Friday, June 5, 2009

Parvum Opus 328 ~ Grit


Grit Magazine has been published continuously since 1882. They don’t know where the name came from, but grit of course means moxie, which is what we need more of now. This is my Grit issue. Like Grit Magazine, it’s cheerful.

Engrish Revisited

Tom S. sent me back to I couldn’t tell you why this sign from Malaysia particularly caught his eye. I liked a coaster found at 100-yen shop, which must be like a dollar store.

Happy tomorrow comes

aims at happiness

Even what that extends

the leaf fast thinking

of tomorrow is not

prevented and either it

expands fast fast


Mike Sykes responded to “the priest does use to come very much to John Fortescue’s house”, pointing out that —

We might, however, say "he is used to coming", with a slightly different shade of meaning, better illustrated by "my family are quite used to my beard".

Mike does have a beard. And he’s English, which is why he uses “family” as a plural noun. Anyway, here “used” has the -d on the end so the form as well as the meaning is a bit different.

A Toast to Cuba Libres

The first grown-up drink I ever ordered was in Monterrey, Mexico. I was 17 and went with my Spanish high school teacher, the late and much appreciated Ellen Rowe, and five other students to stay for a month with various families. Our hosts took us to a club in the city and someone suggested I order a Cuba Libre — rum and coke — “Free Cuba” (“free” being an adjective). In those days I drank a lot of Coke so I ordered it and it was good. (Does that sound Hemingwayesque? I thought not.)

Yesterday Henrique from Peru told me that now, when you go to Puerto Rico, if you ask for a Menterita they give you a Cuba Libre. “Menterita” means “little lie”.

Here are the Andrews Sisters singing “Rum and Coca Cola”, a cheery song about corruption in old Cuba. If you think the situation has changed, you are mistaken.

Nite Lite

One of those familiar complaints about English is why we say we drive on the parkway and park in the driveway. Someone wrote in to an advice column in CinWeekly explaining those words very well. I paraphrase: A driveway is a private roadway from the street through private property to a building that allows you to drive up instead of having to walk up. A parkway is a road through a green area, i.e. park. See?

Not quite the same, nevertheless this reminded me of a place I worked long ago, the gorgeous but now defunct Peninsula Nite Club in Peninsula, Ohio. It had three rooms, a dining room (fancy), peanut room (a bar and an old clawfoot bathtub full of peanuts and shells on the floor), and ball room (disco ball, bandstand). A great place. The rule was no peanuts were allowed in the ballroom and no balling was allowed in the peanut room.

No Soap

What we call poor in the U.S. is usually meaningless. I don’t have much money but I live in a way that kings couldn’t conjure up in the past. Except for the fact that they had servants, I live better. I can travel long distances affordably in my car. We have fantastic electronic equipment. We have electricity and good plumbing, and I lately I’ve been showering with scented shampoo and three different soaps, for a total of four different perfumes, all quite cheap.

According to Wikipedia, “the Latin word sapo simply means "soap"; it was borrowed from a Celtic or Germanic language” (usually the borrowing goes the other way). It’s inexplicable to me how humans first discovered mixing lye (from water and wood ash) with fat to make soap; imagine coming up with that product accidentally and then deciding to apply it to your skin.

My Baby, My Doggy

On the radio this week, Michael Schaffer, author of One Nation Under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food, talked about changes in pet cemeteries. In the Victorian era, markers were likely to say something like “Faithful Servant”. In the 1950s, they were more likely to say “My Best Friend”. Today, many markers say “My Baby” or “My Little Boy” or “My Little Girl”. This is not progress.

Regarding the 19th century faithful servants, I don’t care if you think pethood is degrading to the animal and call your cat Foofy your “animal companion”. We may be servants to our pets at times. Our interdependence often rises to friendship.

And pets definitely are not substitutes for children. I am not my kitty’s mommy. Years ago I took in a cat whose owners, a young married couple, had to give it up because they were moving into an apartment that did not allow pets. They were crushed, they said; kitty Christa was like their child. Wrong. I never considered giving away my sons because an apartment wouldn’t take children.

Do You Know Where Your Geography Teacher Is?

From Overheard in New York:

Teen girl #1: It's really hard to understand my biology teacher because he's from Vietnam.
Teen girl #2: What?
Teen girl #1: My biology teacher is Vietnamese.
Teen girl #2: Oh, I thought you said he was from Vietnam!
Teen girl #1: Yeah, he is.
Teen girl #2: The planet?


If you buy a book from them, you can get a year’s free subscription to The Vocabula Review.

Car Songs

Car songs are not the same as driving songs, such as Ventura Highway, Willin’, Mustang Sally (Ride Sally Ride), Freeway of Love (Pink Cadillac), etc. In classic car songs, driving is involved, but car songs which were big in the golden age of cars muscle cars and hotrods had a specialized argot about street racing or drag racing or dirt racing, and about the engines. Here are lyrics from a few of the best. Listen to them on YouTube, but maybe you shouldn’t play them in the car. You’ll be inclined to tap that accelerator in time to the music. I’m marking specialized terms but won’t explain them (except deuce coupe). A few of them even I understand. If you’re into cars, you probably know them all. If not, it doesn’t matter, or you can look them up. Keep in mind that hot rod culture and the lingo aren’t what they were because the cars have changed.

