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Bluff The Listener



From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Helen Hong, Peter Grosz and Tom Bodett. And here again is your host, a man deftly muting his Zoom whenever his baby cries. It's Peter Sagal.


SAGAL: Thank you, Bill. Right now, it is time once again for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air.

Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

NATHAN MILLS: Hi. This is Nathan from San Antonio, Texas.

SAGAL: Oh, we love San Antonio. What do you do there?

MILLS: Well, I work in IT. Right up until about a month ago, I was running the IT at the Alamo.

SAGAL: Really?

MILLS: Yeah.

SAGAL: Wow. I guess you'll never forget that.

MILLS: Yes. That is a quality response (laughter).

SAGAL: Well, welcome to the show, Nathan. You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. What is Nathan's topic, Bill?

BILL KURTIS: Ancient artistes.

SAGAL: As the world becomes more modern, ancient arts become threatened, like calligraphy or making thatched roofs or the lost art of wearing pants during the day. Our panelists are going to tell you about someone intent on preserving an ancient art threatened by the modern world. Pick the one who's telling the truth, you'll win our prize - the WAIT WAITer of your choice on your voicemail. You ready to play?

MILLS: Absolutely.

SAGAL: Let's do it. First, let's hear from Peter Grosz.

PETER GROSZ: Linguistics professor Daniela Savoli (ph) of Milan, Italy, specializes in dead languages - languages no one speaks any more, like ancient Aramaic or English before we started, like, inserting the word like before every other, like, word. And, like, Professor Savoli is teaching a new course at a local elementary school in Milan in something called Giptin Uhla (ph).

Giptin Uhla devolved over centuries into the modern pig Latin that we learned in fifth grade. We all remember, you take the first syllable of a word, and you move it along with the sound a to the end of the word. So, for example, if you were speaking to a colleague about an important matter, and you ask them a question like, do you have a crush on Janie Watkins (ph), you would say, oo-day ayay avhay ayay ushcray onyay anijay atkinsway (ph)?

HELEN HONG: (Laughter).

GROSZ: But Professor Savoli wants to teach 10-year-olds the historically correct version of the language, and speaking Giptin Uhla is a little bit different. The rules for this are, monosyllabic words are pronounced backwards, multisyllabic words are split into their component syllables, then rearranged alphabetically as long as the first syllable doesn't come first alphabetically. And while there is no a sound at the end, there is a guttural uh (ph) sound that is placed between each syllable.

So the sentence, do you have a crush on Janie Watkins, becomes, uhd you oy ivha ahisurb no ni uhjakins uhwat (ph) - a thing of beauty indeed.

HONG: (Laughter).

SAGAL: An Italian teacher trying to preserve the ancient genuine form of pig Latin. Your next story of an ancient art comes from Helen Hong.

HONG: A village in Sri Lanka is struggling to maintain a bizarre but cherished heritage - haircuts given by live crabs. The crab claw haircuts date back generations in the village of Araga (ph). A village elder recounts the very first crab haircut happened because of a drunken dare between two fishermen. But that first crab barber did a fantastic job. The haircut was so unique and stylish, all the fishermen soon wanted one. Then their wives and children wanted them. Soon, this became the calling card for our village.

The trick is to get the crab very angry. The angrier the crab, the better their haircut. We anger crabs by putting things they want to eat directly in front of them, so they have to walk sideways and make a bunch of sideways turns to get at it.

But the crab haircut practice is now dying out. These young kids, they want smooth hair, complained the jagged-banged elder. A quick survey of teens and 20-somethings in the village discovered a different reason for steering clear of the practice. So many people have lost parts of their ears, exclaimed a 22-year-old with a chic, smooth bob. Indeed, many ears in the village looked as jagged as the hairstyles.

Elders in the village have started an Instagram account, @CrabCutsAreCool (ph). Sure, your ear might get a little pinced (ph), but everybody will notice your hair first.

TOM BODETT: (Laughter).

SAGAL: Crab claw haircuts in a village in Sri Lanka. Your last story of preserving the old ways comes from Tom Bodett.

BODETT: Sixty-five-year-old Kung Fu master Wang Liutai is worried. Tongbeiquan, his unique, centuries-old strand of kung fu, popularly known as iron crotch, seems to be in danger of dying out. Mastered by developing the ability to take hits in the body's weakest point, strangely, fewer and fewer people are taking up the discipline. In an effort to boost its appeal, Wang came up with the famous technique involving a steel cap six foot long weighing 90 pounds being swung through the air into a man's crotch.

Despite how it looks, Wong insists, it doesn't hurt - much. (Imitating high-pitched voice) When you practice iron crotch kung fu, as long as you push yourself, you will feel great...

HONG: (Laughter).

BODETT: ...Said Wang, who was the head of the Juntun Martial Arts Academy.

HONG: (Laughter).

BODETT: Mastery of the Iron Crotch is gained by taking hits to the business district while using qigong breathing. Qigong, one imagines, translates roughly as gasping for air in the fetal position, then throwing up.

HONG: (Laughter).

BODETT: Fellow master 53-year-old Tang Xiaocheng hastened to add, we also have iron throat, iron head, iron chest and iron back. Way to sell it, guys. The future of this ancient tradition appears to be in the bag.


SAGAL: All right. So one of these three things exists and is dying out, so people are trying to save it. Is it, from Peter Grosz, the original, genuine form of pig Latin; from Helen Hong, the dying art of cutting hair with crab claws attached to crabs; or, from Tom Bodett, the rare strain of kung fu known as iron crotch? Which of these is the real art form that people are struggling to preserve?

MILLS: I'm going to take a shot with Tom's story on the Iron Crotch.

SAGAL: Your choice is Tom's story of iron crotch kung fu and the campaign to save it from dying out. Well, we spoke to someone familiar with the real story.


KADHAFI BERTHO: The iron crotch is a interesting martial art. I just don't understand why anybody would want to strengthen pain in that area.


SAGAL: That is Kadhafi Bertho, a striking coach and owner of Bertho Boxing, talking about the iron crotch technique and clearly not being too enthusiastic about it. But nonetheless...


SAGAL: You got it right. Tom was telling the amazing truth. There is something called iron crotch kung fu, and they are trying to save it. You have won our game, and Tom has won a point. Thank you so much for playing.

MILLS: Thank you very much. Welcome back, Peter. Congratulations.

SAGAL: Thank you very much. It's great to be back. Take care. Bye-bye.



BLACK SABBATH: (Singing) Has he lost his mind? Can he see, or is he blind? Can he walk at all? Or if he moves, will he fall? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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