Q. I often hear people say something like "toot sweet" when they are trying to say "really fast." I've been wondering for a long time how this started. -- A.G., of Fairview Heights
A. Then, let me get to it toot de suite: This is the formal expression, but we English speakers are usually lazy, so we chop off the "de" and turn it into "toot suite."
As you might have guessed by now, it is of French origin, dating back to the late 1700s, according to "The Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases." Reportedly one of the most common French expressions, it translates literally to something like "all in a row" or "all in sequence" but has come to mean "at once" or "immediately."
Q. I pay too much money to satellite TV to have to watch so many commercials. Now I'm being subjected to "mini-infomercials" in the middle of a program! What can viewers do to put a limit or stop these? -- Lisa Cionko, of Granite City
A. Not much, I fear. "Commercial-creep" has been an insidious problem since almost the first days of network programs so you'll probably have to grin and bear it..
When I was growing up, episodes of "Lost in Space" were about 51 minutes plus ads. Now, you're lucky if "The Mentalist" runs 41. It has doomed any future great theme songs like "Gilligan's Island" or "The Beverly Hillbillies" as producers try to salvage every possible second for the show's content.
Just as gas and ground beef have become more expensive for you, the cost of producing shows is climbing all the time. Can you imagine the salary you would have to pay a great ensemble cast on "The Big Bang Theory" or "CSI"? Your satellite payment only goes so far. Remember, the satellite company is paying to offer the signal of dozens of channels while also using some of it to keep itself going. Unless you want to subscribe to every channel (like HBO or Showtime), you have to tolerate the ads.
Of course, if you really feel passionate about it, you could try organizing a petition or boycott of the show/channel or simply record shows and fast forward through the commercials. I now catch up with some shows over the Internet, where they have much shorter interruptions (so far). The Federal Communications Commission doesn't even offer such a complaint topic because it involves free enterprise -- i.e., if you don't like it, throw away your dish.
Weather wise: Calvin Isselhardt, of Belleville, has helped part the clouds surrounding the mystery of "weather tickets." In fact, he said, it was his family who once reigned supreme over the 1930s-era lotterylike numbers game based on daily temperatures.
"I had an uncle -- Sam Wasem -- who started that thing here, I think," he said. "I remember he and his brother Charlie, who took over later on, would take two pieces of heavy paper and sew them together with a number in it. From what I understand, they would take the last digit of the temperature four or five times a day and use that as the winning number."
He remembers them costing 10 or 15 cents, which wasn't always easy to come by in the heart of the Depression, but it provided a bit of a diversion from the hard times -- and some extra income if you won.
"I don't know if they sold them at taverns or what, but I know that the term 'weather tickets' was on a lot of people's minds. 'Did you win the weather ticket' or words to that effect time and time again," said Isselhardt, whose relatives apparently never were arrested. "I think it may have lasted maybe four or five years. When the economy started getting better, well, it just seemed it died on the vine."
Sound advice: Ron and Linda Locke, of New Athens, have a tip for those overwhelmed by the loud music that often garbles the dialogue on TV shows: Buy a sound bar. Their son, who sold TVs for years, told them that new sets shoot sound out the rear. As a result, it bounces off the wall, distorting it. A sound bar in front is the perfect solution, they say -- just mute the TV volume and turn up the bar.
"We purchased one at Best Buy and it has made a world of difference," they said. "We have no problem hearing the TV dialogue anymore. We 'older' people need all the help we can get."
Has anyone ever recorded a "perfect" round of golf -- 54 for 18 holes?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: TV's Perry Mason probably was a hero to many real-life lawyers, but he wasn't the only hero the long-running CBS show helped produce. On Feb. 16, 1951, Barbara Hale, who played faithful legal secretary Della Street, gave birth to William Katt. Katt, in turn, would become Ralph Hinkley, the man who wore the alien suit with superpowers in "The Greatest American Hero," which ran on ABC from 1981 to 1983. I suppose it was a nice consolation prize for his losing out to Mark Hamill in the auditions for Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars."
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St. P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or email@example.com or call 239-2465.