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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


*Chicago Tribune
January 21, 2011
as "Cooking with slanguage"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
January 22, 2011
as "Cooking with Slanguage"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

My grandmother was a marvelous cook, the kind who had an instinctive, almost spiritual connection with her recipes. Her daughters almost never saw her use measuring devices. She used her hands, palms, fingers, and even the crook of her elbow to measure the ingredients and for the outcome, relied on her eyes, sense of taste, and experience. She turned out incredible meals.

There aren’t many cooks like that anymore. Because of the busy nature of our lives, most of us rely on prepackaged, or at least preassembled meals that require a minimum of prep and cooking time. On those rare occasions when I try to cook, I stick as close as possible to the stated measurements, carefully using the measuring cups and spoons to get things right. Unfortunately, it still turns out to be a catastrophe casserole.

I asked my mom once how grandma cooked. She replied, “Oh, she uses a pinch of this, a dab of that, a dash of something else.” But over the years, the exact amount of those measurements seem to have escaped quantification.

We use terms like that outside of the kitchen as well. Iota, for example. We know it’s a small amount, but exactly how small? When I used to work cattle in New Mexico, I remember the other cowboys using the term “skosh.” “Jest back that thar trailer up a skosh.”

We are really good at imprecise terms to describe things that have unknowable values. Hair’s breadth, gnat’s eyelash, or “smidgeon.” Of course, you also have those terms that describe amounts at the large end of the scale. “Humongous” is a term that started out as slang and got promoted to dictionary status. Another term commonly used by military people is “Boo Koo,” a redneck mutilation of the French term “beaucoup” which means…well…”a lot.” My wife, who was born and raised in Hawaii, regularly uses “bombucha” (or “bomboocha”) to describe something large. For someone large, the term is “momona.” The term for the other end of the scale is “manini.”

Hawaiian slang, called “pidgin,” is some of the best, and formed the basis of surfer lingo that spread up and down the West Coast. I was in the Navy with an ensign from there who actually had to go through two weeks of remedial English at the Naval Academy because when he got to Annapolis, he couldn’t communicate.

You might take a nip from a bottle. Or a slurp. Or a gulp. Do the whole bottle, and that’s a chug, unless it was a dinky bottle.

Open your mailbox after Christmas, and you may see a butt-load of bills. That’s a serious unit of measure, by the way, equal to about 13.5 bushels. And if you have 13-and-a-half bushels of bills, then your Christmas was way too merry!

You know Warren Buffet? He’s got cash out the yin-yang. And he keeps making it like a heart attack!

When my wife and I got married in 1978, we received a boat-load of crock pots, the “gift du jour” of that era. And heaps of cards. After the honeymoon, we wrote a heckuvalotta thank you cards.
I have a sweet tooth, so I end up putting mondo whipped cream on my chocolate pie.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’m deliberately avoiding the earthier versions of these expressions. This is, after all, a family newspaper. But for every one of the one’s I’ve listed, there are at least a dozen variations you’ll only hear on pay-per-view.

Every language has colloquialisms; slang if you will, and they’re not all restricted to measurements. But Americans seem to go overboard. My daughter-in-law is from Korea and, according to her, the hardest part of learning American English was decrypting slang. She’s pretty well mastered things at this point, but our language is always in motion and there are still times when one of us will say something that produces that signature puzzled look on her face.

We Americans love to be colorful, especially when we communicate. Thanks to the Internet and television, expressions spread rapidly into widespread usage. So even as new expressions emerge, we’ll all keep up.

Slanguage is, after all, major wordage.
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