a katakana para

A piece of silliness for Thursday that will take us to many far-flung places and cultures and bring us into contact with a wide variety of people and food.

a katakana para:
maranatha! patapan patapan, mahna mahna

after a Panama caravan, Papa Salazar was away
at a Managua ramada with Capablanca aside a jacaranda;
at a Manama cabana gazing at Alana Blanchard atop a catamaran;
and clad in a black Hamas bandanna
from Gaza, at the Ramada in Pataskala;
mañana at a madrasa in Casablanca, Papa makes aloo
tamatar for Malanga and Zapata and Rafa Nadal, but today Papa
partakes of tapas, bananas, parathas, malangas, and
amaranth salad with his pata Chava Ayala —
and Bahama Mamas! and patatas bravas!

Fuckin’ A!

This started with an ad I noticed in in the NYT yesterday for tours to Panama by the Caravan company, which gave me Panama caravan, and I took it from there, running with words using the letter A, variously encoding / a æ ǝ e /.

I know the first line of the title says we’re going to get a katakana para, a paragraph in one of the three writing sustems used (jointly) for writing Japanese, but the second line is not in katakana and it’s not a paragraph; so sue me. Also, there is apparently no Ramada Inn in Pataskala OH.

But there are jacarandas, the tropical trees (as well as ramadas: ramada ‘arbor, porch’, from Spanish) in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, and there are catamarans (catamaran ‘a yacht or other boat with twin hulls in parallel’) in Manama, the capital of Bahrain (even some for sale, apparently), as well as cabanas (cabana ‘a cabin, hut, or shelter, especially one at a beach or swimming pool’) there, of course. I assume that you can find black bandannas in the Gaza Strip, possibly even ones under Hamas sponsorship. I don’t know if there is or was a madrasa (a school or college for Islamic instruction) in Casablanca, Morocco, but it seems quite likely.

Salazar and Ayala are both pretty common surnames in Spanish; Chava is a nickname for Salvador; and pata is Peruvian slang for ‘guy; [with possessive modifier] friend, buddy’ (amigo in more general Spanish usage).

Other personal names.

Capablanca. From Wikipedia:

José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera (19 November 1888 – 8 March 1942) was a Cuban chess player who was world chess champion from 1921 to 1927. Considered one of the greatest players of all time, he was renowned for his exceptional endgame skill and speed of play. He was exceptionally difficult to beat, losing only 35 first class games in his entire career.

Alana Blanchard. From Wikipedia:

Alana Rene Blanchard (born March 5, 1990) is an American professional surfer and model.

Malanga. From Wikipedia:

Gerard Joseph Malanga (born March 20, 1943) is an American-Italian poet, photographer, filmmaker, curator and archivist.

… Gerard Malanga worked closely for Andy Warhol during Warhol’s most creative period, from 1963 to 1970. A February 17, 1992 article in The New York Times referred to him as “Andy Warhol’s most important associate.”

Zapata. From Wikipedia:

Emiliano Zapata Salazar (… 8 August 1879 – 10 April 1919) was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution, the main leader of the peasant revolution in the state of Morelos, and the inspiration of the agrarian movement called Zapatismo.

Rafa Nadal. On the great tennis player and hot male model Rafael “Rafa” Nadal earlier on this blog:

on 7/2/13, “Tennis hunks”, with photos in #1, 3, and 4

on 8/27/15, “On the fashion front”, with a photo in #1

Line 7 of the text has Malanga, Zapata, and Nadal together for Papa’s aloo tamatar, but Emiliano Zapata was assassinated before either Gerald Malanga or Rafael Nadal was born, so that’s more poetic license. Goodness knows they would have made a strange but interesting trio. Finally, as far as I know, Malanga and Nadal have never met. And I suspect that Capablanca never visited Managua, and that Blanchard has never been to Manama.

Line 2 of the title has three expressions that are neither place names, personal names, nor food names: the Biblical expression that usually appears in English as maranatha, plus two expressions derived from songs: “Patapan” and “Mahna Mahna”. On to these, then to food names, and finally to the fuckin’-A  tag  at the end.

maranatha. From Wikipedia:

Maranatha … is a two-word Aramaic formula occurring only once in the New Testament … and also in the Didache, which is part of the Apostolic Fathers’ collection. It is transliterated into Greek letters rather than translated and, given the nature of early manuscripts, the lexical difficulty lies in determining just which two Aramaic words constitute the single Greek expression, found at the end of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (1Cor 16:22).

