Dear Smiley: Years ago my 12-year-old son (and I) learned a lesson in perception.

He had gone to a basketball camp at the Memorial Coliseum on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington. Part of the camp included a tour of the relatively new Rupp Arena, where the UK basketball team played its games.

I asked what impressed him the most about Rupp, which was then one of the largest basketball arenas in the country, and where all those UK and other All-Americans and great teams had played.

His response was that it was the lockerdressing room! When I inquired as to why that facility was so significant, he incredulously asked me if I knew how high on the wall urinals are placed for 7-feet-tall players!

I had to confess I had not pondered that subject, being well short of 7 feet, but that I would certainly reflect on it.



Uplifting story

Dear Smiley: The story (in the Thursday column) about Malcolm Wright’s funeral reminded me of the death of an elderly woman. She left a handwritten note saying she did not want any male pall bearers at her funeral.

The reason: “They wouldn’t take me out while I was alive, so I certainly don’t want them taking me out now!”



Memories of Yiddish

Dear Smiley: Seeing the mention of “Ish Kabibble” (in the Oct. 9 column) brought me sweet memories of my grandmother, Frances Rubin.

She emigrated from what was then Russia (and now Poland) to New York sometime prior to 1910, speaking only Russian and Yiddish. When my brother Mike and I were young, she would often mutter under her breath “Ish Kabibble” — particularly when we were misbehaving, acting up, or during some argumentative discussion (sometimes prompting a response mutter from my father, who grew up with Yiddish-speaking parents).

The derivation of the word appears to be a lexicographer’s dilemma, but many believe the source is the Yiddish expression “nisht gefidlt” or “I should worry?”

That in turn prompts a curious (and perhaps not coincidental) association of the expression with the “What, me worry?” motto of Alfred E. Neuman, the mascot of Mad Magazine, founded in New York by cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman in 1952.


Baton Rouge

Out on a limb

Dear Smiley: All the comments about malapropisms remind me of an amputee I knew once who referred to his artificial leg as his “pross-Jesus.” At first, I thought Norm Crosby would be proud of him, but then I realized — that artificial leg is helping a lame man walk! Maybe there is a little more there than meets the ear.



Meaty topic

Dear Smiley: Years ago, when my husband I were first married, we were on vacation in Arkansas and decided to go on a guided horse ride. As we were waiting for the horses and chatting with the owner, my husband started talking about how in some countries people eat horse meat, and “it’s considered a delicatessen.”

The woman looked baffled, and then I asked, “Do you mean delicacy?” We still laugh about that one...



Coin those words

Dear Smiley: My brother and I had disagreements growing up that became physical sometimes. If I squeezed his arms while holding him down he would tell me I was cutting off his “bloodulation.”

Years later I became a nurse, and when we had to renew our CPR training at work I taught my 5-year-old to give CPR to her 2-year-old sister. After such an occasion, I heard my daughter tell her little sister while they were playing with their dolls, “Kelli, we have to ‘re-breathe’ our babies!”


New Orleans

True brew

Dear Smiley: When I recently visited my gynecologist for that yearly physical exam, I got my usual good laugh from reading the comics on the nurse’s wall as she updated my medical records.

One of my favorites is where the wife asks, “Honey, did the doctor’s office call?”

The husband responds, “Yeah, they said your Pabst beer came back normal!”



Tempting fate

Dear Smiley: One Sunday morning, riding from Louisiana College to the church in Winnfield where he was the part-time minister of music, my friend was joking about mispronouncing words.

He gave the example of the song “Jesus Saves” that they were singing in the service that day. In the car, I warned him, “Don’t do that.”

I’ll never forget the look on his face as he announced, “Please turn to Number 181, Jesus Sha...”


Columbia, Tennessee

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com . He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.