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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Saturday, August 31, 2002

The unusual phrase 'twenty three skidoo' (meaning, broadly, no chance, or get lost) became 'perhaps the first truly national fad expression' in the USA at the beginning of the 1900s. Its origin (as with that of 'OK') has been much discussed by word-lovers. Here are some possibilities for its derivation:

1 It comes from a play version of 'A Tale of Two Cities' where a character counts the prisoners heading for the guillotine. The hero Carton was number 23, and her weepy cry of this number became a Broadway catchphrase. Skidoo (or skiddoo) was added 'for the enlightenment of anyone who hadn't seen the play'.

2 The word and the number were both displayed on pennants and armbands at shore resorts (for unexplained reasons) around 1900 and the two got added together to form the nonsense phrase.

3 'Twenty three' as a euphemism for 'get lost' originates in a play called Little Johnny Jones by George M Cohan where the phrase is used by an old time trouper from 'Frisco'.

4 It is a version of SKYDDU, a word painted on walls as a rain omen (a pun on 'sky dew').

5 It was once part of a telegraphic code where numbers stood for common phrases; 23 was the code for 'away with you!'.

source: Catch Phrases by Eric Partridge (1977)

A reader (thanks Ken) reminds me that another suggestion has to do with the Flatiron building in NYC, a wedge shaped block which stands on 23rd Street. It is said that strange wind currents roused by the building's shape would cause ladies' skirts to be blown up. Hence policemen shooing voyeurs with the "23 skidoo!"

In the early 1990s, the broadcaster Janet Street Porter described comedy as 'the new rock and roll', thereby ushering in a popular buzz phrase of the last decade. Whether she coined it is unknown. Here are various things which have been tarred with the epithet The New Rock and Roll. Most common by far is number 9.

1 anger
2 greyhound racing
3 domestic appliances
4 brown
5 mathematics
6 weblogging
7 corporate gigs
8 sports
9 gardening
10 history
11 art
12 cookery
13 bingo
14 satire
15 being a father
16 chess
17 coffee
18 film making
19 football
20 public speaking
21 poetry
22 fishing
23 comics
24 medicine
25 gaming
26 DIY
27 living space design
28 entrepreneurs
29 languages
30 hypnosis
31 retro
32 debt restructuring
33 outsiders
34 sexual fetishism
35 coughing
36 sci-fi
37 ballet
38 e-business
39 Cardiff
40 toilet humour
41 cabaret
42 Java
43 preaching
44 gas contracts
45 modelling
46 image
47 English porn
48 cushions
49 farming
50 education
51 lawn mower racing
52 niche marketing
53 animation
54 dying
55 food
56 soaps
57 custard pie fighting
58 enterprise portals
59 life after death
60 housewares
61 the Net
62 philosophy
63 hard boiled fiction
64 genomics
65 fashion
66 flamenco
67 nautical facial hair
68 anti-globalisation
69 Pokémon
70 newspaper columns
71 porridge
72 theatre
73 technology
74 geology
75 jellied eels
76 birth control
77 care of the elderly
78 online radio
79 banjos
80 day trading
81 graphics cards
82 self storage
83 climbing
84 tropical fish

source: the WWW;

28 things invented by clergymen

1 the barocyclonometer
2 written form of the Inuktitut language
3 the reaping machine
4 the pill lock for rifles
5 the rickshaw
6 bourbon
7 Oor Wullie
8 the pantograph
9 the knitting machine
10 Bayesian algorithms
11 the rain gauge
12 the Stirling engine
13 the watch
14 the corkscrew
15 the slide rule
16 the tobacco boat
17 germ theory of diseases
18 the gutta percha golf ball
19 Father John's lung and throat tonic
20 the Gamble Radiated Telegraph
21 the induction coil
22 the Oliver Standard Visible Writer
23 the Eclipse windmill
24 the pyramidon organ stop
25 the stocking frame
26 Tweedledum and Tweedledee
27 the pedal radio
28 Y-fronts*

*any proof of this one? - We had to leave it out of the book, but I KNOW it's true.

12 Scots words found in the poetry of W.N. Herbert
and what they mean

1 slattyvarryish - tasting like edible seaweed

2 tinkle-sweetie - bell rung around 8pm, when shops were closed

3 smoorikins - stolen kisses

4 cappilow - to outdo another in reaping

5 crappit heids - stuffed heads of haddock

6 mirligoes - specks that dance before the eyes

7 dingle-dousie - a lighted stick waved rapidly in the dark to form an arc of light

8 sheemach - a matted mass of hair

9 glawnicies - optical illusions caused by witchcraft

10 growkin sowff - a longing sigh

11 mumbudjit - utterly hushed

12 crambo-clink - poetic doggerel


How Mr Gaye might have altered his repertoire for the older generation:

I Heard It Through The Grapevine...
Mrs Jones had a hysterectomy.

