Tajikistan Proverb

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon May 7 12:12:58 UTC 2001

Interesting that a "poem" I have know for a long time (representeing
letters between a college boy and his fund-depleted father) went this

No mon
No fun
Your son

So sad
Too Bad
Your dad

I'm pretty sure I didn't carry this to Eastern Europe - and begin a
chain of dissemination which ended (?) in Tajikistan - in the early
70's (but, who knows?). No telling what Barry's infecting all these
places with linguistically.  But I guess the prime directive never
applied to language. (Good thing; most of us would be out of jobs!)


>    Greetings from Samarkand, after a day trip to Tajikistan.
>Tajikistan was invaded by Alexander the Great and was a center of
>ancient trade routes.  However, "Tadjikistan" (as it is sometimes
>spelled) wasn't named until 1905 at New York's Polo Grounds, by a
>cartoonist for the New York Evening Journal.
>    The civil war ended in 1997, but continues unofficially in some
>parts.  My guide had led French tourists last week and told us it
>was safe.
>    Penjikent (the site and the museum I visited, also Panjikant) is
>called a second Pompeii.  It was destroyed by Moslems in the 7th-8th
>century.  There are Zoroastrian remains and some bones games and
>dice, but no chess pieces.  However, the best stuffis in Tashkent or
>St. Petersburg museums.
>    The local guide didn't come up with any food specialties
>different from Uzbekistan (the lands were once united).  He came up
>with only one proverb:
>Bite a big piece of bread, but don't speak much.
>    I said I had no Tajikistan money, and the Uzbekistan guide told
>me that this "poem" is popular in English texts:
>    No money.
>    No funny.
>    --Sonny.
>    How bad.
>    Too sad.
>    --Dad.
>("Mullets" attached...Tashkent tomorrow, where my tour guide
>promises me many proverbs.)
>Return-Path: <words1 at word-detective.com>
>Received: from  rly-yd05.mx.aol.com (rly-yd05.mail.aol.com
>[]) by air-yd01.mail.aol.com (v77_r1.36) with ESMTP;
>Sun, 06 May 2001 16:40:05 -0400
>Received: from  core.greenapple.com (core.greenapple.com
>[]) by rly-yd05.mx.aol.com (v77_r1.36) with ESMTP; Sun,
>06 May 2001 16:39:38 -0400
>Received: from adelle2.word-detective.com
>(pt-006-00163.greenapple.com [])
>         by core.greenapple.com (8.10.1/8.10.1) with ESMTP id f46KcCE24217;
>         Sun, 6 May 2001 16:38:13 -0400 (EDT)
>Message-Id: < at mail.word-detective.com>
>X-Sender: words1 at pop.well.com
>X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 4.3.2
>Date: Sun, 06 May 2001 16:33:58 -0400
>To: (Recipient list suppressed)
>From: Evan Morris <words1 at word-detective.com>
>Subject: The Word Detective, May 14 through 25, 2001
>Mime-Version: 1.0
>Content-Type:  text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed
>The Word Detective
>By Evan Morris
>Copyright (c) 2001 by Evan Morris
>For Release:  Monday, May 14, 2001
>Dear Word Detective:  I am trying to find the origin of the phrase "call
>the shots" to use it in a sermon which asks the question "Who is calling
>the shots, you or God?"  I have searched many web sites with no luck. --
>Jim Mol, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Flint, Michigan.
>Well, there's your problem.  Haven't you heard?  The web is over.  Yeah,
>they all got fired and now they have to give back their Porsches and take
>jobs at Burger King, boo hoo.  Anyway, there's been nobody home on the
>internet for quite a while.  If you don't believe me, check out some of
>those news web sites.  They've still got George Bush being President.
>To "call the shots" means, of course, to be in control, to make the
>decisions, to run the show and to be the one truly in charge, especially as
>opposed to being merely a nominal leader or figurehead.  Speaking of
>President Bush the Younger, and I report this solely to illustrate that
>definition, a recent poll indicates that around half of all Americans
>believe that someone other than Mr. Bush is actually "calling the shots"
>and running the government.  Whether that perception is cynical or
>optimistic is, of course, best left as an exercise for the reader.
>According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "calling the shots" seems to be
>a surprisingly recent phrase, having first appeared in print in the late
>1960s, although it was probably in use as oral slang for years or even
>decades before someone thought to use it in print.  An earlier phrase, "to
>call one's shots," meaning to announce exactly what one is going to do,
>apparently was current by the 1930s.
>The real question, of course, is what all this shooting is about, and in
>the case of both "call the shots" and "call one's shots" the answer seems
>to be target shooting.  In "calling one's shots," a target shooter (think
>Annie Oakley or the like) would announce in advance exactly where the
>target would be hit as a measure of his or her prowess.   If someone else
>were "calling the shots," however, the shooter would be taking orders and
>hitting targets at that person's direction.
>The Word Detective
>By Evan Morris
>Copyright (c) 2001 by Evan Morris
>For Release:  Wednesday, May 16, 2001
>Dear Word Detective:  I am hoping that you can help me out with the origin
>of the phrase "Father Darbie's Bands."  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle uses the
>word "derbies" with reference to handcuffs or irons in the Sherlock Holmes
>stories.  I have been informed that the reference is to the above phrase,
>but I can't seem to find anything further. Can you help? -- Justyn, via the
>Elementary, my dear Justyn.   In the beginning, there was (and still is) a
>town in England named "Derby" (originally called, in Old English, "Deoraby"
>or "Deorby").  Derby is best known for an annual horse race founded in 1780
>by the Earl of Derby, and to this day important races elsewhere (such as
>the Kentucky event) are known as "Derbies."  The "derby" hat, also known as
>a "bowler," takes its name from this race as well.
>So far, so good, but now it gets a bit baroque, so hold onto your
>derby.  Another common pronunciation and spelling of "Derby" is
>"Darby."  And way back when, place names frequently became personal names,
>so there are quite a few folks named Darby, which brings us to your
>question.  "Father Darby's (or Derby's) bands" first appeared in the 16th
>century as a colloquial term meaning the power a creditor or money lender
>held over his debtor.  Just who "Father Darby" might have been is lost to
>the mists of time, but the best guess is that he was a famous usurer (what
>we would call a "loan shark" today).   At some point in the 17th century,
>"Darby's bands" or just "the darbies" (or "derbies") was expanded to mean
>not just the strictures and misery inflicted on a debtor by a creditor but
>actual bonds or handcuffs, and pretty soon Holmes and his Baker Street
>buddies were clapping the "derbies" on everyone in sight.
>Do you ever wonder where a word or phrase came from?  Send your queries to
>The Word Detective, P.O. Box 1, Millersport, Ohio  43046.  We can also be
>reached via Internet e-mail at questions at word-detective.com.  The Word
>Detective, a hardbound collection of these columns, is available at your
>local bookstore or at www.word-detective.com.
>The Word Detective
>By Evan Morris
>Copyright (c) 2001 by Evan Morris
>For Release:  Friday, May 18, 2001
>Dear Word Detective: When I was a child I was told a story about the origin
>of the phase "by hook or by crook" that differs from the widely accepted
>ideas about its origin.  My last name is Kennedy, and many of my ancestors
>come either from Ireland or from Scotland.  I was told that back in the
>"old country" there was a sea captain (we'll call him Capt. Kennedy), who
>regularly returned to his ship's berth by one of two rivers which came
>together before they entered the open sea.  One river was called the "Hook
>River," and the other was known as the "Crook River."  Each time, when the
>ship was on its way home, as  they approached the fork formed by the two
>rivers, the helmsman would shout, "Which way, Captain, by Hook or by
>Crook?"  Ever hear of this story? -- James Kennedy, via the internet.
>No, I haven't heard that one, and although I can't claim to have searched
>extensively for the "Hook" and "Crook" rivers, I tend to doubt they
>exist.  All in all, that story gets an A for effort, a D for elegance, and
>an F for credibility.  Among other things, a helmsman asking "by hook or by
>crook?" does nothing to explain the modern meaning of the phrase, which is
>"by any means necessary, fair or foul, to get the job done."
>  Unfortunately, although "by hook or by crook" first occurs in print way
>back in 1380 and is still common today, no one knows exactly where it came
>from, or what the "hook" and "crook" in question were. One theory, perhaps
>the most plausible, is that while tenants on English manors were not
>allowed to cut trees for firewood, the lord of the manor permitted them to
>have all the branches they could pull down with a shepherd's crook or a
>curved knife on a pole called a "hook."  Since firewood was a basic
>necessity, "by hook or by crook" in this case would have fit the bill of
>meaning "by any means necessary, even if awkward or difficult."
>Incidentally, by the 19th century "by hook or by crook" had mutated into
>the term "hooky-crooky," meaning "dishonest or sneaky," which in turn
>eventually gave us the term "playing hooky" (or "hookey"), meaning to be a
>The Word Detective
>By Evan Morris
>Copyright (c) 2001 by Evan Morris
>For Release:  Monday, May 21, 2001
>Dear Word Detective:  I'm wondering about "mullet" haircuts.  Where does
>the name "mullet" come from? -- Mark Kuehn, via the internet.
>You are not alone in wondering about "mullets."  Within weeks of moving
>from New York City to Central Ohio a few years ago, I realized that roughly
>half the men I saw on a typical day were sporting the same odd
>haircut:  short and often spiky on the top, very short on the sides, but
>then very long, often almost shoulder-length, in the back.  They looked (to
>me, anyway) as if they were wearing flattened groundhogs on their heads, a
>possibility which, given the other sartorial proclivities of some of my
>neighbors, I could not dismiss outright.  But no, I had merely met the Mullet.
>And we've all, apparently, met the Mullet now.  There are Mullet web pages
>galore, a Mullet book, and even what promises to be a Mullet movie, a David
>Spade vehicle called "Joe Dirt," the previews of which contain a shot of a
>magazine called, I believe, "Modern Mullet."
>Why "mullet"?  Nobody knows for sure. There have been two protracted
>discussions of the "mullet" haircut on the American Dialect Society mailing
>list in the last few years, and while many nuggets of information have
>surfaced, a definitive answer remains elusive.  A "mullet" is, of course, a
>kind of fish, or actually two kinds, as there is both a salt water mullet
>and a fresh water "American" mullet, the latter being the object of
>affection at numerous annual "mullet festivals" in the South, I am
>told.  "Mullethead" has, since at least the 19th century, been an epithet
>for "a stupid person," and crops up repeatedly in the classic film "Cool
>Hand Luke," but without any apparent connection to hair.  Although the
>haircut itself seems derived from earlier styles such as the hideous "shag"
>that plagued the 1970s, the Mullet probably got a big, albeit
>unintentional, boost from the Beastie Boys' 1994 song "Mullet Head," which
>contained actual instructions on how to cut one.  The group's fan magazine,
>Grand Royal, also apparently devoted an entire issue to the Mullet and
>other bad hair ideas.
>In any case, based on several years of close personal observation, I
>definitely think the haircut is named after the fishy mullet, because the
>short top and long, flared back really do make it look like the guy is
>wearing a broad-tailed fish on his head.  Or possibly a flattened groundhog.
>The Word Detective
>By Evan Morris
>Copyright (c) 2001 by Evan Morris
>For Release:  Wednesday, May 23, 2001
>Dear Word Detective: What is the origin of "the other shoe drops," meaning
>a process is completed or has come to an end.  I suspect it has nothing to
>do with shoes that we wear.  Is a mechanical term? -- John Shepperd, via
>the internet.
>No, apparently the phrase refers to an actual shoe of the sort we wear on
>our feet.  As you say, "the other shoe drops" means that a process is
>completed, but as a catch phrase it also means that the likely or
