LINGUIST List 6.1224

Sat Sep 9 1995

Sum: Sentence meaning, Part II

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Wim Koole, Sum: 'Beaver sentence'

Message 1: Sum: 'Beaver sentence'

Date: Thu, 07 Sep 1995 22:47:40 Sum: 'Beaver sentence'
From: Wim Koole <>
Subject: Sum: 'Beaver sentence'

On July 8 I posted the following two sentences, in order to find out their

1. The beaver got a Christmas card because she didn't notice the brown
 paper bag at her back door.

2. One day, in the parking lot of the concert hall, I witnessed a major
 used-501 deal.

The meaning of the second sentence has been found, as I reported to the
list on August 8.
The meaning of the first sentence still was unclear at that moment.
However, on August 14 Irene Dodson wrote:
When I read sentence number one it reminded me of the type of
coded message used on Citizen Band (CB) radio. I do not know whether my
suggestion is at all accurate but it is one more possibility for you. If
I heard the referenced expression on CB I would probably interpret it

"The beaver (woman) got a christmas card (traffic citation) because she
didn't notice the brown paper bag (unmarked tan, beige or brown traffic
officer's vehicle [vehicles without external identifying insignia are
often used to trap speeders]) at her back door (behind her)."

Although we received many different suggestions from many linguists,
we felt most comfortable with this last transcription,
because this way the transcription makes sense as a whole and
because the components "beaver", "Xmas card", and "brown paper bag"
receive a meaning also suggested one way or the other by some of the other
respondents, witness the reactions of Jack Aubert, John Koontz and
Lynne Hewitt:

On July 8 Jack Aubert wrote:
"brown paper bag" often has the connotation of an object deliberately hidden,
like the brown paper bag hiding a bum's bottle of liquor, ...

On August 10 John E. Koontz wrote:
I wonder if the "Christmas card" is some sort of legal citation or notice
of violation, or some sort of other sarcastic reference to an undesirable
piece of paper or other thing, ...

On August 10 Lynne Hewitt wrote:
In highway radio slang of the 1970's (so-called "CB radio", standing for
"citizen's band"), a truck driver argot that became popular among tough-guy
wannabe's, "beaver" meant any woman.

Probably sentence one stems from highway radio slang, as it is often used
on Citizen Band (CB) radio (during the early eighties in Holland a similar
phenomenon was very popular, called 27 MC (MegaCycle) -band).
In this context the sentence can be transcribed to:

"The female driver got a traffic citation,
 because she didn't notice the unmarked police-car behind her"

To those who responded to our queries: thanks again for your cooperation!

Wim Koole
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