"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Mix Up

Sep 28, 2002

RAY: This puzzler comes from the wonderful world of the cinema. One of my favorite movies is "O Brother Where Art Thou?"

The story opens with our three protagonists escaping from a chain gang. In the opening scene, they're chained together and running to catch a slow moving freight train.

The leader of the gang, Everett, is the first one to jump into what he thinks is an empty boxcar. The others, meanwhile, are still running alongside.

The moment he is inside, Everett's confronted not with an empty boxcar but by three hobos. Considering that the protagonists most urgent need is to get their shackles removed, Everett asks the following question: "Any of you boys happen to be a smithy or otherwise versed in the metallurgical arts?"

But before he can get an answer, one of his comrades slips and falls and Everett is yanked out of the car and the train takes off.

Now, here's the question. When Everett asked the question the hobos all looked at him blankly because it didn't make sense.

Why not?


TOM: Boy, it seems pretty straightforward to me.

RAY: Remember the first line or two of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem, "Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithie stands, the smith, a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands." The first few words are crucial. A smithie is the building, so when Everett asks, "Any of you boys happen to be a smithie," he's asking them, --

TOM: Are you a building where blacksmithing is done and, of course, they couldn't possibly be.

RAY: Anyway, who's our winner?

TOM: Well, the winner is art historian Janet Schlog, from Chesterfield, Missouri, who says she goes by the nickname Moochy.

RAY: I like it.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter