News Quiz

No. 340: “Say What?’

It’s a common expression, says Mahmoud el-Azzazzay, a Queens travel agent: “We say it probably 200 or more times a day.” What expression?

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Wednesday’s Question (No. 339)–“Bird in Hand”:

On Nov. 6 in New Jersey, volunteers opened crates and pulled out pheasants, then, holding them by the legs, spun the birds around to make them dizzy; this is one feature of a program whose uneasy combination of private and state funding is drawing increasing criticism nationwide. What is the program called?

“The Beta Kappa Phi-Audubon Society’s new public access show, Dude, Let’s Birdwatch!“–Colleen Werthmann

“Is this the program where Pete Singer comes down from Princeton and selects which dizzy pheasant dies?”–Michael Doyle (David Rothschild had a similar answer.)

“Robert Byrd Can Appropriate Money for Anything He Damn Well Pleases Game-Swingin’ Day.”–Matt Heimer

“I’m not sure, but I think it’s safe to assume that Charlton Heston’s for it, Paul McCartney’s against, and Pamela Anderson … well, she has some very large breasts.”–Peter Carlin

“We call it, ‘I Remember Papa.’ Ah, and I do, I remember very well. Hemingway and I would carry the crates. Papa, he was a big man, and I not so large, so I would curse and sweat in the tropical island heat, and Papa would laugh and stop from time to time to pull at his brown bottle. Then we would open the crates and remove the birds and begin the flingando. Perhaps you have seen this, señor? We spin the birds around and around, then release them. Papa believed that in their confused flight you could see the hand of God. He was a very spiritual man, señor. Some of the birds, however, would just fly straight up and dive down into the ground, embedding their beaks like the Daffy Duck of the gringo cartoon features. Then we would laugh and laugh and laugh, until he passed out, and I would steal his wallet.”–Floyd Elliot

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Randy’s Wrap-Up

The language is lackluster, the pacing leaden, the clichés plentiful, and the surprises few–no, not the campaign speeches for the Iowa caucuses (Well, yes, but I’m thinking of something else here.)–Ric Burns’$2 125-hour documentary series, New York. There were a few engaging features–the astonishing photographs, Robert Caro talking about Al Smith, John Tierney arguing that the workers at the Triangle shirtwaist factory could have just gotten other jobs instead of catching fire; they were only calling attention to themselves. (OK, that was in the Times the next day, not actually a part of the series, and I may oversimplify.) One other illuminating sequence–Burns’ presentation of Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s clashing ideas of America. Hamilton championed the mercantile and the urban, what would one day be the New York City we know. Jefferson favored the rural, a nation of imaginary yeoman farmers who would eventually twirl pheasants in New Jersey. You can catch the final nine hours this evening.

Protestants at Play Answer

Take a Kid Pheasant Hunting Day

This annual event run by the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife is partly financed by the National Rifle Association Foundation. The state supplies wardens and land; the foundation pays for birds and ammo; volunteers from New Jersey gun clubs supply dogs and doughnuts. To eat. Nobody is shooting doughnuts.

The birds are swung around so they’re too dizzy to fly away and will stay in the grass until the dogs can flush them out for the kids to shoot. The pheasants. Not the doughnuts.

In his welcoming remarks to the youngsters, the state’s hunter education administrator, Patrick Carr, said: “Don’t shoot a bird on the ground; don’t shoot cripples. The dogs will get them. Have a fun day, but be safe and responsible.” A life lesson for us all from a respected role model.

Carr explained that farm-bred dizzy pheasants mean more kids get to kill a bird. “We can’t pull the trigger for them, but we can certainly put a bird out in front of them.”

Best line from Andrew Revkin’s New York Times coverage of the event: “During a break, the children rested on the grass, their guns around them, drinking from cartons of fruit punch and talking about Harry Potter.”

Death Method Extra

“It’s legal, it works and we fully support it. We believe it is a quick and humane way,” says Lucia Ross on behalf of her boss, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a big fan of the electric chair. Sure, now and then someone catches fire, and there was a lot of blood running down a guy’s shirt–“A nosebleed!” chuckled J.B. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide if the electric chair constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

But no matter the outcome of that case, Jeb Bush has options. It’s not as if there aren’t lots ways for the states to kill poor black people. Below, I give the method of execution; you name the state that employs it.


1. Electrocution

2. Hanging

3. Firing Squad

4. Public Stoning (all stadium seating)

5. Lethal Injection

6. Poison Gas

7. Sit and Watch Daytime TV and Eat Tasteless Food All Day Until You Just Waste Away


1. Florida, Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama.
(Hence the good-natured nickname, “southern fried.” I believe it is Gov. Bush who is good-natured; the condemned who are so darn gloomy. And incidentally, wouldn’t Ross’ comments about the chair apply to Burger King?)

2. Washington and Delaware.

3. Utah.

4. It’s a Taliban thing. You know, barbaric. Not like our space-age methods.

5. Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, and Arkansas.

6. Mississippi, California, Arizona, North Carolina, and Nevada.

7. Trick question. It’s just the Medicaid nursing home where we dumped my Uncle Milt.

Common Denominator