" tree-top tall" (was: Re: "sugar daddy")

Margaret Lee mlee303 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Jun 22 08:34:54 UTC 2006

I grew up in a home with wood/coal-burning stoves and am very familiar with damper as well as coal -scuttle. One of my childhood chores was to fill the scuttle with coal from the storage bin in the backyard and bring it into the house.

  Margaret Lee

Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
  "... turn your _temper_ down"? I think that that's an eggcorn. The
standard phrase is "turn your _damper_ down." Of course, I come from a
different school, wherein people still _damp_ their enthusiasm, etc.,
instead of _dampening_ it.

For the enlightenment of those too young or too wealthy to be familiar
with the use of , e.g. wood- or coal-burning stoves for heating and
cooking, the damper was a device built into a stovepipe so that the
rate of flow of air through the stove could be controlled. Turning the
damper down "damped" the air flow by partially blocking the stovepipe,
thereby lowering the rate at which the fuel burned, thereby lowering
the stove's caloric output. Turning the damper up increased the rate
of air flow by unblocking the stovepipe, thereby increasing the rate
at which the fuel burned, thereby increasing the stove's caloric
output. "Up" and "down" were jargon. Turning the damper "down"
actually moved the damper toward the vertical, whereas turning the
damper "up" moved it toward the horizontal. Or vice versa, according
to the damper's placement in the stovepipe.

BTW, is the term, "coal-scuttle," familiar to anyone else, here?


On 6/21/06, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard"
> Subject: " tree-top tall" (was: Re: "sugar daddy")
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I remember a song from the 1950s or '60's, with the lyrics: "Hey, Mama, =
> tree-top tall, won't you kindly turn your temper down." I've always =
> assumed that "tree-top tall" here somehow refers to anger. Evidently =
> "tree-top tall" has had one more than one meaning in American English.
> =20
> Gerald Cohen
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Wilson Gray
> Sent: Tue 6/20/2006 8:59 PM
> Subject: Re: "sugar daddy"
> FWIW, according to my mother, when she was in high school,
> ca.1923-1927, the ideal boy friend was defined in chickspeak as "a
> _sweet papa_, tree-top tall."
> -Wilson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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