Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19, 2017--Distracted

Got distracted. Back tomorrow.

Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18, 2017--Rhyming Reduplication CONTEST WINNERS

Before announcing the Rhyming Reduplication contest winners, a brief review--

The most classic Reduplication is a rhyming two-phrased compound where each of the two parts are not actual words. For example, there is no meaning associated with either heebie or jeebies. Only when they are joined as heebie-jeebies is there a meaning.

And if they are disaggregated, divided, neither part has anything to do with the meaning of the expression. There is only meaning when they are paired. Thus, heebie-jeebies together means a state of nervous fear or anxiety.

Then there is the semi-classic version where just one of the components has no separate meaning--dilly-dally is an example, were dally is an actual word. And finally there is the open definition type, where both parts can be stand-alone words but when fused together sound as if they should be a Rhyming Reduplication.

From the winners listed below we have newly made-up examples, neologisms of the three types. All wonderfully silly-nilly--extra silly.

Got it?

The contest was to create entirely new ones.

I received a number of clever submissions and a neat note from a 20-something very literate niece. She wrote--
I loved today's posting! It's so funny because just last night I was talking with friends about where the phrase "bee's-knees" comes from. We found a few varying answers on line. 
It's either an abridged version of "be all/end all" or a fun way of saying "the business." We did find a few more amusing ones that no one uses anymore, or ever--"the flea's eyebrows" or "the canaries tusks." 
OH, the English language. How lucky we are to have it as our native tongue.
These are not strictly speaking Rhyming Reduplications since bees and knees have meanings of their own. But close enough via the open-definition exception.

Bee's knees appears to have first appeared in the 1920s along with other nonsense phrases that include incongruous parings of animal names with words that pertain to humans. One of my favorites of this kind is cat's pajamas. Nothing elicits the Jazz Age better than this!

I received so many fun Rhyming Reduplications that I could not limit myself to just one winner. So . . .

Honorable Mention

These two submitted by Guest-Blogger Sharon are quite clever and deserve honorable mention--


Sharon says it means "to lie--to wink while you do a pinky-swear."

She notes there is a type of Hydrangea called Pinky-Winky. I think Rona may have at least one in her garden. I also love pinky-swear. We used to lock pinkies all the time to designate that a promise had been made in my old Brooklyn neighborhood.

Asking if one in Spanish is acceptable, I eagerly said yes and so Sharon submitted--


She says it means "Spanish coffee with a lid." 

Honorable mention also goes to Kathy Donovan who submitted Nutsy-Wutzy and the Gala Girl, Hedy Roma who wrote--

Frumpy-Lumpy: state of unfashionableness characterized by ill fitting, stretched-out "so what not to wear" clothes, as in, "As soon as Lucinda left the house she felt so frumpy-dumpy in that mauve t-shirt dress with rhinestones that accentuate her body in all the wrong places."

Late Night Submission

Past the deadline, Rona got into the game, writing--

I awoke at midnight with the pair of Rhyming Reduplications swirling in my head:

Comment to a nicely tanned person--Wowie Maui.

Comment to a badly sunburned person--Owie Maui.

I especially like Owie, but a deadline is a deadline.

And So the Winner Is . . .

John Allan from Bristol Maine!

His submission, though not a classic version because the two phrases are both actual words, is--

Queue-zoo. The meaning he assigned to it is Incomprehensible checkout lines at busy supermarkets. And to show its use in a sentence wrote--"Took me an hour to get out of Publix. It was a real queue-zoo."

John said that since "word games imply books" he asked me to donate $100 in his name to the Bristol Area Library. Which I will do.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

September 15, 2017--Monday Plans

I was too busy yesterday and this morning to complete my writing. So, I will return on Monday with the results of the Rhyming Reduplications contest and also will be posting another puzzling Audiological Tale. The Tale, likely on Tuesday.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 14, 2017--Arboreal Chic

I'm so glad we no longer have a house in East Hampton.

In case I was having any doubts about moving on when this formally bucolic place became a bastion of conspicuous consumption among big-bonus outer-borough Wall Streeters, a story in last week's New York Times cured me.

"How Does the Hamptons Garden Grow? With a Lot of Paid Help" is about vegetable gardening Hamptons' style.

