Friday, February 6, 2009

NPR Sunday Puzzle, Sun, Feb 1, 2009 - Bombshell

The latest NPR Sunday Puzzle was:
Think of a famous living woman whose first and last names are each accented on the second syllable. Say the second syllable of her last name, followed by the second syllable of her first name, and phonetically you'll get a word meaning very attractive woman. Who is it?
I'd better be careful what I say here, as Magdalen is keeping an eye on me.

She got the answer right away and gave me a lot of hints, but all I could do was wonder whether Barmy or Shello were very attractive women. Only when she poked at me vigorously did I get the woman as Michelle Obama and the word bombshell (which might just describe Michelle).

"bombshell" in this sense goes back to the 1930s, when you had to be a blonde to be one. Jean Harlow starred in the 1933 movie Bombshell and associated publicity described the star as "the Blonde Bombshell of filmdom".


Herb said...

However, this only works if you pronounce the Prez and first lady's last name as o-BOM-a, rather than o-BAHM-a, as I would be willing to bet it is pronounced in Kenya. (Cf. the universal American mispronunciation of other "ah" words like "pasta" and "Vietnam").

Magdalen said...

You may be on to something here, Herb. My mother was born in Indianapolis and raised in Rochester and Manhattan (the NY ones, not Minn. or Kans.) but because her parents were both English, she had a bit of a unique accent. Her sisters were my "ahnts" not my "ants," for example. However, she called Vietnam "vee-et-NAM" rather than "VEE-et-nahm." Of course, I always took that as an unconscious & pejorative pronunciation -- we were very much opposed to that war in our household.

And that's nothing on the odd pronunciations that come out of my Oxford-educated husband: He pronounces pejorative as "PEE-jurr-a-tiv" rather than "peh-JOR-a-tiv" as we do. I correct him all the time -- out of love, don't you know.