[Choices:] … the command option (“Come, Lord!”) … or the preterite option (“Our Lord has come”)

Both options lend themselves temptingly to sacrilegiously sexual word play on the verb come, as do the hymn names “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” — a temptation I’ve given in to in some material I’ll post separately.

“Patapan”. From Wikipedia:

“Patapan” (or “Pat-a-pan”) is a French Christmas carol in Burgundian dialect, later adapted into English. It was written by Bernard de La Monnoye (1641–1728) and first published in Noël bourguignons in 1720. Its original title is “Guillô, Pran Ton Tamborin” (“Willie, Bring Your Little Drum” or “Willie, Take Your Little Drum”).

The carol revolves around the birth of Jesus Christ, and is told from the perspective of shepherds playing simple instruments — flutes and drums — the onomatopoetic sound of which gives the song its name; “patapan” is meant to mimic the sound of the drum, and an accompanying lyric, “tu-re-lu-re-lu,” the flute. This is similar conceptually to the carol “The Little Drummer Boy”, with its chorus of “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.”

Mannheim Steamroller recorded a version of the song on their 1995 album Christmas in the Aire. (The accompanying video plays during the group’s live shows when the song is performed.) American singer-songwriter David Archuleta recorded a contemporary version of “Pat-a-Pan” on his 2009 album Christmas from the Heart. It was also recorded by Bing Crosby (1962) and Julie Andrews (1982).

Te article gives the lyrics in Burgundian, French, and English. There are an extraordinary number of videos and recordings, some with the song treated as medieval music (though it’s late Reniassance / early modern).

In English, the crucial first line goes:

Willie, take your little drum, Robin take your flute and come!

Oh my, plenty of sexual imagery here. The flute is widely recognized as a phallic symbol, and the drumstick — whether the musical drumstick, the chicken drumstick, or the Drumstick ice cream product — is one as well.

The phallic flute gives us the slang expressions  play the flute / skin flute / man-flute / one-holed flute / etc.‘fellate’. An entertaining example from Robert Reisner & Lorraine Wechsler’s Encyclopedia of Graffiti (1974): “I play the flute and swalow the music.”, meaning ‘I suck cock and swallow the cum’. (The spelling is in the original, which is, after all, a bathroom graffito.)

Meanwhile, the drum itself is a vaginal symbol (because it’s a cavity); so it’s also an anal symbol (as in the gay slang drum s.o.’s bum ‘use a drumstick on s.o.’s asshole, fuck s.o. in the ass’).

“Mahna Mahna”. Start with Wikipedia on a song:

“Mah Nà Mah Nà” is a popular song written by Piero Umiliani. It originally appeared in the Italian [soft-core porn] film Sweden: Heaven and Hell (Svezia, inferno e paradiso). It was a minor radio hit in the U.S. and in Britain, but became better known in English-speaking countries from its use in a recurring blackout sketch for the 1969-70 season of The Red Skelton Show, the fourteenth episode of Sesame Street, and the first episode of The Muppet Show.

… The song’s lyrics contain no actual words, only iambic nonsense syllables resembling scat singing, and uses the musical technique of interpolation where melodies are abruptly cut off and replaced with new ones.

And then one more step with Wikipedia:

Mahna Mahna is a purple Muppet with wild, orange hair and a furry, green tunic who is most famous for performing the nonsense song “Mahna Mahna” with the Snowths. His vocabulary is essentially limited to saying his own name and scatting.

You can watch the Muppet clip here.

A note on poetic form. In lines 4 and 5 of the text I’ve managed to do a regular build-up in number of syllables: in line 4, black Hamas bandanna (1 – 2 – 3 syllables); in line 5, one syllable better, with Gaza … Ramada … Pataskala (2-3-4 syllables).

Now to food. I’ll skip the bananas, which I assume everyone knows about. Otherwise:

aloo [or alu] tamatar. This is a curry, of potatoes in a tomato gravy, pictured here:


tapas.From Wikipedia:

Tapas … are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, sophisticated cuisine. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. In some Central American countries, such snacks are known as bocas. In Mexico, the vegetarian varieties of similar dishes are called “botanas.”

