Tag Archives: tools

Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other

Interview and Context

DO – It just means its pretty much, two different ways of doing the same thing, and neither is better than the other.
Interviewer – And it gets used all the time here (in the wood shop).
DO – Yes.
Interviewer – When was the first time you heard it?
DO – I have no idea, like when I was a kid.
Interviewer – Have you always worked in shops?
DO – No, I heard it before. I don’t think it s necessarily a shop only saying, but it is heavily used in shops. Between… (shouts to shop manager, DM) would you agree that between you, me, and (other shop manager) that we say six in one hand, half dozen in the other— like how often do you think we would say that phrase, or a version of?
DM – Ehh, at least weekly?
DO – It, it’s generally used in the planning stage of a thing because we’re like, “How are we doing this, what do you think?” and it’s like, “How do you suggest we like—”
DM – There’s usually two or three ways to accomplish the same thing. At least.
DO – And sometimes there’s an advantage to one way and sometimes there’s not. It’s comparable.


This metaphor is used frequently in this informant’s environment. They mentioned that it is most common in planning stages of set construction, which explains why the regular student workers had not heard the saying (because they are not involved in the planning or designing stages), while set designers and technical directors had heard it.
Because six is equal to a half dozen, the metaphor is saying that there are multiple ways to achieve one goal, and neither way is necessarily better than the other, so it does not much matter which option they choose. However, it also signifies a tiny roadblock caused only by indecision between two equal choices.
The informant doubted it was a saying unique to construction shops, even recalling they had heard it before entering that specific culture, suggesting it was more of a crafting cultural saying than a specific construction one.

Money is first. Creativity is second. Safety is third

Text and Context

DO – Money is first, second is art, creativity, whatever, third is safety
Interviewer – Is this something that just you says?
DO – No, no. Safety third is like, grips will say it like all the time. Like carpenters and everything.
MI – Money comes first—you know getting paid, comes first. Being creative comes second. And being safe comes third.
DO – Right. Like the producers come in and will be like yeahyeahyeah! Safe first! Safety first! But then when it comes time, and it’s like no, no. You’re costing me money, get up on that fucking thing and get that done. Right? Uh, the director comes in, and is like, this is my vision! This is what we want to do! But its like, I can’t do that, I’d have to like— “I don’t care! Get it done!” y’know, kinda thing. And AFTER that comes safety. Like, what else, like what is fourth, I don’t know. So it’s be safe, unless it’s costing us money, or impacting our vision. Essentially
DO – So it’s something that people like us say, when we’re feeling like: alright, we’re putting our bodies on the line and not being treated well. We’re like, “Hey safety third!” Because they looove saying safety first. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
Interviewer – So it’s kind of an ironic saying.
DO and MI (at the same time) – Yes!
DO – It is very sarcastic. But it’s also very, very true. The number of times when we’re like, y’know, you’re talking about working like, sixteen hour days. You cannot work sixteen hour days and use a power tool safely. It’s impossible. Like if you’re sleep deprived, you cannot operate heavy machinery, power tools safely. Like you, you’re gonna do stupid stuff. We were talking about it, not so much as a danger type thing, but when you work sixteen hour days you get so—you make stupid decisions, and you do stupid stuff, and you come in the next day and spend the first two, three hours fixing the mistakes that you did at the end of the day before because you were just trying to get stuff done. Y’know? Uhhh, but given that fact—a lot of studies say, like if you’re driving on the road and you feel a little sleepy. What do they say? Pull over and take a nap. You know, like whatever. Because that’s the safe thing to do. But all the time productions go, like, sixteen hour days when it’s costing them money, like why don’t you just rent the sound studio another week or push for— nope, that costs money, we gotta get it done. We have to get it done. Or why don’t we cut this scene? No, no, director wants that scene, or whatever. Get it done.


