Creative Commons

Author Michael Erard is interested in how and why we name things - especially non-human objects and animals - and how naming affects our perceptions and behaviors toward those objects.

He spent a lot of time researching how different subcultures name things - including rock musicians, scientists and Maine lobstermen, because naming tells you a lot about what's going on in a particular culture.  

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr Creative Commons

Everyone’s heard of Coney Island -the Wonder Wheel, the side shows, the miles of sandy beach.

Yet, most of us have never seen it except through the eyes of others, including artists and filmmakers who used it as a prism through which to shape their view.

And, what they saw was a place with both lovers and con men, natural beauty and bawdy amusement, social inclusion and class boundaries.

Coney Island is not an easy place for them to define, so they portrayed what they saw - but also what they wanted it to be.

Ryan Welsgerber / Creative Commons

Doctors have been treating the symptoms of their patients, often before they know the cause, for centuries. But as medicine has gained sophistication and precision, we've slowly demanded more of our doctors. We want them to treat us, but also to know what we have, and why we have it, and how to treat and cure it. 

Eric Heath / Creative Commons

The bill comes, and I don’t even think about it. If the service was slow or superior, friendly or fumbling, I do my quick and mindless math, and write down a tip of 20 percent.

Sometimes, a bad experience might cause me to shave off a buck or two, but I know I’m probably still leaving more than the next customer. And why shouldn’t I, really? I know that restaurant workers rely on tips to even get up to the minimum wage the rest of the world makes. I’m right about that - right?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It's that time of year again when productivity slides, sleep is lost and frustration runs high. No, there's not another financial crisis - just March Madness! Join our favorite bracket watching team of Julia Pistell and Bill Curry, as they share their top-secret strategies to pick the winning NCAA bracket, the logic of which stuns even seasoned sports reporter Mike Pesca.

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) / Wikimedia Commons

Shade tobacco came to Connecticut in 1900 from the island of Sumatra, which was beginning to dominate the world of cigar wrappers. The leaf had a light color, delicate texture, and mild flavor that cigar lovers love.

So it seemed like a good idea to grow it somewhere besides Sumatra and the artificial shade concept developed in Florida in the 1890s. Connecticut growers tried it on one-third of an acre in Windsor in 1900, and the result was so good that farmers, in an un-Yankee-ish burst of headlong passion, planted 50 acres in 1901.

The industry grew like shade tobacco -- that is, fitfully -- and woven into its life were the stories of the latest set of immigrants willing to work in cheap and concentrated bursts. We tell you as many of their stories as we can.

Eden, Janine and Jim / Creative Commons

Sixty years ago, patients rarely questioned the authority of their doctors. Like the doctors portrayed on television, these older, wiser, and usually white male doctors would dispense sage advice to trusting parents desperate to make their children well in an age of polio and measles.

Rex Roof / Creative Commons

Mark Oppenheimer hosts an All-Star New-Haven Nose Panel from New Haven.

For as long as fraternities have acted poorly,  adults have quietly tolerated and even gloried in it. Who can forget John Belushi and Animal House? Too often, parents and college administrators have excused the all-night parties, destruction of property, and drunken brawls as the rude, yet benign acts of those on the brink of entering adulthood, the last gasp of carefree youth. 

Finchlake 2000 / Creative Commons

Today, we take a deeper look at the beaver.

Beavers are sophisticated eco-engineers, one of few animals capable of broadening biodiversity and currently considered of the keys to reversing climate change. They build sophisticated dams and deep-water ponds that stem erosion of riverbanks, create cooler deep-water pools that support temperature-sensitive plant and fish species, and increase the water table, a big deal for Western states suffering the impact of worsening drought.

Marle Hale / Creative Commons

On Wednesday we find out the finalists for Hartford's new minor league baseball team. Will it be the Hartford Blue Frogs? How about the Hartford Honey Badgers? Do you like the Hartford Yard Goats better? I got it! How about the Hartford Huckleberries! What do you mean it's not on the list? 

This hour, lots of people call and tweet with their favorites. Take a listen. 

