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

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 23 06:41:21 UTC 2006

"She got evvithang that Unca John need." And there was Caldonia,
described as having "great big feet, long, lean, and lanky, like she
ain't had nothin' to eat," but "she's my baby and I love her just the
same." This '40's tune was so popular that "Donia" was still being
used in BE as a generic term for a black woman as late as the '70's.

"They're Red Hot" inspired an early-'50's R&B tune called "(My Gal Is)
Red Hot." The response to this call was, "Yo' gal ain't

Despite the random counterexamples that may be found, the saying,

"Don't nobody like a bone but a dog"

tells it like it tee-eye-tizz. There's the patent medicine named
"Wate-On" that's supposed to help thin women to put on weight. And the
blues line, "I'm a big, fat mama with the meat shakin' on her bones.
Ev'ry time I shake, a skinny woman lose her home." And the line, "You
little fine and healthy thing" - in which both "fine" and "healthy"
describe a woman who is *at least* zaftig. And "Long, Tall Sally" was
answered by "Short, Fat Fanny" and "Fat, Fat, Fat Mommy-o." And
there's the woman described by B.B. King as "34 in the bust, 28 in the
waist, 44 in the hips."

Of course, as is so often the case, these folk preferences are slowly
giving way to majority preferences. Horrible examples are Oprah, Queen
Latifa, and Star Jones.


On 6/23/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: " tree-top tall" (was: Re: "sugar daddy")
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 6/22/06, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> > "Tree-top tall" means "taller than the average person," probably used
> > merely as filler, here. Traditionally, a woman has to be fat in order
> > to be "phat(t)." Height is not particularly relevant as a measure of
> > sex appeal.
> What about Long Tall Sally, who's built for speed? Or predating that,
> the long and tall girl in Robert Johnson's "They're Red Hot" who
> sleeps in the kitchen with her feets in the hall?
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list