The informer(s) clearly had strong feelings about this saying, as they spoke extensively on the subject. I collected this saying while the informant(s) were sitting in the break room of their wood shop. We were talking about general wood shop sayings, so it didn’t come up in the context in which the saying would generally be used, such as during construction.
It is interesting that this is a response to another common saying, “safety first,” and would not stand so well without the popularity of “safety first.” It shows a folk group within set construction, while director and producers are the out-group, because the hierarchy creates a binary separation where the people in power (producers and directors) risk the safety of those they employ. The set construction workers are aware of the danger they are sometimes being put in, and understand the bitter irony of their superiors pretending to care, or caring until it interferes with their money and creative vision.

Traditional Arabic Dish – Koosa and Ejeh


EM – Koosa is a traditional Arabic dish. First, squash is hollowed out using a special scoop. My grandmother uses a scoop that belonged to her mom and grandmother. The squash is stuffed with a seasoned ground lamb meat and rice mixture and cooked in a tomato soup seasoned with spearmint.
And of course the squash seeds can’t go to waste, so they are salted to draw the water out and squeezed to drain as much as possible. They are then mixed with eggs, parsley, onions, and Syrian pepper to make an omelette-like batter. They are then deep fried into little cakes called ejeh. Fun to make and heavenly to eat.
Interviewer – Any special occasions to eat these recipes?
EM – We usually make koosa and ejeh in the summer when we can get fresh squash from the farm.
Interviewer – Are they always made side-by-side? Do you eat them at the same time in the same meal or do you eat them separately?
EM – Sitto (Arabic word for grandmother) doesn’t always make ejeh, but when she does, its always with koosa. We don’t usually eat them together, though. I like ejeh as a snack or breakfast, and koosa is always lunch or dinner.
Interviewer – If your grandmother has the special scoop, can no one but her make them “properly” or do you use whatever scoop you have? Is the scoop actually made specifically for koosa, and what does it look like?
EM – There are other scoops out there. I have my own, but Sitto’s is special because it’s been passed down. I don’t actually know if anyone uses the scoops for anything else but we call it a koosa scoop. It’s a long metal half-tube basically.
Interviewer – Does someone make them better than anyone else?
EM – Sitto makes them the best.
Interviewer – Have you learned both of the recipes?
EM – I know the recipe fo koosa, but not ejeh yet.
Interviewer – Do these recipes feel culturally significant to you personally, or are they just food you are glad you get to eat? Do you feel connected to your family through these recipes?
EM -The recipes are culturally significant to me because I feel close to my family when we make and eat them.
EM – All of my family’s recipes are either in our heads, or in the case of ka’ak and other desserts, the recipe is written down but no directions are given, so the only way to learn to make them is to observe and learn from our elders making special bonds and memories


The dishes are usually made in the summer for maximum freshness. Because I collected the story during the winter, the story was not performed with the actual food but rather in a context of discussing favorite foods.
Koosa and Ejeh are examples of food connecting a person to their family and their heritage. The informant has never traveled to Lebanon, and knows only a few words in Arabic, but is proud of their heritage and feels connected when they learn the recipes that are passed down through family, learned by memory, and made with and for their family.

Every tool is a hammer


DO – In scene shop construction, “every tool is a hammer, except for a screwdriver, which is a chisel.” Basically what that means is you can use anything to bang something (like getting a stubborn bolt through a hole), but a screwdriver you use for cutting things like a chisel.


The informant was working on constructing a set for a theatrical performance, when a coworker asked for a hammer for a bolt they were struggling with. The informant walked over, grabbed their measuring tape, and whacked the bolt into place. Then they recited the proverb.


There is a tool for every function one might need when constructing a theatrical set, props, furniture, etc. Some of these tools are very bizarre in appearance, have no obvious appearance upon first glance, or have only one, minuscule function that may get used only once every few years because it is not a common technique. Other tools have always remained relatively the same, like the hammer and chisel. That may be because… anything can be used like a hammer to smash something, and any strong sharp thing can chip away at a softer material.
Wood shops will likely have hammers that are made to be durable, ergonomic, highly engineered improvements on the most rudimentary tools humanity has always had. But sometimes they aren’t within reach or you weren’t expecting to need a hammer so you didn’t bring one. Same for specially crafted chisels. But theater construction is fast-paced, and usually, rudimentary tools and basic hand-eye coordination will do the job just as well and way faster than going to get a real hammer or chisel.