Sh4rp_i / Creative Commons

Arthur Chu argues that Andrew Jackson is the worst president we've ever had, and his face should be removed from the $20 bill. For starters, Andrew Jackson removed about 46,000 Native Americans from their established homelands to make way for White settlement leaving a "Trail of Tears" of starvation, disease, and death.

That's just the beginning of a long line of horrors: he annexed Florida, executed militia members after the War of 1812, and dismantled the central bank to push wildcat banks. Maybe America has never been a paragon of the ideals we hold dear, and maybe America would rather forget our past than deal with it. 

Derek Gavey
Creative Commons

We incarcerate more people in this country than any other country in the world, a shift that started over 30 years ago with punitive sentencing policies that disproportionately targeted non-violent, mostly black, drug offenders caught in President Reagan's war on drugs.

Now, decades later, we're dealing with the fallout. The costs of incarceration are high. Sure, the economic cost is astronomical, about $52 billion dollars in 2011, but the human cost is staggering. 

Bob Jagendorf / Creative Commons

Everyone’s heard of Coney Island -the Wonder Wheel, the side shows, the miles of sandy beach.

Yet, most of us have never seen it except through the eyes of others, including artists and filmmakers who used it as a prism through which to shape their view.

And, what they saw was a place with both lovers and con men, natural beauty and bawdy amusement, social inclusion and class boundaries.

Coney Island is not an easy place for them to define, so they portrayed what they saw - but also what they wanted it to be.

Ethan Stock / Creative Commons

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t worry whether our food and working conditions were safe, or whether government regulators were keeping track of these things for us -- but we don’t live in a perfect world.

In fact, there’s a sense that if you run a big company, and you’re responsible for something really bad happening, that you’ll probably skate away with a slap on the wrist while somebody else has to live with the damage done.

Lawrie Cate / Creative Commons

Jews make up 2.2% of the population although it fluctuates depending on who gets counted. The U.S. Jewish population is roughly the same size, north of 6 million, as the Jewish population of Israel. 

And, since there are about 14 million Jews in the whole world, an astonishingly high percentage of them live in those two countries. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Do you know anyone who’s ever had measles, mumps, or rubella? Those diseases have essentially been wiped out in the U.S. because of effective and widespread adoption of vaccines. 

But that might be changing. Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that last year, there were more than 600 measles cases in the U.S., and that was more than there have been for a long time. "This year, there were 100 in January alone," he said.

LIz West / Creative Commons

More than a million people get cancer every year in the United States, with about 22,000 new cases in Connecticut in 2014. But, thanks to better detection and more advanced treatment, the number of people surviving cancer is growing rapidly. There are 13 million survivors alive today.

So, most of us likely know someone with cancer...a neighbor, a friend, or more often, a member of our family.

The American Cancer Society says that three-out-of-four families have at least one person in their family who has survived cancer...and that number is rising every year. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

It’s not easy being a teenager today. Teens need to do well in school, give back to the community, participate in extracurricular activities, and keep up with a social scene intensified by social media. We also ask them to act responsibly, make good choices, and think about their future.

We're looking for "adult behavior" from people forced to live under our rules. It's a tough balancing act that comes with a lot of pressure.  

Sometimes, their friends are looking for something different and peer pressure can lead to bad decisions and risky behaviors.

It may not sound like they have to deal with much -- but that’s part of the problem. Adults have a tendency to underestimate what teens feel, and how powerfully they feel it.

And if kids have friends, don’t get in trouble, and get pretty good grades, parents and teachers don’t always notice the kids struggling to cope with emotions hidden beneath the surface.

The World Health Organization says depression is the most common cause of illness and disability for teens between 10 and 19 years old and suicide is the third most common cause of death in adolescents...just behind traffic accidents.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The Alzheimer’s Association says about five million people in the United States have some form of dementia. They expect that number to increase dramatically as baby boomers age and more people live longer. By 2050, we can expect that number to rise to about a million new diagnoses every year.

Unless things change, many of us will end up in nursing homes.

chiesADIbeinasco / Creative Commons

WNPR has an experimental radio project and we want you to get involved. The idea is simple: we provide a theme; you call our hotline and tell a story.

The theme: What's so hard about being a teen?

On Friday, January 30, WNPR's Where We Live will talk about the challenges of being a teenager.

