Giacomo's Lackluster Bottles

Dec 04, 2006

RAY: This puzzler is from the world of history, folklore, art, art history, etymology, obfuscation, and maybe complete fabrication.

Here it is:

For centuries the world has been astounded by both the art and artisanry of Italian glassblowers of the Rennaisance. In fact, glass making was such a secret that they even moved the artists to the island of Murano near Venice.

While many of these artists' creations have found their way to museums and private collections in virtually every corner of the world, many did not. And even for those with many years of training in this art form success was often elusive. And when these artists of that era would fail in their attempts to create something of beauty, they would save these lacklustre works to serve as a reminder of the fact that they messed up. Maybe there was a flawed technique or some inattention to detail.

These artists often referred to these substandard works of art, these disappointments, these failures, as 'bottles.'

-- Hey, Giacomo, what's a thatta you make?

-- Eh, it's just a bottle.

We use this Italian word for 'bottle' in the English language. In fact we use it intact, unchanged. Except in English, it does not mean 'bottle.' Rather its meaning is derived from its use by those Italian glassblowers.

The question is, what's the word?

Here's a little hint: The word is a common English word that's often been used by many in association with this very program!
RAY: The hint I gave is that the word is often used by NPR executives to describe our show.

If you were in a little wine bar in Italy, someone might ask you if you would like a bottle of wine. Those little bottles of wine are sometimes covered with straw.

TOM: Yeah. I've seen those.

RAY: They would ask you if you wanted a, "fiasco de vino."

TOM: A flask!

RAY: Right. A fiasco is, was, and still is a bottle. But, as we know it's an utter failure as well. Do we have a winner?

TOM: Wow. Our winner this week is Joanne Ericsson from Auclair, Wisconsin, and for her having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Joanne is going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at Car, and with that she can get our brand new CD of funny stories called, Once Upon A Car Fire.

RAY: Yeah. These are stories, 16 stories in all, that we happen to tell on the air over the years. They're all united by a common theme.

TOM: And what is that theme? Familial affection?

RAY: No, abject humiliation. No one is spared, not our family, friends, staff, each other. Everyone takes it hard in this collection. Anyway, Joanne, if you use your gift certificate before Christmas you'll also get one of those free Car Talk Plaza parking stickers that they're giving away.

TOM: Right, for the parking lot we don't have.

RAY: Yeah. Once we have thousands of people driving around with Car Talk Plaza parking stickers someone will have to give us a parking lot, right?

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