What's Going On...
all those beeping noises on the bus.

(Sexual) Healing...
when are they going to sort my prostate out?

Let's Get It On...
World Championship Bowls on BBC2

Mercy Mercy Me...
the price of peppermints these days!

Wherever I Lay My Hat...
I always forget where I put it.

Source: by RcL

A list of Elizabethan verbs proper to the serving and carving of meats.

Lift that Swan
Rear that Goose
Dismember that Hern
Unbrace that Mallard
Unlace that Coney
Allay that Pheasant
Wing that Partridge
Display that Quail
Unjoynt that Bittern
Unlatch that Curlew
Break that Egript
Thigh that Woodcock

from The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May; reprinted in A Word in Your Ear by Ivor Brown (1942)

A list of alternatives to the Hare Krishna chant 'Call out Gouranga, be happy!'

Call out gooseberry, be pippy!
Call out goulash, be nippy!
Call out Good Hope, be capey!
Call out gourmet, be crepey!
Call out Guggenheim, be preppy!
Call out Gutenberg, be typey!
Call out goosander, be flappy!
Call out goodnight, be sleepy!
Call out Goonhilly, be slopey!
Call out googly, be dippy!
Call out Goolagong, be Skippy!
Call out goosebumps, be creepy!
Call out Goombay, be weepy!
Call out guru, be hippy!
Call out Goodyear, be non-slippy!
Call out goujon, be strippy!
Call out gouache, be drippy!
Call out goo-goo, be nappy!
Call out Goodwood, be snappy!
Call out goudale, be soupy!
Call out Goodge Street, be shoppy!
Call out Gudmundsdottir, be stroppy!
Call out Goodman, be boppy!
Call out goober nut, be croppy!
Call out gourami, be guppy!
Call out ghoul, be duppy!
Call out Goofy, be puppy!
Call out Good Vibrations, be poppy!
Call out Goon Show, be loopy!
Call out Gujarat, be rupee!

by RcL

Some excellent seashell names:

bursa frog
orange-mouth olive
lima file
babylon turrid
elephant's snout volute
frilled dogwinkle
australian trumpet
florida horse conch
triton's trumpet
bull-mouth helmet
sunburst carrier
tapestry turban
bear paw
lightning whelk
partridge tun
donkey ear abalone
wedding cake venus
bleeding tooth
giant knobbed cerith
precious wentle-trap
commercial top
turkey wing ark
geography cone
sunrise tellin
onyx slipper
great keyhole limpet
papery rapa
spiny vase
ostrich foot
tankerville's ancilla
colourful atlantic moon
paper bubble
miraculous thatcheria

A list of 40 of my favourite albums (updated summer 04):

Tori Amos - Boys for Pele
Virginia Astley - Hope in a Darkened Heart
Aztec Camera - High Land Hard Rain
Bark Psychosis - Hex
The Beloved - Happiness
Big Star - Radio City
Blue Aeroplanes - Swagger
The Blue Nile - A Walk Across the Rooftops
Burach - Deeper
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
The Clash - London Calling
Cockney Rebel - The Human Menagerie
Leonard Cohen - Songs of
The Delgados - The Great Eastern
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Too Rye Ay
The Durutti Column - Another Setting
Eyeless in Gaza - Rust Red September
Donald Fagen - The Nightfly
Fatima Mansions - Viva Dead Ponies!
Nanci Griffith - One Fair Summer Evening
Robin Holcomb - Robin Holcomb
Labradford - Mi Media Naranja
Jackie Leven - Forbidden Songs of the Dying West
Wim Mertens - Usura
Microdisney - The Clock Comes Down the Stairs
Mogwai - Rock Action
Mojave 3 - Out of Tune
Nico - Chelsea Girl
Stina Nordenstam - And She Closed Her Eyes
Micheal Nyman - Drowning By Numbers
Old Blind Dogs - The World's Room
Orange Juice - You Can't Hide Your Love Forever
Rachel's - Music for Egon Schiele
REM - Murmur
Kate Rusby - Little Lights
Shelleyan Orphan - Century Flower
10000 Maniacs - The Wishing Chair
Ultravox - Ultravox!
Velocette - Fourfold Remedy
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

This is one of those round robin email lists, most of which are dire, but I really like this one:

1 Most Blues begin, "Woke up this morning."

2 " I got a good woman (or man)" is a bad way to begin the Blues, 'less you stick something nasty in the next line, like "I got a good man, with the meanest face in town."

