One of my favorite radio programs, when I hear it, is Minds Over Matter on KALW Sundays 7-8 pm. It’s a literate, educated, funny quiz show. Very informal: the panelists ask questions of one another and the radio audience, and listeners call in and try to stump the panelists. (Two questions from last night: Name the 4 Mediterranean countries whose names start with M; What American movie was the first to get extensive play in Communist Russia?) So last night a panelist asked the name of a kind of centerpiece dish used for fruit and flowers with arms. And I knew this from when I was a reference librarian: epergne (with accent on the last e).
So I called in and the panel reacted with awe. (Really!)
It’s more informal and local (and participatory) than my other favorite literate, informed, funny quiz show: Says You on KQED-FM Sundays at 4 pm– which is also terrific. One of their best segments: the 3 people on one team are given an odd word; one has the real definition, the other two make up definitions, and the opposite team tries to guess which is the genuine definition.
When I was a reference librarian we got all the Antiques Roadshow kinds of questions: “I found this in the basement,” (we don’t have attics in California), “Grandpa brought it back from France in the 20s,” or “We’ve been told it’s been in the family since the Civil War, what is it” and (especially) “Is it worth anything?” Once something was: a painting by a French artist from the 1920s who had been out of fashion but was coming back into favor. That’s how I learned about epergne.