Accessibility links

June 17, 2001 - Slangman: Water Words ('Cinderella') - 2002-01-31

SFX: Boat engine

AA: Ahoy! I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and we're out on the Wordmaster boat, fishing for terms associated with water.

SFX: Engine stops

RS: Uh-oh, we're adrift! Good thing we've got Slangman David Burke to throw us a line, all the way from Los Angeles.

AA: He's recast a well-known fairy tale into more of a fish tale.


BURKE: "Once upon a time there was a young girl named Cinderella. All she did every day was to work for her evil stepsisters. She always had so much work to do around the house or 'she was drowning in work.' She could hardly manage all the work she had to do or 'she had trouble keeping her head above water.'"

AA: "Clever!"

BURKE: "She certainly didn't enjoy this kind of work, but every day she would begin her work, or 'dive right in' without complaining."

RS: "Very good!"

BURKE: "One day an invitation to the King's beach party arrived at the house. It was a special party to help the prince find a wife. Cinderella was nervous or 'had a sinking feeling' that her stepsisters wouldn't let her go. Cinderella didn't want to upset her stepsisters or 'she didn't want to make waves,' but she really wanted to go to the beach party. She finally worked up the courage to ask them and told them that she really needed a break, and that if she didn't have a little fun she would become very depressed or 'go off . . .

AA: " . . . the deep end."

BURKE: "Or 'she would go off the deep end.' That's really depressed. Well, her stepsisters said, cry about it all you want. Or, 'cry me a river!' The prince would never like you. You're not interesting anymore. Or, 'you're all washed up!'"

RS: "Poor Cinderella!"

BURKE: "Well, one of her stepsisters then said, 'Cinderella don't make trouble, or 'don't rock the . . .

RS: . . . boat."

BURKE: "If you 'rock the boat' you are making a lot of trouble because you could fall off the boat. So, you'd never want to 'rock the boat' in any situation. "

RS: "Get back to the story."

BURKE: "Ooh, don't rock the boat around here!"

AA: "Or, you'll be up a creek. "

BURKE: "'You'll be up a creek without a paddle.' That means that you'll be in big trouble. Cinderella, you need to behave or leave, or 'shape up or ship out.' 'Fine,' she said, or 'whatever floats your boat.' A nice popular expression meaning whatever you like, 'whatever floats your boat.'"

RS: "Whatever works for you."

BURKE: "Whatever works for you, right! … The day finally came when all the sisters went to the beach party except for Cinderella. Suddenly Cinderella's fairy godmother appeared and says, 'Honey you've had enough bad luck or you've been 'under a black cloud' long enough. Of course a black cloud makes lots of rain. And it was obvious that the stepsisters were full of nonsense, or 'all wet.' The fairy godmother said, 'let's change the situation, or "turn the tide." We won't let those stepsisters destroy your fun or 'rain on your parade!' The fairy godmother waved her magic wand and suddenly Cinderella was wearing a beautiful bikini bathing suit. Well, next Cinderella found herself at the beach party. The moment Cinderella arrived she walked right past her stepsisters, or 'sailed right by them.' They didn't ever recognize her."

AA: "They were left standing in her wake."

BURKE: "Well as soon as everyone saw Cinderella she made a great impression, or 'made a big …

RS: "Splash!"

BURKE: "Yes! She 'made a big splash,' especially with the prince. In fact every guy at that party wanted to meet Cinderella. When one good thing happens they all happen at the same time. In other words, when it rains …

SKIRBLE/AA: "It pours! (Laughter)

RS: And Cinderella lives happily -- you might even say "swimmingly" -- ever after.

AA: David Burke invites you to make a splash learning American slang: check out his books at Or send e-mail to if you have a question.

RS: The address here is VOA Wordmaster, Washington D-C two-zero-two-three-seven USA, or Time to hit the beach! With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.

MUSIC: "Rock the Boat"/The Hues Corporation