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August 5, 2001 - Slangman: Action Words ('Goldilocks and the Three Bears') - 2002-01-31

AA: This is Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster -- Slangman David Burke, with a story to help explain some action words used in everyday American speech.

RS: You might recognize the story as "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." That's the fairy tale about a young girl who wanders into a home in the forest while the family that lives there is away. She helps herself to food and even breaks some of the furniture!

AA: Slangman picks up the story as the family -- a mother bear, a father bear and a baby bear -- return home.


BURKE: "They were very hungry and were looking forward to 'macking out' on the nice bowls of tasty porridge."

RS: "'Macking out.' That's interesting. Is that as in Big Mac, as in McDonald's?"

BURKE: "Very good! This is one of the most popular expressions that teens are using now. To 'mack out ' means let's go eat a lot.' Originally, like a hamburger from McDonald's, a Big Mac, right."

RS: "It could be eating a lot of anything."

BURKE: "Oh yeah, I'm going to mack out on some cereal, I'm going to mack out on some spaghetti. Mack out just means to 'chow down.' In fact, suddenly Papa Bear cried out in his great big voice, 'Someone has been chowing down on my porridge!' The Mamma Bear then cried out in her medium-sized voice, 'Someone has been chowing down on MY porridge!' I think we get the idea of what 'chowing down' means by now? And Baby Bear cried out in his teeny-tiny-isty-bisty little voice, 'Some has been chowing down on my porridge. And they've downed the whole thing!'

RS: "They ate it all up!"

BURKE: "Then the Three Bears 'got a load' of their chairs near the fireplace. When you 'get a load' of something, you see it, 'get a load of that.' Get a look at, observe, 'get a load of her.' 'Someone has plopped down in my chair!' Papa Bear said in his great big voice. 'Someone has plopped down in MY chair!' Mamma Bear said in her medium size voice. 'Someone has plopped down in MY chair,' Baby Bear cried in his teeny-tiny-isty-bitsy little voice. 'And now it's smashed to smithereens!"

RS: "Little bitty parts, little bitty pieces."

BURKE: "Then the Three Bears went upstairs to the bedroom. 'Someone has been catching some Z's in my bed!' Papa Bear shouted in his great big voice. 'And someone has been catching some Z's in MY bed!' Mamma Bear exclaimed in her medium-sized voice. And now why do we say that?"

RS: "Because the expression is written out that way in, um..."

AA: "In cartoons."

BURKE: "In a cartoon when you see someone asleep, you'll see a lot of Z's next to each other. I guess it represents the sound of zzzzzz, kind of like you would be..."

RS: "Snoring..."

BURKE: "Breathing, or snoring. 'Someone has been catching some Z's in MY bed,' Baby Bear squeaked in his teeny-tiny-itsy-bitsy little voice. 'AND THERE SHE IS!' Just then Goldilocks woke up! When she got 'a load' -- when she noticed -- when she got a load of the three bears standing around her, she popped up off the bed and 'took off' -- which means she left, like an airplane takes off -- she took off down the stairs and 'hauled buns' out the door. Now this is also a very normal, fine expression. To 'haul buns' literally means to leave quickly, because 'buns' is slang for one's bottom. So she hauled buns out the door. She 'high-tailed' it through the woods for the longest time until she was 'stopped dead' in her tracks -- now, when you stop dead in your tracks it means you stop suddenly in your footsteps, it has nothing to do with dying. But when you say 'stopped dead' it means instantly. So she was stopped dead in her tracks by a giant beanstalk! Which ... is a story for another time. (laughter) The End."

AA: Slangman David Burke in Los Angeles, with his own version of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," written just for Wordmaster fans.

RS: If you're having an unbearable time with American slang, send your questions by e-mail to And you can check out his teaching books about how Americans really talk at

AA: Our address here is or write to VOA Wordmaster, Washington DC two-zero-two-three-seven USA. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.