Hot Rod Lincoln, Charlie Ryan

Have you heard this story of the Hot Rod Race

When Fords and Lincolns was settin' the pace

That story is true, I'm here to say

I was drivin' that Model A

It's got a Lincoln motor and it's really souped up

That Model A body makes it look like a pup

It's got eight cylinders, uses them all

It's got overdrive, just won't stall

With a 4-barrel carb and a dual exhaust

With 4.11 gears you can really get lost

It's got safety tubes, but I ain't scared

The brakes are good, tires fair

Now the fellas was ribbin' me for bein' behind

So I thought I'd make the Lincoln unwind

Took my foot off the gas and man alive

I shoved it on down into overdrive

Wound it up to a hundred-and-ten

My speedometer said that I hit top end

My foot was glued like lead to the floor

That's all there is and there ain't no more

Now the boys all thought I'd lost my sense

And telephone poles looked like a picket fence

They said, "Slow down! I see spots!

The lines on the road just look like dots"

We had flames comin' from out of the side

Feel the tension, man, what a ride!

I said, "Look out, boys, I've got a license to fly"

And that Caddy pulled over and let us by

Now all of a sudden she started to knockin'

And down in the dips she started to rockin'

I looked in my mirror; a red light was blinkin'

The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln

They arrested me and they put me in jail

And called my pappy to throw my bail

And he said, "Son, you're gonna' drive me to drinkin'

If you don't stop drivin' that Hot Rod Lincoln!"

Little Deuce Coupe, Beach Boys

Per Fred, whose brother-in-law was into drag and dirt track racing: A deuce coupe was a 1932 Ford, much prized because it was easy to modify.

…You don’t know what I got.

Little deuce coupe
Just a little deuce coupe with a flat head mill
But she'll walk a Thunderbird like it's standin' still
She's ported and relieved and she's stroked and bored.
She'll do a hundred and forty in the top end floored
She's my little deuce coupe
You don't know what I got

She's got a competition clutch with the four on the floor
And she purrs like a kitten till the Lake Pipes roar
And if that aint enough to make you flip your lid
There's one more thing, I got the pink slip, Daddy

And comin' off the line when the light turns green
Well she blows 'em outta the water like you never seen
I get pushed out of shape and it's hard to steer
When I get rubber in all four gears

409, Beach Boys

Shes real fine my 409

Well I saved my pennies and I saved my dimes
(giddy up giddy up 409)
For I knew there would be a time
When I would buy a brand new 409

Nothing can catch her
Nothing can touch my 409

When I take her to the track she really shines
She always turns in the fastest times
My four speed dual quad posi-traction 409

Note: Posi-traction figures into the plot of the movie My Cousin Vinny.

Shut Down, Beach Boys

Tach it up, tach it up
Buddy gonna shut you down

It happened on the strip where the road is wide
(Rev it up, now)
Two cool sharks standin' side by side
Yeah, my fuel injected Stingray and a four-thirteen
Were revvin' up our engines and it sounds real mean

Declinin' numbers at an even rate
At the count of one we both accelerate
My Stingray is light the slicks are startin' to spin
But the four-thirteen's really diggin' in

Gotta be cool now power shift here we go

Superstock Dodge is winding out in low
But my fuel injected Stingray's really startin' to go
To get the traction I'm ridin' the clutch
My pressure plate's burnin' my machine's too much

Pedal's to the floor hear his dual quads drink
And now the four-thirteen's lead is startin' to shrink
He's hot with ram induction but it's understood
I got a fuel injected engine sittin' under my hood

Shut it off, shut it off buddy now I shut you down



I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and now also on for download to computer and for printing. Most of these titles are available in both locations. Search for Rhonda Keith on Kindle store and

* The Man from Scratch is a novel about cloning, escort services, murder, and restaurants in Akron, Ohio, featuring Roxy Barbarino, writer for Adventuress Magazine.

* A Walk Around Stonehaven is a travel article on my trip to Scotland. Short article with photos. ( only.)

* The Wish Book is fantasy-suspense-romance featuring the old Sears Roebuck catalogues. Novella.

* Carl Kriegbaum Sleeps with the Corn is about a young gambler who finds himself upright in a cornfield in Kansas with his feet encased in a tub of concrete; how would you get out of a spot like that? Short story.

* Still Ridge is about a young woman who moves from Boston to Appalachia and finds there are two kinds of moonshine, the good kind and the kind that can kill you. Short story.

* Whither Spooning? asks whether synchronized spooning can be admitted to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Humorous sports article.

* Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Cats: One woman's tale of menopause, in which I learn that the body is predictive; I perceive that I am like my cat; and I find love. Autobiographical essay.

* Parvum Opus Volume I. The first year (December 2002 through 2003). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get PO’ed. Collection of columns.

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Dulce, Utile, et Decorum (Sweet, Useful, and Proper), title of new collection of Parvum Opus, Volume I

BUMPER STICKER: Dulce, Utile, et Decorum

No Pain, No Pain

Star o’ the Bar

Veritas Vincit (Truth Conquers) with Keith clan Catti insignia

Flash in the Pants

If you're so smart why aren't you me?

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Trivium pursuit ~ rhetoric, grammar, and logic, or reading, writing, and reckoning: Parvum Opus discusses language, education, journalism, culture, and more. Parvum Opus by Rhonda Keith is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Editorial input provided by Fred Stephens. Rhonda Keith is a long-time writer, editor, and English teacher. Back issues from December 2002 may be found at; 2009 issues are at Feel free to e-mail me with comments or queries. The PO mailing list is private, never given or sold to anyone else. If you don't want to receive Parvum Opus, please e-mail, and I'll take you off the mailing list. Copyright Rhonda Keith 2009. Parvum Opus or part of it may be reproduced only with permission, but you may forward the entire newsletter as long as the copyright remains.

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