Thursday, June 11, 2009

Parvum Opus 329 ~ Shut 'Em Down

Fun, Fun, Fun

Good stuff from the car songs.

Mike Sykes noticed that in “Little Deuce Coupe”, coupe rhymes with soup. True. But in general conversation it’s Chevrolay coo-pay in the USA.

Harry H. wrote:

Lotta Moxie, the name of one of the Rubber City Roller Girls. My cousin and I went in April to their first match at John S. Knight Center, downtown. Lotta Moxie was his favorite. Barbonic Plague was mine. There was also Harriet Beacher A ss and other assorted team member names. . . .
Also, my cousin was really into cars. But not the normal kind. He worked as a mechanic with Akron's Art Arfons and on his Green Monster. Traveled to Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah with Art.
Electric car by Tesla Motors. Now we need a song about this 0 to 60 in 3.9 second electric (marvel) car that goes around 300 miles on a single charge (I believe there is a clip of Arnold Swartzennnnhopperer driving one).
[Note: I want one as soon as they reduce the price 90%.]

Herb H:

Did you sell Grit? I did. Might've been the only one who ever did that in Fairfax, about eighth grade. They printed little coupons in comic books, for kids to send in. It was the tabloid newspaper size in the early 50s, no color in it anywhere that I recall.

Perhaps you'll get a ton of responses on the hot rod vocab, and if so there'll almost certainly be a fair portion of them that are incorrect. . . . I'll only touch what seem to me the more esoteric.

"Souped up!" Doesn't that seem odd? There was never a time when people threw soup on their engines. A fair guess might be that "souped up" was about adding some goodies to the fuel one is burning, to get more power. Later on, beginning in the 50s, dragsters commonly burned "nitro," in the "fuel" classes. In that case the engines were set up to burn methanol (wood alcohol), so that they could mix in liberal additions of nitromethane for a lot more power. Hotrodders who were constrained by having to burn gasoline could also add "nitro" in the form of nitrobenzene — not as successful and not broadly popular. Nitromethane was not miscible with gasoline, but was with alcohol. Nitrobenzene was miscible with gasoline, but there was only one nitro group on a pretty big benzene molecule.

But that's not the origin of "souped up," anyway. "Souped up" refers to electrical modification, electricity being "soup" or "juice" in the early days. As the pioneers set about making their Model T Fords go faster than the other feller's, the ignition system was a severe limitation — producing a hundred or more hot sparks per second was a real challenge.

Other versions of "Hot Rod Lincoln" said it had twelve cylinders, rather than eight. Originally, that was probably the point of the "Lincoln." Like Packard and Cadillac, some models of Lincoln had V-12 engines. They didn't make good hot rod engines to put into a Model A, though — way too heavy.

"With 4.11 gears you can relly get lost" is terminology that street rodders would understand. Getting lost was running away from a police patrolman so that he couldn't find you. The 4.11 gears would help to accelerate very fast, not to go fast on the open road. The way to get lost was in the city making many turns and rapid accelerations, gaining a little bit more with each maneuver until the pursuer no longer could tell which way you went. . . . Around 1959 there was a kid named John Render who lived in Madeira, whose father loved hot rods and indulged the son — limitlessly it seemed. They were commonly encountered at the drag strips. John had a Deuce Coupe and that was okay, but a really nifty Deuce Roadster became available in the area and John Sr bought that also for John Jr. Jr "modified" it in an afternoon by taking off all the fenders and the top — it already had the go-fast mods — then went out fast driving. Jr knew he could get lost from a cop, but I guess he didn't know they had radios and lots of "backup." The police reported they had 21 road blocks set up at one time. They caught him.

The number 4.11 is the gear ratio in the "rear end," or differential, the most important factor in whether you were geared to accelerate fast or to go faster at top speed after you got through accelerating. A 4.11 rear end had 9 teeth on the pinion gear and 37 teeth on the ring gear. 37 divided by nine gives 4.11. Driving around with a 4.11 meant that when you did get out on the open road, your engine was beating itself apart at a very high engine speed for just a fairly high road speed. The cure was an overdrive unit, which reduced the overall gear ratio and let the engine turn slower at highway speed.

