Friday, October 30, 2015

Southern Idioms: Finer Than Frog HAIR

Walking down the street the other day I heard a nifty southern phrase when one guy asked another how he was doing.  "Finer than frog hair!" was the reply.  I knew at that moment that I would be adding it to this blog at one time or another. So here it is. 

Now, before I decided to do this, I did a little online research hoping to learn some more on this most interesting phrase, its origins, its etymology and such.  What I learned is that though most online sources can express what the phrase means, most have no idea where it started nor when. And all of the sites I visited missed the pun entirely. (As for origins, one site did mention that it must have come from the south, so I'll go with that.)

What amazes me is that all of the sites gave essentially the same information or misinformation. They state that the fact that frog hair is not existent means that something is good. (What?)  Example: "Since frogs do not have hair, something that is "finer than frog hair" means something that is as thin/fine/excellent as possible." I don't get how something thin is excellent.  Witness, for example, thin paper is not as good as thicker linen paper. To say something is excellent merely because it is thin (or nonexistent) is a misnomer. In this way, the meaning of the phrase (and the joke) is lost.

That's right, the joke.  In every example I found none of them went into the fact that the phrase makes use of a pun in the form of a homophone using just about every single definition of the word 'fine.'

  • Fine as to make or become thinner.
  • Fine as an adverb, meaning in a satisfactory or pleasing manner; very well.
  • Fine as in very small particles found in mining, milling, etc.
  • Fine to describe a thread, filament, or person's (or a frog's) hair as thin.
  • Fine as of high quality.
So, the next time someone asks how you are, tell them you're 'finer than frog hair' and then laugh loud and long at your terrific pun. One of the most incredible puns of all time, and its southern in origin...or at least I'm going to say that.  

So, there you are.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

Wipers On, No Rain

Well, it's that time of year again, the fall.  Here in the South that means the leaves are falling off the trees and the Halloween decorations are being put up.  It also means that the nights are getting cooler and that means one of my really big pet peeves about the South. 

There is really no name for it, so let's just call it excess moisture. It works like this.  It's humid.  Very humid.  The temperature drops down, down, down until it reaches the 'dew point.'  This is the temperature at which the moisture in the air condenses enough to form water droplets on anything left outdoors.  Anything, but most importantly, the car.  

So, what happens is that it's a clear sky and there I am driving down the road with the wipers on full blast because once they wipe off the drops, the 'dew point' works with the high humidity and bingo, you got more moisture on the window blocking your vision. But worse than that, the side windows are opaque with moisture and watching for traffic becomes an exercise in tension. It. Drives. Me. Crazy! (Drives.  Get it? Get it?)

Ok, so recently, I found an amazing cure to this problem, a most Southern problem, to be sure and perhaps a most Southern solution.  Simply, I carry a terry cloth towel with me in the car.  There it is in the pic.  It's dirty (don't judge me) but it does the job.  Y'see, when I come out and discover it's cold and moist on the car, I take out the towel, and run it over the windows really quick, especially the sides.  I have no idea why this works, but it does.  I use the wipers on the windshield and run the towel all around the car.  Result: Driving to work (ok, just to the bus) with a 360° view.  AND the windows on the side don't refog the way the windshield does.  

I hang the towel on the steering wheel so it dries while I am gone and it's perfectly dry by the time I get off work.  Oh and of course I will make sure the towel gets washed regularly.  

So, there it is, my solution.  Don't 'tarry' and get  be sure to get yourself a 'cloth' for the windows.  (Tarry...Cloth...Get it? Get it? Ya did? Good.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Southern Festival of Books

Friday I went out at lunch to take a walk.  I walk the same route every day and as I rounded the corner that takes me past the big plaza, I noted all kinds of tents and people milling about.  Detouring up into the plaza, I discovered it was the annual Southern Festival of Books!  

