On vices

I’ll get back to nicknames, I promise, but my husband just enlightened me about a word my dad has used forever and whose etymology I had never questioned: “torps.” As in, “Hey, Vinegar, run to the store and buy me a pack of torps.” And, I would dutifully pedal my bike to the Red Owl grocery store to buy Camels. Yes, back in the olden days, parents would send their kids to the store (with $.75) to buy cigarettes. “Torps” is a word I grew up with, and I’ve always known what it meant, but where did that term come from? According to my husband, it’s short for “lung torpedoes.” Makes sense, sort of along the line of “coffin nails,” which always pops into my mind first as “coughin’ nails.” I’d love to learn of any other slang terms for cigarettes that you know of.

You may have gathered from other posts, my five-or-so dear readers, that my dad also enjoys his gin martinis. Naturally, he has some choice words to refer to this old friend as well. “Silver bullet” is the most common term of endearment he uses. He prefers Fleischmann’s gin for the same reason that I prefer Usher’s Scotch: it’s cheap and it gets the job done. This pithy assessment is not original to Dad or me; it comes from one of Dad’s late and witty friends, Alan Hughes, who was asked why he drank rum. Dad has rather strong opinions about martinis, as you can imagine. First of all, a martini is made with gin, not vodka. He eschews with disgust the “dirty martini” and calls Bombay Sapphire gin “Sani-Flush,” even though it’s just the bottle that’s blue, not the gin. He’ll choke down Beefeaters if he has to, but considers Tanqueray and any other premium brands of gin effete affectations of amateur drinkers. Likewise, pickled onions or mushroom garnishes. After all, one must follow the forms; we are not barbarians.


One thought on “On vices

  1. My siblings have reminded me of a couple more of Dad’s favorite sayings where booze is concerned. He often refers to his martinis as “medication” or “holy water.” When asked about the optimal number of martinis, he counsels, “Martinis are just like tits; one’s not enough and three’s too many.”

    Beer used to be one of my parents’ favorite libations as well; after all, they are from Wisconsin. As is to be expected, Dad views all the emphasis nowadays on microbrews as another effete affectation, and he has rather pedestrian taste in beer. Back in the day, before he could actually drink legally, he drank $.05 Leinenkugel’s taps because it was the cheapest beer around. Now Leinenkugel’s brand has a certain caché. Later it was Blatz, Schlitz, Budweiser and Old Style. On the other hand, and there is no accounting for taste, his opinion of Pabst Blue Ribbon or Hamm’s was “that’s the beer that won second place at the State Fair the year horse piss won first.” Go figure.

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