>inevitable consequence of an earlier occurrence has, at last, taken
>place.  If I work for a small company that produces widgets, for instance,
>and my company is bought by World Wide Behemoth Widgets, that event might
>well make me somewhat apprehensive about my career prospects.  When, a
>month later, I am laid off, I might well say that "the other shoe has
>dropped."  What happened was not inevitable, but it was, given the
>takeover, highly likely.
>A somewhat more common variant of the phrase is "waiting for the other shoe
>to drop," which brings us to the apparent source of all such "shoe
>dropping" phrases.  Evidently, it all started out as the punch line to a
>very old joke in which a traveler arrives late at night in a small rooming
>house and is cautioned not to wake the other guests as he prepares for
>bed.  Very tired, he accidentally allows one of his shoes to fall heavily
>to the floor, but is more careful with the other and places it quietly on
>the floor.  He is sound asleep a few minutes later when he is awakened by
>the guest next door pounding on the wall and shouting, "For the love of
>Pete, drop the other shoe!"
>No one knows just how old that joke is, but etymological sleuth Barry Popik
>has uncovered what is probably the earliest example yet found, an editorial
>cartoon in the New York World-Telegram from February 1943 titled "Waiting
>for That Other Shoe to Drop!"   It shows Hitler being crushed by a shoe
>labeled "Russian Offensive" and about to be stomped by another labeled
>"Allied Invasion."  Since the cartoonist had to assume that readers would
>"get" the caption, the phrase "waiting for the other shoe to drop" must
>have been widely understood before the 1940s.
>The Word Detective
>By Evan Morris
>Copyright (c) 2001 by Evan Morris
>For Release:  Friday, May 25, 2001
>Dear Word Detective:  I recently referred to myself as a "stick in the mud"
>because I wasn't in the mood for socializing and wanted a quiet evening at
>home.  Can you tell me where the term "stick in the mud" originates?  What
>would the opposite be for someone who is carefree and outgoing -- a "stick
>in the water"? -- A.C.M., Denver, CO.
>Good question.  As I may have mentioned before, the thing I really like
>about writing this column is the opportunity it gives me to explore the
>vast expanses of my own ignorance.  I'm sure many of you folks think I must
>already know the answer to questions such as this one, but the truth is
>that more often than not I am every bit as clueless as y'all.  For years I
>have been hearing "stick in the mud," picturing a small twig mired in a mud
>puddle, and accepting that as a passable, if somewhat inelegant, metaphor
>for the opposite of a party animal.  As we say in the word biz, wrong-o-rama.
>When we call someone a "stick in the mud" today we usually mean a
>party-pooper, a no-fun homebody, the sort of sourpuss who never wants to go
>to the movies, cruise the mall, get drunk and throw toilet paper in the
>neighbors' trees or just generally have good old All-American fun.  But
>"stick in the mud" didn't start out as a noun, a thing, a person. "Stick in
>the mud" is actually a short form of the verbal phrase "to stick in the
>mud," meaning to "stick," or stay, in an unpleasant or demeaning situation,
>rather than dragging oneself out of the metaphorical mud.  "To stick in the
>mud" first appeared around 1620, and was a further development of earlier
>metaphors such as "to stick in the briers" (or clay, or mire) meaning
>simply "to be in difficult circumstances."  Somewhere along the way, around
>the early 18th century to be specific, "stick in the mud" arose as a
>contemptuous term for someone who is not only "stuck in the mud," but
>actually seems to enjoy being there.
>Do you ever wonder where a word or phrase came from?  Send your queries to
>The Word Detective, P.O. Box 1, Millersport, Ohio  43046.  We can also be
>reached via Internet e-mail at questions at word-detective.com.  The Word
>Detective, a hardbound collection of these columns, is available at your
>local bookstore or at www.word-detective.com.

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

More information about the Ads-l mailing list