Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pizzles, Pogo Sticks and Pogo Possum

Pizzles. The women made pizzles during the cookie baking a few weeks ago. I'm speechless. Well, perhaps I'm not completely speechless.

We went over to Sam and Deb's for Christmas dinner. First off I saw Deb's sister Donna put a pat of butter on the mashed potatoes we brought. I hope her cholesterol numbers are well under control. Eight pounds of potatoes. Two teaspoons of salt. About half a teaspoon of pepper. Three quarters of a pound of butter. And a little milk which wasn't needed. The potatoes were just a bit too creamy; but they almost all went. And the only quibble was by Marianne who just had to get in a little dig.

After dinner I told Sam that he was completely off base on Christmas Eve when he asserted in his typical no-doubt-about-it fashion that the Pogo Stick was named after the Pogo comic strip. It sounded shaky to me at the time, so I looked it up. The Pogo Stick was patented in 1919; while the Pogo Possum comic strip didn't start til the 1940's.

Sam, of course, reacted to being trapped by trying to switch fields. He lamely claimed that the Pogo comic strip was named after the Pogo Stick. But I had already foreclosed that escape by looking up the info on the comic strip. No mention of any Pogo Sticks; but lots of mention of the writer choosing names to go with the type of animal. So the possum's name is Pogo for onomatopoetic reasons, not bouncing reasons. Besides, who would ever envision a sluggish waddling possum bouncing like a person on a Pogo Stick? If the character was named Pogo Pronghorn it would perhaps make sense to think that it was derived from a Pogo Stick; but thinking that of Pogo Possum doesn't make a lick of sense.

So I was up two points on Sam. And I still haven't gotten around to checking on whether Volare is the only foreign language song ever to get to number one on the Pop charts. Sam claims we saw that song sung on the Ed Sullivan show with Uncle Angelo that time when Mom and Pop were gone for a week and Aunt Tavia and Uncle Angelo were babysitting us. I tend to believe Sam in this case because he's pretty good with family stories; although the Volare flourish is just the sort of thing he would gratuitously embroider into a story. Sam's not a just-the-facts guy like me. Anyway, it's also intriguing to wonder where Mom and Pop went that time. And just now I realize where Mom and Pop went that time. The only other time I can remember anybody moving in to babysit us was when Grandmom and Grandpop L came up to take over while Mom was in the hospital having Marianne. But that's a story for another time. I have to get to the pizzles.

A bit later Hobbs was being cute, playing his well practiced "I want a treat" game. Have I ever mentioned that Hobbs runs that house? Anyway, Sam suggested to Deb that she give him one of the pizzelles, "He likes the pizzelles," Sam said. So Deb goes in the dining room and gives Hobbs his treat. Then she comes out and reports that she gave Hobbs a pizzle; at which Sam, Deb, Dolores and Marianne laugh. It's clearly an inside joke; but the combination of the pronunciation with the fact of Hobbs getting a treat has rung a bell for me even though some coincidences are just too incredible to occur; and at that point even I wasn't fully connecting all the dots, at least not consciously. So I spell out P-I-Z-Z-L-E and ask if that's how they're spelling the word.

They explained that they're laughing because Rebecca, whose last name will not be mentioned to spare her embarrassment, had her pizzelle recipe labelled "pizzles" when she came to the cookie baking to make them. It also turns out that the inside joke people are laughing because they found the mis-spelling funny; but they're unaware that the joke goes deeper. So I point out that I could be wrong - I was wrong on a vocabulary question one time in the 1980's and I was wrong on a simple word spelling question one time in the 1950's, onstage at a spelling bee unfortunately - but I'm pretty sure a pizzle is the particular body part that connects a bull and a cow when they're in a romantic frame of mind and endeavoring to make a new little cow or bull.

None of them have heard of this meaning, even though I know for a fact that Sam has read Commanche Moon by Larry McMurtry. The word is used in there, quite memorably in a sentence uttered by Captain Inish Scull that I could come close to quoting if this weren't a family blog. The relevant phrase is ". . . a Dalrymple pizzle." I haven't googled that but it may work if someone has extracted memorable quotes from the book.

They're all doubting me so much that Deb even gets up and checks their dictionary; and she finds that pizzle isn't in their dictionary. So now even I'm doubting. But understand me. I'm not doubting the existence and meaning of the word. I'm doubting the quality of Sam and Deb's dictionary. And, just a little part of me is thinking that maybe I have the spelling wrong, even though I can visualize that sentence in Commanche Moon.

So when I got home I checked on the web, and sure enough there it is. Pizzle is not only a word, it's a pretty old word; and it's primary meaning is just what I thought. Not only that; but one of its other meanings, as a name brand for dog treats, explains why I perked up when Deb returned and mentioned that she had given Hobbs a pizzle.

Rebecca has a dog. I need to remember to buy a treat for him next Christmas. Maybe I'll pick up one for Hobbs too.


rebecca said...

outrageous. only you would know the definition of such things. turns out my poor spelling wasn't so poor...just not used in the right context. now i wonder if aunt marianne will still allow the girls to call me rebecca the pizzle queen?

Sully said...

I suspect that you're going to be the pizzle queen for a long time, Rebecca.