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Gettin’ Moody With Devin: Feeling Like Expanding Your Vocabulary

Dave Worley / Flickr

Dave Worley / Flickr

I figured you’d be covered for holiday playlists, but who’s going to have your back when you feel like learning new words? I got you. (I used the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition. I know we’re up to the 11th edition, but it’s what I had.)


Harry Connick, Jr., “Cry Me a River,” Come By Me

Plebeian (adj): 1) of or relating to the common people 2) crude or coarse in manner or style

As in: “You told me love was too plebeian/Told me you were through with me and…”

Another definition is, “a member of the Roman plebs,” but that’s probably not what songwriter Arthur Hamilton meant. Good on him for slipping an SAT word into the lyrics and finding a creative way to make it rhyme.


Miles Davis, “Surrey with the Fringe On Top,” Prestige Profiles: Miles Davis

Surrey (n): A four-wheel, two-seated, horse-drawn pleasure carriage.

As in: No words. This is an instrumental version.

I hadn't seen Oklahoma before I heard this song (still haven’t) and the first version I heard was instrumental. So I had to guess what a surrey was without contextual clues from the lyrics or visual aids. I was a little off.



John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, “Lush Life,” John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman

Distingué (adj): Distinguished especially in manner or bearing.

As in: "The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces/With distingué traces…”

I used to think I was mishearing the lyrics, but it turns out I wasn’t and it’s a real word. A pleasant surprise.



Jeff Hamilton, “Symbiosis,” Symbiosis

Symbiosis (n): the intimate living together of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship

As in: The title of this song and album

I recommend anything by Jeff Hamilton and especially this album. It’s a solid trio record; every track makes you want to listen again. It will also make you a fan of pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty.


Brady McKay & The Neurotypicals, “Shady Lady,” The New Eclectic

Paramour (n): an illicit lover

As in: “She’ll lead you to love then leave you in love/A paramour.”

These local musicians performed on Insight a few years ago. Listen to their interview here (it includes the story behind the song) and watch the performance below.


 gettin' moody

Devin Yamanaka

All Things Considered Host

You can hear Devin Yamanaka weekdays during All Things Considered. She also contributes to CapRadioMusic and is an avid tweeter (and re-tweeter) of all things baseball, animals, music, and public radio.  Read Full Bio 

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