Saturday, May 14, 2011


This line is delivered by the very brilliant Francis Fisher in Clint Eastwood's classic western: UNFORGIVEN.

It's from quite early on in the fillum just after Delilah had her face slashed by the two cowboys, —Sheriff Little Bill arrives and Alice explains that Delilah has done little to enrage the cowboy:

She didn't steal nothing.

She didn't even touch his poke. Alls she done, when she

seen he has a teensy little pecker, is give a giggle. That's all.

She didn't know no better. Going to hang them, Little Bill?

Now the very important point I would like make to you today
( that I know will surely rock your system to it's very core ) is this:

I reckon the intonation is 'wrong' in the first two lines.

Yes. I hate to be the bearer of such news but there it is: the facts are undeniable; there's no getting away from it. When we pay full and proper attention to Mr Eastwood's masterpiece we simply cannot escape the fact that, in these two lines, the emphasis is like so :

She didn't steal nothing.

She didn't even touch his poke.

As if the stealing of a man's property and the 'touching of his poke ' were equally nefarious but unrelated activities; ( either of which might be said to warrant at least some degree of cowboy censure).
But,- when we know that 'poke' is slang for money*, we can see that she is not denying 'stealing' or 'poke-touching' as two distinct possibilities: she's simply denying theft, twice, the second time with more emphasis and so the line should be actually be delivered:*( Originating from the Gaelic "i do 'Phóca'" if we believe professor Cassidy, and we don't always )

She didn't steal nothing: she didn't even touch his poke !

An astonishing blunder indeed.

I have written of this grave situation to Mr Eastwood and suggested what could be done to salvage both his film and reputation. Mr Eastwood's publicity people have replied, to thank me for both pointing out the error and for my suggestions about what might be done to remedy this calamity.

They report that, sadly, that as Clint, Gene and Morgan are all getting on a bit, and as Richard Harris is unfortunately no longer alive, a complete re-shoot of the entire film to properly correct this oversight is no longer a possibility.

I can only conclude that Mr Eastwood has instead ( quite nobly in my mind) elected to bear the shame of this error with fortitude and to hope that the small contribution he has made to the film industry hitherto shall not be completely eclipsed by news of this glaring inaccuracy.

I wish him luck .


  1. Maybe you do yourself and the script an injustice here, if we carry through with your re-emaphasis, then we lose the play on words involved with 'poke', that being the rather obvious innuendo, his 'poke' can also be slang for the cowboys poker/pecker... poker, pecker, i never even touched 'er.

    Also, given the circumstances, there is also the added bonus of 'poke' as in 'cowpoke' alternate slang for a cowboy. So it could also mean that the girl had not even touched his poke/ his cowpoke, that is, she has not been with his friend.

    All of which is shorn of course with the suggested reemphasis

  2. Thank you very much Mr Eastwood...(ho-ho!)

    Seriously folks.

    I probably am doing meself a disservice and without a doubt I am definitely doing this masterpiece a disservice with my Douchy Mc Gitbag nit-picking, but:

    here's the thing,— why presume that a play on words was ever intended?

    Mean to say, Mister... wouldn't it make a whole passel' more sense just to speak plain, given the depicted circumstance o' the exchange?

    Ramon Frederick Adams's book: Cowboy Lingo attributes the meaning of 'Poke' to mean a catch-all term for a feller's possessions:

    ...his own personal effects, his "Thirty years' gatherin'," in his "war-bag," "war-sack" or, as it was called in the extreme Northwest, his "poke."

    I do get, and admit, that I'm goin' off on one here really, — I suppose that what the above post above boils down to is:
    'I watch this film a lot,- and this is the only line in it that sounds even slightly off but it does make me wince a little, every time'.

    She didn't steal nothing.

    She didn't even touch his poke.

    just sounds 'off' to my personal ear, and the notion that the Strawberry Alice was actually saying:

    'She didn't steal anything,- she didn't even touch his penis/friend'

    doesn't make any more sense to me.

    After all a cowboy, we would presume, would not be sensitive about a prostitute touching his friend: even if it's a 'Brokeback Mountain' situation, they ARE in a brothel,- what did they think was going to happen? — and I think that the same goes for her touching his penis.

    Imagine Strawberry Alice were to say:

    She didn't do anything wrong to deserve this assault, she didn't even touch his penis!

    Would that really make more sense?

  3. The next line in the sequence is 'Alls she done, when she seen he has a teensy little pecker, is give a giggle.' so then i do think it does make sense as innuendo.

    So, to continue our exercises in imagination, Imagine Strawberry Alice were to say:

    She didn't do anything wrong to deserve this assault, she didn't even touch his penis! Though, she did laugh when she saw that it was small. But thats all.

    Now whats so unreasonable about that?

    Also, as the person making the statement was not a cowboy but a madame/prostitute, Ramon Frederick Adams's book only has tangental relevence as to the possible meaning of 'poke'as used in this context. Prostitutes often developed and fostered an argot specific to their trade then the innuendo factor of 'poke' is not completely out of bounds.

    Besides if any innuendo is implied or expressed that does not cancel any possible meaning the word 'poke' may have, thats the joy of innuendo.

    As for the poke in the 'cowpoke' sense, well, i'll admit, it is a larger stretch of context but not at all unreasonable.

    Originally,I included it as an example, to further demonstrate that 'poke' may have more than one meaning. I had not thought of it in terms of 'Brokeback', i just figured that men of violence dont always act reasonably. That one such man might find it belittling to be passed over by a prostitute in favour of his 'friend' and then to take out his frustrations on the unfortunate girl is not inconcievable.

    But, even if we were to limit the meaning of 'poke'to money or, more specifically and correctly, a purse/pocket, then she is obviously further qualifying her original observation, the girl not steal anything, she did not even get to touch the man's purse.

    Thats two related observations, not a repetition, so, it may grate on your personal sensibilities, but its not at all redundant... unlike the use of a double negative in the first sentence, the girl did not steal nothing implying, as it may do, that she did steal something.

  4. Well yep, in truth you make an excellent argument for a completely different and entirely valid interpretation on the innuendo, and one in which Ms Fisher's intonation is spot-on, and an even better one on the 'two-related observations'.

    So I guess it really is a personal thing, and a silly one at that.

    I just can't help but hear it as a simple bit of story-telling that doesn't work for me,- either because when 'A' it means something ambiguous(innuendo friend/penis) or 'B' ( related observation either money/baggage ) it is not immediately clear to me what is meant, and the rest of the dialogue has such clarity that I always have always reacted to it as an abberation.
    I spose I reckoned 'my' version would scan better, for me anyway.
    However you make an excellent couple of points and as the rest of the film is so utterly jaw-droppingly brilliant it's probably simply the case that I think I've spotted something which was never there, and on subsequent viewings simply convinced myself I was right without ever taking the time to think about it.
    Wouldn't be the first time.
    Cheers for the comment.

  5. After looking that scene over i can see why you may find that speech a wee bit awkward, but might i suggest that its not a question of stressed words but rather the offending culprit is some awkward editing.

    There is a quick cut just after the word 'poke', camera switching from Strawberry Alice to a Little Bill.

    The edit is quick and jerky and seems out of pace with the general flow of the films opening also this cut seems to affect the delivery of the speech, which jumps with the cut and seems to come in at a different pace, a little too quickly and with a drop in the overall volume of the delivery.

    That this comes at the start of the movie before means that its all the more noticable, perhaps it would not be easier to overlook if it occured later in the movie?

  6. Interesting; I think it's time for me to watch 'Unforgiven' again... (Like I really needed an excuse).

  7. Now I just don't know anymore: I think I've thought about it too much!