Questions How does Joey Hart explain Mrs. Barrows’ strange ways of speaking?    

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

She had, for almost two years now, baited him. In the halls, in the elevator, even in his own office, into which she romped now and then like a circus horse, she was constantly shouting these silly questions at him. "Are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch? Are you tearing up the pea patch? Are you hollering down the rain barrel? Are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel? Are you sitting in the catbird seat?"

It was Joey Hart, one of Mr Martin's two assistants, who had explained what the gibberish meant. "She must be a Dodger fan," he had said. "Red Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions--picked 'em up down South." Joey had gone on to explain one or two. "Tearing up the pea patch" meant going on a rampage; "sitting in the catbird seat" meant sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him. Mr Martin dismissed all this with an effort. It had been annoying, it had driven him near to distraction, but he was too solid a man to be moved to murder by anything so childish. (Thurber, "The Catbird Seat")

Joey Hart explains to Mr. Martin that the expressions Mrs. Barrows uses are commonplace to people who are fans of Dodger baseball. He explained that the announcer for the Dodgers, Red Barber, livened up his announcing by using these strange expressions--called idioms--that he had learned when he was in the South: "picked 'em up down South." He then went on to tell Mr. Martin the meanings of some of the idioms like "sitting in the catbird seat," which means to be in a good situation, "like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him."

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Erwin Martin is puzzled by Ulgine Barrows' unusual way of speaking until Joey Hart explains to him that many of her colorful expressions come from the famed Brooklyn Dodgers radio announcer, Red Barber. Barber was a Florida native known for his peculiar Southern euphemisms.