Val Kerry / Creative Commons

Last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report released their report examining the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation after 9/11.

They found that the CIA was using harsher forms of torture that yielded less useful information than we were led to believe.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, "Detainees were subjected to the most aggressive techniques immediately. They were stripped naked, diapered, physically struck, and put in various painful stress positions for long periods of time."  

Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision / Thinkstock

The price of gas was nearly $4.00 per gallon two years ago. Economists worried the rate would continue to rise, causing financial hardship on those with an already lean budget. What if it went to $5.00 a gallon? Well, those days are long gone.

Gas in Connecticut is around $2.50 a gallon and it's much cheaper elsewhere in the country.

But the higher rate also made people drive less and conserve more, and pushed higher fuel efficiency standards through Congress, nearly doubling the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The success of a society depends - at least in part - on the civility of its members. Mutual respect, openness to different viewpoints...civil conversation is what we try to promote here on our show. 

Chion Wolf

More than a million people get cancer every year in the United States, with about 22,000 new cases in Connecticut in 2014. But, thanks to better detection and more advanced treatment, the number of people surviving cancer is growing rapidly. There are 13 million survivors alive today.

So, most of us likely know someone with cancer...a neighbor, a friend, or more often, a member of our family.

The American Cancer Society says that three-out-of-four families have at least one person in their family who has survived cancer...and that number is rising every year. 

Josh Glovo / Creative Commons

John Aldridge, a 45-year old lobster fisherman from Long Island, flew off the back of his boat when a plastic handle supporting a box hook snapped with the power of his pull. He grabbed at the side of the boat, missing it by inches before landing in the water at 3:30 am, alone and stunned, as the boat sped away with his partner sleeping in his cabin. They were 40 miles off the coast of Montauk, Long Island. First, yelling, then panic, then silence before he allowed himself to think he was going to die. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

We're talking about cowardice today and it makes me think of two people - Hector and Dr. Bones McCoy.

We claim to despise cowardice and to exalt bravery but in real life, I think we value balance a little bit more.

Hector, in the Iliad, is a much debated figure. He seems on occasion to lose his nerve. He also on occasion seems to do something brave mainly because he could not live down the dishonor of not being brave. I've always liked Hector.

Finchlake 2000 / Creative Commons

Today, we take a deeper look at the beaver. Beavers are sophisticated eco-engineers, one of few animals capable of broadening biodiversity and currently considered of the keys to reversing climate change. They build sophisticated dams and deep-water ponds that stem erosion of riverbanks, create cooler deep-water pools that support temperature-sensitive plant and fish species, and increase the water table, a big deal for Western states suffering the impact of worsening drought. In addition, they're social animals who live much like humans, with mates, two kits per year, and an active social life. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse brings together some of the best and brightest reporters to break down the week's news. As expected, the state budget faces a serious deficit and the Connecticut Mirror's Keith Phaneuf will explain what that means for taxpayers. Also, the Democrats will retain control of the legislature, but there are some intriguing young Republicans to watch - including a 20-year-old legislator! We will also remember Connecticut Judge John T. Downey, who died this week after an extraordinary life.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

In high school the math teacher who broke my spirit was also the head football coach. When he handed back your tests he called out the position you'd play on the team based on your number. So End was good. You didn't want him yelling halfback as he tossed your test paper towards you; that meant a score in the 40's or worse. I was dragging along miserably in his course so my mother hired a tutor through a local college. His name was Hare and he was newly arrived from India. His accent was so dense that I often could not understand what was being said to me so we communicated through numbers and I started to understand math. I think I wasn't all that bad at it. I got a great S.A.T. score in math but I was a struggling C student because the only man who ever communicated with me was the man who couldn't reach me with words.

Iryna Yeroshko / Creative Commons

Let's play a game. I'm going to name five things and you tell me what they are - "An Unnecessary Woman," "All the Light We Cannot See," "Redeployment," "Station Eleven," "Lila." They are the five fiction finalists for this year's National Book Award which will be given out this week.  Don't feel bad if you didn't get the answer - I wouldn't have either. My  connection to the nominees begins and ends with having picked up one of the five books from a table at - of all places - Whole Foods.

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