Buzz me, baby

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes re-run strip, on Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs (CFSBs), which offer “100% of the daily recommended allowance of caffeine”:

(#1) Just in case you had a fleeting moment of wondering about it, there is no caffeine RDA (recommended dietary allowance — recommended by the US National Research Council); the RDAs are for nutrients, and caffeine is not a nutrient

C&H Sugar Bomb strips. Hummingbird metabolism. The getting-high sense of the noun buzz and its verbing. The near-instant buzz of concentrated caffeine. Adalbert Stifter’s 1845 novella Bergkristall.

Calvin and his Sugar Bomb cereals. Most recently on this blog, in my 2/27/19 posting “Eat the sugar bomb for the beanie”, about:

A series of three Calvin and Hobbes strips … in which Calvin undertakes to eat four boxes of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs to get a gee-whiz official beanie. A return to cartoonist Bill Watterson’s attacks on sugary breakfast cereals and the way they are marketed to children, especially through the stratagem of describing them as part of a healthful breakfast

Earlier strips on this blog:

on 3/19/16, in “Sugar bombs”

on 6/4/16, in “More sugar bombs”

on 3/3/18, in “Familiar cartoon themes: Waldo and sugar bombs”

on 9/1/18, in “Subscendence by sugar bomb”

The enduring theme is the extraordinary highs that Calvin gets from the sugar in the various Sugar Bombs, especially CFSBs. Now it turns out that CFSBs also supply outrageous amounts of caffeine. Whoopee!

Hummingbird metabolism. On the birds, from Wikipedia:

Hummingbirds are birds native to the Americas and constituting the biological family Trochilidae. They are the smallest of birds, most species measuring 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) in length.

… They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings, which flap at high frequencies audible to humans. They hover in mid-air at rapid wing-flapping rates, which vary from around 12 beats per second in the largest species, to in excess of 80 in some of the smallest.

… Hummingbirds have the highest mass-specific metabolic rate of any homeothermic animal [one that maintains its body temperature at a constant level, through metabolic activity].

Some hummingbird facts, compressed in a graphic from Fountain magazine, “The Hummingbird: Small in Size, Great in Art” by Irfan Yilmaz in issue 131 (Sep – Oct 2019):

(#2) Crucial features of Buzzy the Hummingbird

The noun buzz. Excerpts from GDoS:

noun buzz: 1 as speech … (a) chatter, conversation. (b) a rumour. (c) a telephone call… (d) (US Underworld) an explortory conversation. (e) (US Underworld) a warning. (f) (US) a call on an intercom. … 3 as a physical sensation, a ‘buzz in the head’ (a) (orig.US) a thrill, a feeling of excitement. … (c) (orig. US) a (usu.) pleasant sensation from drinking. [1st cite 1935] (d) the immediate response to taking a drug, esp. barbiturates or cannabis [1st cite 1938 lyrics to “Wacky Dust” Oh, I don’t know just why it gets you so high / Puttin’ a buzz in your heart] …

Ah, “Wacky Dust”. From Wikipedia:

“Wacky Dust” is a 1938 song by Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb orchestra written by Oscar Levant and Stanley Adams. It is an uptempo song about the joys (and dangers) of taking cocaine.

… The song was covered by The Manhattan Transfer on their 1979 album Extensions.

You can listen to Ella’s version here (#3); and you can listen to the Manhattan Transfer version here (#4).

That’s the noun in the relevant senses. The cartoon in #1 has the derived adjective buzzy, which is in principle available for all the various nouns buzz, including the substance-high senses.

The verbing. Then my title has a verbing — in fact, a transitive verbing, in fact an agentive causative verbing, conveying something like ‘(agent) cause (recipient) to have a buzz, (agent) give (recipient) a buzz’.

There are, in fact, several ways to go if you decide to verb the noun buzz. From OED2 on the verb buzz, in draft additions of June 2006 (with its complete set of cites, with the two transitive VPs (both passive) boldfaced:

slang (originally U.S.). (a) intransitive. Of a person: to be in a state of stimulation or excitement; to be intoxicated or ‘high’, esp. on drugs; (b) transitive (of a stimulant or experience) to intoxicate, excite, or thrill; usually in passive

1927 I. Gershwin How Long has this been going On? in Compl. Lyrics (1993) 110/2 What a kick — How I buzz! Boy, you click as no one does!

1950 R. Starnes And when she was Bad 33 Deane, comfortably buzzed by his cocktails, monopolized what conversation there was.

1983 L. Thomas Youngest Sci. xx. 231 Me lying on my stomach buzzing with morphine, with the left arm hanging down.

1995 FourFourTwo Oct. 64/1 When I do play well, I’m passing well and when we win I’m buzzing as if I’ve scored a hat-trick.

1996 P. Potterfield Into Zone (2000) 114 Fischer clearly is deeply moved by great mountains. He admits he gets buzzed by their mere proximity.

2002 Time Out N.Y. 25 Apr. 93/1 He’s .. skidded headlong into a lucid nightmare of methamphetamine addiction, buzzing for days on end.

The transitives are causative, but not agentive; they are instead source causatives: in the 1950 quote, the cocktails are the source of the buzz and in the 1996 quote mere proximity of great mountains is the source of the buzz, but neither is an actor in the situation.

Buzzed by caffeine. This brings me to buzzed by caffeine, which Calvin seems about to be in #1, and which I am at the moment (in an attempt to bring my blood pressure up to safe levels — it’s a war of medications — by the administration of extremely strong espresso, bordering on coffee concentrate). In any case, that’s a source causative, in the passive.

I have caffeine tablets for virtually immediate effects (it takes about 30 seconds for the rush to hit me) and the coffee concentrate for less medical, more pleasurable applications: diluted with two parts ice water, it yields some very nice (unsweetened) iced coffee; it then takes several minutes to bring my blood pressure up to 100 (100-120 being my target range).

Now that (thanks to Kim Darnell) I have bottles of coffee concentrate in the fridge all the time, I am reminded every day of an amazing book I read in a German class at Princeton several eons (well, six decades) ago: Bergkristall (English Rock Crystal), an 1845 novella by the Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter. From the Public Domain Review of Rock Crystal (hang on, I’ll get back to the coffee soon):


On the day before Christmas one year, Conrad and Susanna go to have a holiday meal with their grandparents in Millsdorf [over a mountain pass from their home in Gschaid]. They are warned by both their parents and grandparents to “take good care” not to get chilled or overheated, and above all not to go to sleep outdoors. Sure enough, halfway home between Millsdorf and Gschaid, they are surrounded by blinding snow.

… Taking shelter beneath rocks “as large as churches”, they wait out the storm, which after several bone-chilling hours gives way to an “enormous stillness…in which no snow-crystal seemed to move” and the now-cloudless sky is lit up by “thousands and thousands of simple stars”.

One crucial thing that gets the children through this ordeal, by keeping them from falling to sleep forever in the snow, is a flask of coffee essence. Buzzed by caffeine, they survive.

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