A very modest display of tapas, with only eight choices:


parathas. From Wikipedia:

A paratha is a flatbread that originated in the north of the Indian Subcontinent. It is still quite prevalent in the north of India, where wheat is grown and is the traditional staple of the area. Paratha is an amalgamation of the words parat and atta which literally means layers of cooked dough.

Parathas are one of the most popular unleavened flatbreads in the India part of the Indian Subcontinent and they are made by baking whole wheat dough on a tava, and finishing off with shallow frying. Parathas are thicker and more substantial than chapatis/rotis and this is either because, in the case of a plain paratha, they have been layered by coating with ghee or oil and folding repeatedly (much like the method used for puff pastry or some types of Turkish börek) using a laminated dough technique; or else because food ingredients such as mixed vegetables have been mixed in with the dough, such as potato and/or cauliflower, green beans and carrots.


malangas. From Wikipedia:

Xanthosoma is a genus of flowering plants in the arum family, Araceae. The genus is native to tropical America but widely cultivated and naturalized in other tropical regions. Several are grown for their starchy corms, an important food staple of tropical regions, known variously as malanga, otoy, otoe, cocoyam (or new cocoyam), tannia, tannier, yautía, macabo, ocumo, macal, taioba, dasheen, quequisque, ʻape and (in Papua New Guinea) as Singapore taro (taro kongkong).

The wonderfully phallic corms:


From Amanda Torres’s food blog on 4/27/14:

Mashed Malanga, Taro, or Yuca: nightshade-free potato substitutes. I love tropical starches like malanga, taro, yuca, and plantains. Potatoes are excluded on the autoimmune paleo protocol because they are nightshades, and most people recommend sweet potatoes as a starchy substitute for potatoes. Sweet potatoes are great and I do love them, but they’re sweet, not savory, and sometimes that just doesn’t cut it.

amaranth. On this blog on 6/23/11, “More plants of love”, wih a section on the amaranth, or pigweed, whose seeds can be used as a substitute for wheat, for instance in tabbouleh- or couscous-like dishes. As in this 11/11/11 posting on a food site about Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese [and Walnut] Amaranth “Couscous”, illustrated here:


Bahama Mamas. From the Schmidt’s Sausage site:

The Bahama Mama a creation from our German meat packing family who possess over 120 years of sausage making experience. The Bahama Mama is a fully cooked natural hickory smoked sausage made from specially selected lean cuts of beef and pork, blended with our secret spice pack formulation. The Bahama is a natural casing old world product. The spice level is moderate so as not to hide the flavor of the quality cuts of beef and pork used.


Phallic, of course; that comes with the sausage territory.

patatas bravas. From Wikipedia:

Patatas bravas …, also called patatas a la brava or papas bravas, is a dish native to Spain, often served as a tapa in bars. It typically consists of white potatoes that have been cut into irregular shapes of about 2 centimeters, then fried in oil and served warm with a sauce such as a spicy tomato sauce or an aioli. This dish is commonly served in restaurants and bars throughout Spain.


Here ends the food portion of our program. Now we turn to fuckin’-A.

From the 3rd edition of Jesse Sheidlower’s The F Wordˆ, pp. 144-6:

fucking-A adverb, adjective, interjection, & infix (origin unknown [AZ: big sigh]; perhaps taken from a phrase such as “you’re fucking A-number-one right!”) [AZ: JS doesn’t indicate this, but the expression is very much American (and generally working class)]

1.a. Especially Military. yes, indeed; absolutely (correct); especially in phrase: ☛ [you’re fucking-A, occasionally with elaborations, especially fucking-A [well] told. [first cite 1948 from Norman Mailer, referring to WW II, in the form “You’re fuggin ay”; very often, as here, with –in’ rather than –ing.]

b. (used to express astonishment, dismay, or recognitoon). [first cite 1979]

c. splendid. [first cite 1986]

2.a. [Especially Military. (used as intensifier) [first cite 1955: “That was a mighty freaking-A sneeze”

b. FUCKING WELL; very well; very; absolutely. [first cite 1960, referring to WWII: “You can fucking-aye say that again.”

Note: My collection of solid A-words included a number I couldn’t work into the composition above (brava!, Mahatma, etc.). You might well have favorites of your own. If so, you’re welcome to note them in a comment. Just don’t twit me for having failed to use them.

3 Responses to “a katakana para”

  1. thnidu Says:


  2. Robert Coren Says:

    Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

  3. [BLOG] Some Saturday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky shares and dissects a Japanese-style poem of […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: