Nationality: United States of America
Residence: Kansas City, MO
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/18/20
Primary Language: English
“I’ve had the radish” as a saying of exasperation and general exhaustion with someone or something.
My informant is a 49 year old woman living in Kansas City, Missouri. She grew up in Joplin but moved around during her 20s, living for some period in Philadelphia. There, she worked for a large non-profit and one of the women there, named Tamar, commonly used this phrase in an exasperated reaction to something. Eventually, the informant and her fellow coworkers and friends started using it out of habit without fully understanding its origin or meaning. Much later, they researched it and they believe it comes from the practice of eating a radish at the end of dinner to clean one’s pallet. Now, it is used in her family and amongst her friends as a statement of finality with something or someone.
I have heard this phrase throughout my life but this exchange happened in her living room following my asking if she knew of any folklore sayings.
For me, part of the appeal of this phrase is the strangeness of it to someone outside of a culture that uses it. For other similar sayings bound to a specific saying, generally I feel as though one can roughly figure out at least part of what is being said with it. However, from an outsider’s perspective, the phrase “I’ve had the radish” seemingly has very little to do with one being at the end of their patience. This point was emphasized by my informant who also found interest in the phrase originated in utter confusion. In this regard, the phrase can serve as an indicator for who is within a specific culture. The other major component of this phrase is the ties to an agricultural life in an urban environment. The notion of eating a radish as a palette cleanser for a meal is mostly only applicable to those that have consistent radish crops. The assumption is therefore that this phrase has ties to a more agricultural culture. While a modern world might not have this tradition of eating a radish at the end of dinner, by using the phrase, the culture remains alive albeit in a new form.