Every year, the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville brings together publishers, authors and fans who enjoy the written word.  Forsaking my walk, I couldn't help but meander through the stacks of new books (mmmm new book smell!) and it took every thing I had not to purchase one or two.  
As anyone who has read this blog knows, I love to read.  I carry a couple of hundred books with me packed into my electronic reader.  (No brand names, please.) But, in truth, I really do miss the feel, the weight and yes, the smell of a newly opened book. To hear that spine creak knowing that you're delving into some new realm, with new friends or maybe old....a wonderful experience. 

The Southern Festival of Books has been around Nashville for 27 years. That's longer than I've been in Nashville. It is free and open to the public, no registration and is, basically, a celebration of the written word.  Writers, publishers, sellers, collectors and book enthusiasts collect in Nashville every year to share their love of books.  

Maybe next year I'll find out about the Festival of Books in time to get to some of the activities.  In the meantime, I can enjoy my photos and dream.  Oh, and I"ll download a couple of new books I found. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Southern Glory of Breakfast

Each meal of the day has it's own importance.  Breakfast, they say is the most important meal of the day.  (Who 'they' are is unimportant.) I love breakfast.  No, wait, I love SOUTHERN breakfast. Yeah, that's it. One of them big southern breakfasts which include eggs, bacon, toast and jam, and maybe some grits, waffles and pancakes; but the one thing I look forward the most to is the biscuits (oh yeah, don't forget the biscuits) and of course, country gravy.

Biscuits and Gravy.  Usually a plate with two biscuits are cut in half, and served open faced with a large amount of sausage country gravy poured generously over the top. Simple, beautiful, tasty.  

When I first encountered the mouthwatering delight that is biscuits and gravy I thought it was some sort of thrown-together spur-of-the-moment idea that the local chef had thought up.  He quickly schooled me on the error of my ways.  Biscuits and gravy goes back to  before the civil war the War of Northern Aggression.  Meat, being scarce, was stretched any way possible. One of the main ways was to create sausage.  Then, the sausage was put into gravy with a bit of milk and flour. Add pepper and you've got a mouth watering eye opener almost as good as a cup of coffee. (I said almost.) 

Southern Biscuits and Gravy can be found in just about every Southern homemaker's recipe book and is as prevalent as grits. I've seen the gravy as white as whitewash paint and as brown as the sausage itself.  Either way, the flavor is there.  I normally am not a sausage fan (yes, it's true!)  but in gravy over some warm, buttery southern biscuits I can't resist.

And if there's any left over, you'll find me dipping a biscuit into the pot when my wife isn't looking!
Southern eating, Yum!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Southern Loss and Feeding Habits

Last week I did not get a chance to post.  My wife and I were devastated by the death of our 17 yr old grandson.  It was a long and difficult week and we are still learning to live with the loss and the hole left in the entire family. Posting on my little blog seemed rather trivial at the time and took a back seat to other more important thoughts.  

Death is a subject not easily dealt with no matter where you live but I won't go into the subject of death today.  During our long stay with family, I noted an interesting twist on an old custom and I'd like to share it with you. 

In days of old, like back when I was a kid, when there was a loss such as this, the family would be visited by neighbors and friends each carrying a covered dish.  The single covered dish was the standard in 'neighbor' comfort food gift as it took little time to heat, and serve.  It was a way for the family to not have to think of cooking and the fridge was usually filled to overflowing with these gifts of love. The gift usually came with the tag "Just return it when you're through."

I fully expected this to be the case and was a bit surprised at the new twist.  The first person to show up with food, left several bags of Sub Sandwiches from a chain Sandwich shop. They also left large bags of chips. They were all huge sandwiches and enough variety that everyone was fed and fed well. A little while later, someone showed up with a huge bucket of chicken again from a national chain. Accompanying this was, of course, cole slaw and mashed 'taters. This happened all week long, each time a chain fast food and always enough to feed an army.  I don't think anyone brought a covered dish. 

It's also not clear to me whether this is a new Southern take on an old tradition, or a modern change that is nation wide. I may have to do some research on this.  Perhaps I can get some posters to tell stories on what happens in their neck of the woods.