The Times reports that compared to more familiar small scale, do-it-yourself vegetable gardens--
On the gilded acres of Long Island's East End, a different set of skill set often applies: hiring a landscape architect to design the garden, a gardener and crew to plant and pamper the beds, and sometimes even a chef to figure out what to do with the bushels of fresh produce. All that's left is to pick the vegetables--though employees frequently do that too.
Of course the "different set of skills" begins with the ability to write a big check.

Alec Gunn, a landscape gardener whose made-to-order gardens typically go for as much as $100,000 has something interesting to say about what is going on out there--
"What's driving the gardening bug [pun intended?] among the affluent, [professional] gardeners say, is their clients' focus on "self-care"--a curious phrase for a pursuit that requires so much help. . . [He adds], that the impulse includes a "moral component."  
"There's so much wealth, he said, "It's, 'Let's take something I've been fortunate to have [money] and put it back into the environment. I want to do something to reduce what I'm taking.'"
Rona and I knew it was time to begin to think about bailing out after participating in a garden tour for the benefit of the local Animal Rescue Fund. Among the gardens we visited was Martha Stewart's. She had recently bought a huge "cottage" by the ocean. 

We were stunned particularly by her mature rose garden. It was at least a half acre and included perhaps 50 varieties of roses. Talking with one of her gardeners we learned that it had been planted the week before.

"Just a week ago?" I nearly screamed at him. He just smiled as if to say, "If you have the money . . ."

A week or two later we were wandering around one of our favorite garden stores, Marders in Bridgehampton. They were well known for their stock of specimen trees. We stopped to look closely at one--a huge conifer. Not to buy it, it was listed at $5,000, but to admire its majesty.

We knew one of the owners and he walked over to say hello.  I said, "This is some tree."

He said, "If you promise not to tell anyone I have a story about it." We promised not to, though I am breaking that vow now. He told us that two, three years earlier Paul Simon, who had an estate on the beach in Montauk, wanted rows of them planted on both sides of the quarter-mile drive to his "cottage."

"We told him they wouldn't thrive there because they would be so close to the ocean that there would be too much salt in the air for trees of this kind. He insisted, and we said OK, but that we wouldn't guarantee them. He agreed and, though we shouldn't have, we agreed to plant them."

"What happened?" Rona asked.

"Within a year they were all dead."

"How much did they . . . ?"

"Hundreds of thousands," he confided in us. 

This was more than 15 years ago when hundreds of thousands was real money.

The Times article concluded--
The initial excitement of a vegetable garden fades for some clients. They lose interest, after they are planted. . . . It's the same thing with the chickens. They say, 'I have to have chickens, so I can tell my friends,' but they end up giving the eggs to the help.
Let me end with something on the same subject from my new-favorite book, Kevin Phillips' Wealth and Democracy--
The Hamptons, where roadside vegetable stands sell Osaka purple mustard and Romanian wax peppers, developed a particular case of arboreal chic. Crimson king maples and golden honey locusts costing tens of thousands of dollars apiece became status symbols along with weeping copper beeches, according to one Baedeker. They had to look like they had been there since the first settlers:
Size, rarity, and the difficulty of transportation add to the cachet of some trees, but in the end it comes down to expense. Some trees now gracing Hamptons estates have been driven down from the Pacific Northwest in refrigerated tractor-trailers, and some have been planted with the aid of military-size Sikorsky helicopters to obviate the necessity of rutting the lawns with wheeled tracks. 
Amagansett Farmers Market

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 13, 2017--Rhyming Reduplications CONTEST

"How was your sleep?" Rona wanted to know after waking up, "You were tossing and turning half the night."

"I woke up from a disturbing dream at about 3 AM and didn't get much sleep after that. I spent a lot of time feeling anxious. Maybe about what was going on down in Florida."

"Did you have the heebies or the jeebies?"

"The what?"

"The heebie-jeebies. I'm making a little joke to perk you up. You still seem distressed."

"I am a little bit, but thankfully I don't have the heebie-jeebies anymore. By the way, I love that expression--heebie-jeebies. I wonder about its etymology."

"Look it up when we get home. I don't have a clue. Could be interesting."

I did and here's what I found:

First of all there are quite a few expressions similar to heebie-jeebies. All are in effect rhyming two-phrased compounds where the phrases" are not actual words. Like, there is no meaning associated with either heebie or jeebies.

They are literally two made up expressions where the parts, only when fused together, are deemed to have meaning, to refer to something specific. And if they are disaggregated, split apart, they have nothing to do with the meaning of the expression. There is only meaning when they are paired. Thus, heebie-jeebies together means a state of nervous fear or anxiety.

And, of course, as is true for all parts of every language, there is a name for this class of expressions--rhyming reduplications.

Perhaps listing some of my favorites will make all of this clearer--

Handy-dandy (made up of two actual words)

From the research I subsequently did, I learned that--

New coinages of this kind often appeared at times of national confidence, when people are feeling outgoing and optimistic and are moved to express this in language. For example, during the 1920s and following the First World War when many nonsense word-pairs were coined--among them bee's-knees and, my current favorite, heebie-jeebies.

They often do have the sound of the Jazz Age, of bebop.

But many are of much older derivation. Willy-nilly is over a thousand years old and riff-raff dates from the 1400s. Helter-skelter, arsy-versy (a form of vice-versa) and hocus-pocus all date from the 16th century.

Of more recent vintages are bling-bling, boob-tube and hip-hop.

Don't you love this? The process of language building? Especially  as in these cases when it is about nothing more than the sheer enjoyment of word play.

Do you like this enough to participate in a contest?

Here's how it works--

Create a new rhyming reduplication. To be sure it's a new one, check it on Google.

Submit it and it's meaning via a response to this posting no later than midnight east coast time, September 15th. Also, it would help to include it in a sentence.

The winner will be announced on Monday, September 18th. 

The prize will be a $100 contribution in your name to any non-profit of your choice.

Good luck! Above all, have fun!

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 12, 2017--9/11

After breakfast at the diner, driving toward town yesterday morning, approaching the information center, I noticed that the flag was flying at half mast.

"For Florida?" I wondered out loud. "That would be a bit strange. I'm not sure that's appropriate to do."

Living up here one pays attention to things such as the display of flags and other symbols of patriotism. Not everyone is gung ho, far from it--there's a full range of feelings about the meaning of America and how to think about what it means to be an American.

"It's not about Florida," Rona said, sounding a little exasperated  with me.

"If not that what does it mean? Did someone like the police chief die? I didn't read or hear anything about that."

"You can be so oblivious," Rona said.

"So what is it then?"

"Don't you know what today is?"

"Monday? What are you getting at?"

"Listen to yourself--Monday, September 11th." She let that hang in the air between us.

After a moment it hit me, "I can't believe it. It's 9/11 and I was unaware of that. Considering how we personally experienced that morning I thought it would be etched in my mind forever, that I would never forget the anniversary."

"The day the world changed."

"Sixteen years," I said, "A lifetime. But it feels like it happened just a short time ago. That was some horrific morning."

"Yes," Rona said, "We were in the city. It was a beautiful day and I went out on the terrace to check the weather. Whether I needed a sweater before heading to Balthazar for coffee."

"And I was inside mindlessly watching the local news on TV, probably to get the Yankees' score."

"Right above our building," Rona said, "flying much too low and too fast, what turned out to be the first plane passed right over us, heading south about half a mile to the World Trade Center."

"And then in about a minute, both from outdoors where you were and on the TV that I was watching, which was showing a shot of lower Manhattan to illustrate the glorious weather, there were what seemed like two explosions. Of course, there was just one--the live one you witnessed and the one on TV, which I assume in retrospect was being broadcast with a seven-second delay."

"Then all that followed," Rona said recalling the fear and sadness.

"I'm so out of it," I said, upset with myself, "That I forgot today's the anniversary. I can get too relaxed here. Sometimes too disconnected from the world and time. But that's a lame excuse. There is and should be no excuse for not remembering the anniversary."

"I forgot as well," Rona said, "Until I saw that flag." I had pulled off the road to be close to the flagpole, in that way to perhaps feel more directly connected to the memory and emotions.

"And then we raced down to the street," I said, "found our nephew who was living in an NYU dorm even further south, closer to the attack. How we found him with the thousands of people running through the streets I'll never know. And then the three of us went to Washington Square Park and saw the second plane hit and in a few minutes watched as the two buildings imploded." 

We sat I the car looking up at the flag.

"Sixteen years," Rona said with a sigh. Almost a third of my lifetime ago. Where did those years go? Will it be that in another 16 years we'll be on this same road and stop to see the flag which I am sure will again be at half mast? People here won't forget. They don't forget things of this kind. But we . . ."

