f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

March 26, 2008

calling a spatula a spatula

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 6:02 pm

The family that comes together, ums together.

the octagenarian
fills in my blank ………….

………………. by dagosan

There’s something about visiting my older relatives over a holiday that gets me fretting about my aging Boomer brain and body, dementia, tip of the tongue syndrome, and similar concepts. (see, e.g., “pity the baby-boomer raconteur,” Nov. 23, 2007). As I confessed when I wrote about Michael Erard’s Um the Book last September, quite a few members of my family use that little pause-filler a lot.

the um in her voice
before offering me
the senior discount

….. by Carolyn Hall – A New Resonance 2; Frogpond XXIII:2

I got a lot of umming started in my Aunt Bella’s kitchen on Easter Sunday, in the Rochester suburb of Greece, NY. Someone was preparing the Easter ham and looking for a baster — as often happens with my female family members, it had to be just the “right” size — and I started to say how surprised I had been recently when a particular utensil (that I always assumed was made of some rubber product) shattered into pieces after falling off my counter at home. I paused and ummed and finally said in frustration:

What do you call that thing you use to flip stuff in a frying pan?

At the time I asked the question, at least two of my aunts were in the room. Now, I don’t want to sound too much like one of those self-aggrandizing small-firm lawyer ads, but we had over 200 years of flipper-use-experience in that kitchen among the three of us. Nonetheless, we could not conjure up the name of the item in question. Finally, Bella asked her 11-year-old grandson (who is normally monosyllabic with adults) what you call the food-flipper thing, and (yes, to my amazement) he immediately replied correctly, “a spatula.” Damn. It wasn’t even on the tip of my tongue.

april snow
a pat of butter
melts in the pan

tango music ~
a frying pan swings
on a hook

… by matt morden
“april snow” – Mayfly #27
“tango music” – Morden Haiku

don't forget Figuring I might as well get something useful out of the incident, I Googled a bit to find information on the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon, and on the word spatula, and then looked around our archives for more-or-less related haiku and senryu. If that sort of pastiche posting interests you, stick around and keep reading.

Spatula: Here’s an informative summary of the word spatula (and its regional usage, synonyms and etymology) from Wikipedia:

…. spatula

A spatula, also known as a fish slice in British English, is a kitchen utensil with a long handle and a broad flat edge, used for lifting fish and fried foods. Though the word spatula is used in British English, it refers solely to a mixing and spreading implement. In parts of Canada and the United States, spatulas are sometimes called flippers or turners. They are used both in the preparation of food, as a flipping implement, and in the serving of food. Often the plate scraper is referred to as a spatula.

The word spatula, known in English since 1525, is a diminutive form of the Latin term spatha, which means a broad sword (as in spatharius) or a flat piece of wood and is also the origin of the words spade (digging tool) and spathe.

river restaurant
halfway through the fried frog legs
the croaking begins

………… by W.F. Owen – World Haiku Ass’n bio; Haiku Headlines (June 2000)

Speaking of spatulas and memory, do you remember Weird Al Yankovic’s Spatula City? It’s the spatula outlet store in the movie UHF. As its fictional owner Sy Greenblum says, “I liked their spatulas so much, I bought the company.”

unofficial start
of spring –
parkas huddled ’round the grill

[click for Dave Coverly’s TOT cartoon]

the pretty one?
not even
on the tip of my tongue

……………………… by dagosan

Tip of the Tongue: We Baby Boomers will really be in bad shape if we ever forget the source of this famous tongue logo. Wikipedia has a good summary of the Tip of the Tongue phenonemon, including its history in literature (such as Anton Chekhov’s short story “A Horsey Name“), and studies regarding various age groups. Here are a few excerpts from the Wikipedia TOT entry:

tip of the tongue

The tip of the tongue (TOT) phenomenon is an instance of knowing something that cannot immediately be recalled. TOT is a near-universal experience with memory recollection involving difficulty retrieving a well-known word or familiar name. When experiencing TOT, people feel that the blocked word is on the verge of being recovered. Despite failure in finding the word, people have the feeling that the blocked word is figuratively “on the tip of the tongue.” Inaccessibility and the sense of imminence are two key features of an operational definition of TOTs (A.S. Brown, 1991).

History of Tip of the Tongue

The experience of TOT appeared in non-academic literature as early as 1885. . . .

In 1966, Harvard psychologists Roger Brown and David McNeill reported the first empirical investigation of the tip-of-the-tongue state. . . . They also found that TOT is a fairly universal phenomenon, TOTs occur about once a week and increase as you age, and they’re often caused by proper names. . . .

TOT across the lifespan

TOT research in children has mainly focused on when they begin to experience TOTs and what the experience is like for them (Brown, 1991). . . . TOTs occur more often in third graders (ages 6-7) than they do in kindergarteners and first graders.

More research has been done with TOTs in older adults. In terms of subjective estimates, research has found that older adults report experiencing TOTs about as often as younger adults (Brown, 1991). However, . . . young adults were found to experience significantly fewer TOTs than older adults. Other TOT literature has found that older adults remember less information about the target word and bring up fewer related words during the TOT experience and are less active in resolving the TOT experience (Brown, 1991).

even for the tongue-tied
crow of the east…
spring’s first dawn


stuttering about
the olden days…
a cuckoo


today’s last voice
is raised . . .
summer cicada

…… Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

You can find more about the Tip of the Tongue Experience at the About Memory website. I was happy to see that

  • “In general, this increase in TOTs with age is seen in poorer recall of names (proper names and names of things). Abstract words do not become harder to recall with age.”

But, I am not as optimistic as they are about avoiding this annoying part of the aging process — and am certainly not adding “keeping an active weblog” to their list:

  • Keeping your experience of language diverse (e.g., playing scrabble, doing crosswords) may help reduce TOTs.

the mime
in our mittens

early Alzheimer’s
she says she’ll have . . .
the usual

……………………………… by John StevensonQuiet Enough (2004)

mute button –
the unexpected sound
of raindrops

…………………. Laryalee Frasertinywords

hard rain
the sizzle of summer peppers
in the skillet

…………. by Alice Frampton – The Heron’s Nest Vol. VIII

the senior partner
has a senior minute

a third helping
of Thanksgiving politics
I bite my tongue

………………………….. by dagosan

he’s utterly given up

are a waste of time…

your name escapes me
old friend…
blossoming mountain

……… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue don't forget

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