Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 21 20:59:47 UTC 2011

Victor has found far more on "ticky-tacky" than I ever did, which,
except for Malvina Reynolds' s usage, is essentially nothing.


On Mon, Nov 21, 2011 at 2:50 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      ticky-tacky
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Perhaps Jon Lighter can share his files, once again.
> Last night, during a discussion of the NBA lockout and its effect on the
> Boston Celtics, a female columnist talking on one of the late-night
> post-news sports talkshows commented on Rashan Rondo's "ticky-tacky
> injuries". The issue came up in the discussion of Rondo's apparent lack
> of shooting form over the past season. Apparently, during the Celtics'
> visit to the White House, Obama turned to Ray Allen and, pointing to
> Rondo, said, "Why can't you teach this guy how to shoot?" Rondo's
> fragile psyche apparently did not take it well, messing with his
> shooting. The woman (whose name I don't know) commented that, "Sure,
> there were some ticky-tacky injuries," but, for the most part, it was
> just a psychological problem.
> Try as I might, I have no idea what she meant by "ticky-tacky". I recall
> the term coming up in a discussion somewhere fairly recently, but it
> does not appear to be here. In any case, the last time I heard it, it
> was in the context of the Malvina Reynolds song Little Boxes.
>> Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of tickytacky
>> Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
>> There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one
>> And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.
> Oddly enough, I first heard the song fairly recently, sung by a woman
> (Kay Stonham? Regina Spektor?), not by Pete Seeger (who adopted it in
> 1963 or 1964) and not by Reynolds (with her distinct raspy voice). There
> are so many covers (Linkin Park, Death Cab for Cutie, Rise Against, etc.)
> Most dictionary definitions, including the OED, follow the song
> (earliest OED citation is the song).
> Definition of TICKY-TACKY
> 1: of an uninspired or monotonous sameness
> 2: tacky
> 3: built of ticky-tacky
> 1.    Made of shoddy material; cheaply built.
> 2.    a. Marked by a mediocre uniformity of appearance or style:
> ticky-tacky rows of look-alike houses.
>        b. Tawdry; tacky.
> There is a bit of an expansion on the theme here:
> http://goo.gl/WZJzi
> But most of that information is in Wiki.
> This raises two questions: 1) what on earth is ticky-tacky? and 2) how
> is it related to basketball? ... and, apparently, football?
> http://goo.gl/cu6x3
>> For the Iona Gaels, there are multiple guards worth talking about.
>> Iona took Purdue down to the wire and if it wasn't for a few
>> ticky-tacky fouls that went against Iona at the end of this one, one
>> of which led to Scott Machado fouling out, this could of had a
>> different result.
> http://goo.gl/HLR9T
>> We complain when terrible calls go against us, so it's only fair to
>> point out that the offensive pass interference called on Brandon
>> Marshall was just plain terrible. Ticky tacky is very generous way to
>> put it.
> http://goo.gl/cAVQb
>> Raven penalties.  Nary had a one called against us where I felt as in
>> recent weeks, where did that come from.  Reed's may have been a little
>> ticky-tacky, but I believe the rules are very specific about what you
>> can and cannot do with a football vis-à-vis an opposing player at the
>> end of a play--so I am not really all that upset with the refs on that
>> one.
> http://goo.gl/EZmau
>> Officiating in the Monday night game was questionable, though it did
>> not determine the outcome. The offensive pass interference call
>> against San Diego's Antonio Gates, nullifying a touchdown, was
>> ticky-tacky.
> http://goo.gl/tVcN4
>> The refs dressed as vampires.  They just suck the blood out of this
>> team-- ticky-tacky penalties, phantom penalties not called--how many
>> times was our collective D-line unit held but not called?
> http://goo.gl/paFQk
>> I suspect the official who sidelined Allen on a ticky-tacky foul was
>> simply unaware of the foul situation.
> Is this one related?
> http://goo.gl/rrdvk
>> "Certain Prey" may be ticky-tacky, but Mr. Harmon knows how to deliver
>> what many of the 19 million people who watch "NCIS" every week are
>> looking for.
> A bit of antedating as an aside--OED has adj. only to 1969.
> http://goo.gl/JEcPF
> The News and Courier - Mar 3, 1964 [Charleston, SC]
> Doing The Charleston. By Ashley Cooper. p. 6-A/3
>> To save face, he announced that his new apartments will "conform" to
>> Charleston architectural tradition. This means he will veneer his
>> /ticky-tacky/ boxes with old brick, and hang up a brass lamp. Old
>> brick tacky!