3 The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes ... sort of: "Got a good woman - with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher - and she weigh 500 pound."

4 The Blues are not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain't no way out.

5 Blues cars: Chevys and Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft an' state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. Walkin' plays a
major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

6 Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7 Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in St. Paul or Tucson is just depression. Chicago, St.Louis, and Kansas City still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the blues in any place that don't get rain.

8 A man with male pattern baldness ain't the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cuz you skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg cuz an alligator be chomping on it is.

9 You can't have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot and sit by the dumpster.

10 Good places for the Blues:
a highway
b jailhouse
c empty bed
d bottom of a whiskey glass

Bad places:
a Ashrams
b gallery openings
c Ivy League institutions
d golf courses

11 No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old ethnic person, and you slept in it.

12 Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if:
a you're older than dirt
b you're blind
c you shot a man in Memphis
d you can't be satisfied

No, if:
a you have all your teeth
b you were once blind but now can see
c the man in Memphis lived.
d you have a retirement plan or trust fund.

13 Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues. Gary Coleman could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the blues.

14 If you ask for water and Baby give you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are:
a wine
b whiskey or bourbon
c muddy water
d black coffee

The following are NOT Blues beverages:
a mixed drinks
b kosher wine
c Snapple
d sparkling water

15 If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse, and dying lonely on a broken down cot. You can't have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or
while getting liposuction.

16 Some Blues names for women:
a Sadie
b Big Mama
c Bessie
d Fat River Dumpling

17. Some Blues names for men:
a Joe
b Willie
c Little Willie
d Big Willie

18 Persons with names like Sierra, Sequoia, Auburn, and Rainbow can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

19 Make your own Blues name (starter kit):
a name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
b first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi,etc.)
c last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)

For example, Blind Lime Jefferson, or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")

20 I don't care how tragic your life is: you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues.
~ Friday, August 30, 2002

1 The battle of Culloden
2 The wedding ceremony of Elvis and Priscilla Presley

These apparently cover all possible storylines:

1 Supplication
2 Deliverance
3 Crime pursued by vengeance
4 Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
5 Pursuit
6 Disaster
7 Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune
8 Revolt
9 Daring enterprise
10 Abduction
11 The Enigma
12 Obtaining
13 Enmity of kinsmen
14 Rivalry of kinsmen
15 Murderous adultery
16 Madness
17 Fatal imprudence
18 Involuntary crimes of love
19 Slaying of kinsman unrecognised
20 Self-sacrifice for an ideal
21 Self-sacrifice for kindred
22 All sacrificed for passion
23 Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
24 Rivalry of superior and inferior
25 Adultery
26 Crimes of love
27 Discovery of the dishonour of a loved one
28 Obstacles to love
29 An enemy loved
30 Ambition
31 Conflict with a god
32 Mistaken jealousy
33 Erroneous judgment
34 Remorse
35 Recovery of a lost one
36 Loss of loved ones
The 'odd word' number ones

1 Do the Bartman
2 The Mighty Quinn
3 Perfect Day
4 Don't Look Back in Anger
5 All Shook Up
6 Ernie
7 No Scrubs
8 C'est La Vie
9 Geno
10 Super Trouper
11 American Pie
12 Down Under

1960s odd words:

1 Eleanor Rigby
2 Puppet on a String
3 Rock-a-Hula Baby
4 Two Little Boys
5 The Isrealites
6 Little Children
7 A Whiter Shade of Pale
8 Lily the Pink
9 Little Red Rooster
10 Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?
11 The Ballad of John and Yoko
12 Those Were the Days


1 Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick
2 Matchstick men and Matchstick Cats and Dogs
3 Fernando
4 All Kinds of Everything
5 Up Town Top Ranking
6 Woodstock
7 Wand'rin Star
8 Grandad
9 Telegram Sam
10 Tears of a Clown
11 I Don't Like Mondays
12 Rubber Bullets


1 Going Underground
2 Orinoco Flow
3 The Reflex
4 Belfast Child
5 House of Fun
6 La Bamba
7 Star Trekkin
8 De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
9 Two Tribes
10 Too Much Too Young

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