"It will be a stretch for me to be still alive in another 16 years. I don't mean to make this about me. I'm just being realistic. And since the last 16 years went by so fast, does this mean, as I think about the next 16, that . . ."

I didn't complete the thought. I didn't want to complete the thought.

Feeling me struggling with this, Rona slide closer, held onto me and said, "Your mother lived to 107 and so . . ."

She trailed off as well.

"We'll be OK," I finally said. "We'll be OK."

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Monday, September 11, 2017

September 11, 2017--Irma & Cousin Murray

I have about a dozen relatives who live all year round in south or southern Florida. Mainly cousins. 

Two live in Miami-Dade but almost all the cousins are in Palm Beach County, not far from the ocean. And so this past two weeks my thoughts and emotions have been there with them as Hurricane Irma approached and then made landfall.

I have been calling and emailing through the days to see where they are--a few evacuated--and how they are faring. And of course I have been glued to the Weather Channel both on TV and via the Internet.

The oldest cousin is 93. He has begun to show his years and so I have been focusing much of my attention on him, Cousin Murray. He can be a bit fragile and now, with his wife in rehab, happily recovering well from a recent stroke, under pressure to evacuate, he resisted, not wanting to leave her even though she was more secure and sheltered than he. 

A friend of the family convinced him to leave for his wife's sake, Cousin Elaine, to head for Tampa where it was thought to be safer than where they live in Delray Beach. 

Quoting Rona who drew an analogy to what they tell passengers on airplanes--"In case of an emergency and oxygen is needed, put your mask on first before attempting to help others."

In other words, you're not much good to others if you yourself are in danger.

So they drove to Tampa ahead of the storm and then when Irma drifted west, returned to Ft. Lauderdale, where Cousin Murray's friend has a solidly constructed house. Another advantage--this allowed him to be closer to his wife of more than 70 years.

I have been blessed with many wonderful cousins. A number of them are among my best friends. Cousin Chuck, four years older, was like a big brother. We essentially grew up as if in one household, living just two blocks apart in East Flatbush. We did everything together from playing street games, to taking marathon bike rides, to me "managing" and "training" him when he became obsessed with boxing, working out relentlessly so as to get good enough to become the next Jewish world middleweight champion.

I put manage and training in quotes because I knew as little about what they meant as he knew about boxing. Needless to say, Chuck never made it even to the Golden Gloves. But everyday was a sweet adventure following in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, he died suddenly more than 10 years ago and as a result forever there will be a vacancy in my heart.

Cousin Murray was an idol to me. He was a GI during the Second World War and when he came home on leave I huddled close to him so I could hear every word of his stories about his training and wartime assignments. Fortunately, he was not sent overseas but in his crisp uniform and spit-polished shoes, was a hero to me.

After the War, the extended family together rented a small house in the Catskill Mountain village of Tannersville. Murray worked in the city in a family business and commuted to the country on weekends. More than anyone else I looked forward to his arrival. Among the many big-cousin activities he included me in was golf (he taught me to play and let me use his clubs) and the exploration of the local countryside. He was the first and only family member to have a convertible. A green Plymouth with a black rag top.

With me in the passenger seat he loved finding open roads to run it at full speed. At that time, the New York State Thruway was being built in sections. He would learn about a completed five to 10 mile stretch before anyone else knew about it and we would head for it. 

It was the most beautiful road I had ever seen and much of it, straight as an arrow. It was irresistible to floor the accelerator pedal and get the car ripping along at more than 100 miles per hour. The first time I had experienced that velocity. Among other things, though the car's buffeting made me feel at risk, sensing this, he would turn to me and simply wink. That wink settled me and made me feel I was safe no matter what in his protective presence.

He still makes me feel that way, so many years later, in spite of his inevitable physical weakening.

And so when I finally managed to reach him again Saturday night, I could hear the roaring wind, not unlike the way the wind sounded and felt as we raced along the Thruway, eliciting in me some of the same fears, hearing that in my voice, my 94-year-old cousin, still unhappily separated from his wife, likely feeling vulnerable himself, in a south Florida bungalow that had already lost power, to calm me he said, "I don't want you to worry about me. I'm fine," he chuckled, "We're as snug as a bug in a rug."  

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