> http://goo.gl/D2MxJ
> The Bulletin - May 19, 1964 [Bend/Central Oregon]
> They Moved to Suburbs to Get Away from Those Folk Singers. By Dick West
> (UPI). p. 4/7
>> In /ticky-tacky/ country, those names apparently have more sales
>> appeal than would south Layhill," "West Parkland" and "East Colony."
> Perhaps even earlier (GB tags as 1963, but it includes multiple volumes).
> http://goo.gl/jJ273
> Planning. Volumes 29-32. 1963-7[?] [p. 62/3?]
>> I am seriously disturbed by the too-apt description of our suburban
>> development in a current song hit as 'little boxes made of ticky-
>> tacky,' and I am most concerned about these ticky-tacky houses
>> becoming ticky-tacky communities.
> And another from the same period--again, multiple volumes.
> Water Well Journal. Volumes 17-18. 1963-4 [?] [p. 82/2?]
>> I am reminded of a currently popular song about people being fitted
>> into "little boxes" and turned out "all the same." Perhaps "urban
>> sprawl" is an involuntary reaction to "ticky tacky." If you haven't
>> found out what "ticky tacky" is, I have brought a newspaper article.
>> It is delightful. This is a concept on which there is by no means a
>> unanimity of opinion.
> There are three more multi-volume cites from 1963+--the Sierra Club
> Bulletin, the Catholic Psychological Record and Landscape. Both the
> Reynolds version of 1962-3 and the Pete Seeger version of 1963-4 were
> quite popular, although they did not quite chart immediately (Seeger got
> as high as 70, I believe). So references to the "current song" or
> "currently popular song" could be anywhere from 1963 to 1965.
> An unsurprising (onomatopoetic) earlier use in description of tap dancing:
> http://goo.gl/hR4sF
> Steps in Time. By Fred Astaire. 1959
>> I didn't have time to routine a new set of ticky-tacky taps each week
>> so I would ad lib each dance and hop into a finish step when I knew I
>> was about twelve bars or so from home.
> The above text is from the preview, but the snipped shows something
> different:
>> Here I found that the only effective steps for radio were those with a
>> lot of taps close together--a string of
>> ricky-ticky-ticky-tacky-ticky-tacky taps.
> Not the same... ignore this one... There are also some similar
> references to clocks and watches (one even suggesting that "ticky-tacky"
> is "German for ticktock"). Plus some folk tales that make more use of
> onomatopoeia.
> Another one from 1947-8 (some dispute as to the publication date--I
> requested a local library copy).
> http://goo.gl/9i6V6
> Dark companion. By Bradley Robinson. 1947
>> Some plunged for the nearest bar to swill a vile distillation of rice
>> and alcohol at a cost of ten cents a quart, and then staggered up
>> dingy, unpaved alleys in search of "ticky-tacky" girls
> http://goo.gl/mkJAn
> The Ontario reports: cases determined in the Supreme Court of Ontario
> (Appellate and High Court divisions)., Volume 16, Issue 1889
> p. 497
>> Evidence was received that there is a forced road known as
>> "Ticky-Tacky Road", shown on Ex. 3, but there is no evidence which
>> indicates that this road was in lieu of the concession road allowances
>> in question herein.
> This date GB actually might have gotten right--but there is no way to
> tell if it's not multiple volumes strung together (seems unlikely for a
> court reporter). There is another Canadian geographic reference to
> "Ticky-Tacky Point" (1952). But nothing about "ticky-tacky" material
> prior to the song.
> Now, back to the noun.
> OED:
>>  A. n.
>>   Inferior or cheap material, esp. that used in uniform suburban building.
> IMO, even the chosen examples (starting with the Reynolds song) support
> this interpretation.
> But AHD agrees:
>> Shoddy material, as for the construction of standardized housing.
> So does MWOLD:
>> sleazy or shoddy material used especially in the construction of
>> look-alike tract houses; /also/ *:* something built of ticky-tacky
> Random House--and InfoPlease with it--reverses the n/adj relationship:
>> --adj.
>> 1. shoddy and unimaginatively designed; flimsy and dull: a row of new,
>> ticky-tacky bungalows.
>> 2. tacky2.
>> --n.
>> ticky-tacky material or something made of it, esp. housing. Also,
>> tick'y-tack".
> The song certainly uses the noun, not the adjective. But the citations
> in GB and GNA all seem to involve the adjective (for 1963-5).
> AHD and MWOLD both cite first use in 1962. None of the dictionaries
> credit Reynolds or her song with the coinage. And none have a definition
> that translates to "ticky-tacky injuries" and "ticky-tacky foul" ("cheap
> foul"? perhaps...). And, once the definition for these is discerned,
> should it end up in a dictionary? (or only in HDAS?)
>     VS-)
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