In Little Deuce Coupe, my guess is the term "till the Lake Pipes roar. . . " will wrinkle some brows. The term has some history. Drag racing at drag strips grew slowly to enormous proportions by the late 1950s. There had always been drag racing on the roads since Model T days, but the hot rodding competition that got the most press in the 40s and perhaps earlier was high speed racing off the road. Across the country there was very little opportunity to do that. But in southern California, there were dry lake beds, big flat areas where prehistoric lakes had been, dried hard and smooth. One group built racing cars especially for the purpose of going as fast as they could against a clock, out on these dry lake beds. Those cars were called "lakesters." Many of them didn't actually have a car body, but had a fabricated body made from big aircraft fuel tanks and the like, as streamlined as anything the hot rodders might imagine. A driver might actually drive in a prone position with just rudimentary controls.

But a larger number of hot rodders wanted to test their cars against similar cars in slower "classes." They wanted to drive out to the lake beds, compete there, then drive home. One of many adaptations was in the exhaust system. The most powerful arrangement, least power-losing configuration, was a straight exhaust pipe with no muffler of any kind. These competitors soon made exhaust pipes that went straight out the sides and back with no mufflers, but had caps that could be bolted onto them. Additional piping was provided to take the exhaust gases from those short straight pipes when the ends of the pipes had been capped off, passing the gases through mufflers that would quiet them enough to be street legal. Those were called "lake pipes." And the name survived long after the dry lake beds were made off limits to hot rodders. (I think Edwards Air Force Base incorporated the dry lake bed land.)

"Shut you down!" From drag racing in classes, class eliminations. The loser is through racing for the day. He's shut down. The term spread, probably in microseconds, to apply to losing any race anywhere any time. From "Little Old Lady From Pasadena":

"All the guys want to race her from miles around

But she'll give 'em a length and she'll shut 'em down."


You might be able to catch a movie called Flunked, about the dismal state of education, but it’s not playing around here. In fact nothing is playing within 5 or 10 miles since the nearest movie theater, in the upscale mall near us, just closed. I thought they might rebuild with stadium seating, but no; it will be replaced by a clothing store, which is OK, but every once in a while we need the big screen.

One Party Classroom by David Horowitz is worth at least a quick perusal.

Although the situation hasn’t helped me personally, it struck me that a possible good may come from the universities’ hiring so many “adjuncts”, i.e. temporary teachers, rather than professors on the tenure track with steady jobs and benefits. It’s almost impossible to get rid of a tenured professor who turns out to be an idiot, a liar, a plagiarist, and a scholarly no-show, such as Ward Churchill. I almost said an embarrassment, but the university that hired and promoted him is not embarrassed by him. The academic system and the ACLU make it almost impossible to fire a bad professor, even if he got in on false pretenses. Years ago I taught and took graduate courses at a university that was rumored to be home to a tenured professor who was a Nazi. But disposa-profs are not a problem. That’s not the university motivation for this policy, it’s all about money, but it’s an ill wind etc.


Dave DaBee twittered this cartoon about and for typography geeks. I’m one of those who likes the Papyrus font, however.

The Measure of a Man

I’m happy to report that “the rule of thumb” is not about how big a stick you can use to beat your wife. It most likely refers to the length of the first joint of the thumb rather than thickness: about an inch. (Do you think the first joint is from the thumbnail up or from the hand down?)

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

To paraphrase The Weekly Standard, here’s an Amazon book blurb I didn’t care to finish reading:

This book compiles the most lively expressions of nonduality, which are the understanding that existence is one undivided whole and that the daily distinctions we make within this unity are useful, but not ultimately . . .


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 about cloning, escort services, murder, and restaurants in Akron, Ohio, featuring Roxy Barbarino, writer for Adventuress Magazine. Novel.

* 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.

10% discount on my Lulu publications:

Browse to:

Click "Buy" and enter 'BESTSELLER10' at checkout.

Save 10% on your order.


Scot Tartans: T-shirts and more (custom orders available).

T-Shirts & mug: FRESH PICT, with two ancient Pictish designs

BUMPER STICKER: FRESH PICT, white on blue, with 10th Century Pict-Scot Merman Cross (blue on white also available)

SIGG WATER BOTTLE, ORGANIC T-SHIRTS IN GREAT COLORS, MINI-CAMERAS, DENIM SHIRTS, MUGS, TOTE BAGS, MOUSE PAD, TEDDY BEAR, AND MUCH MORE AT Parvum Opus CafePress shop: (NOTE: There are problems viewing this site with Firefox but Earthlink seems OK.)


Graphic covers of my books

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?

PWE (Protestant Work Ethic)

I am here maternity tops

I eat dead things (doggy shirt, pet dishes, and BBQ apron)

If you don’t see exactly what you want — a particular design or text on a particular item — let me know and I’ll customize products for you.


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.

No comments: