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National Editorials & Columns

‘Huckleberry friend’ lyrics baffle reader

Q: I was fortunate to have seen Andy Williams several times in Branson, Mo. I was saddened to hear of his passing. My favorite song is “Moon River.” I was listening to some of the words:

There’s such a lot of world to see

We’re after the same rainbow’s end,

Waitin’ ’round the bend

My huckleberry friend, Moon River and me.

I have to ask: What is a huckleberry friend? — J.S., Mount Penn, Pa.

A: I am asked this question every few years. Since the passing of Andy Williams on Sept. 25, I have received many emails and letters with the same question.

First, let me tell you the huckleberry story. When early American colonists encountered a native berry, they mistook it for the European berry known as the “hurtleberry.” The name stuck, but the pronunciation changed over time to huckleberry. By the mid- to late-1800s, huckleberry became slang for “an all-around nice person.” Now, to confuse things a bit, huckleberry could also mean “a small amount or distance” or an “insignificant thing or person.” This meaning led to another popular phrase at the time, to bet a huckleberry to a persimmon, meaning a very small bet. The lowly huckleberry was also used in a phrase indicating something or someone special, as in “the only huckleberry on the bush,” which I’m sure led to the phrase “huckleberry friend,” meaning someone very unique or special.

Q: I was wondering if there are books available that list every character actor? My wife and I have seen books about movie stars, but we have never seen anything on the people who play certain characters or bit parts in movies. — J.R., Cheboygan, Mich.

A: A few recommended books are “Names You Never Remember, With Faces You Never Forget,” by Justin Humphreys, and “Hey! It’s That Guy!” by Tara Ariano and Adam Sternbergh. You should be able to order the books from any bookstore or on

Q: Actor Cary Elwes never seems to be referred to in Hollywood news. He was in the movie “The Princess Bride” (1987). Can you tell me more about him? — M.K., Naples, Fla.

A: Ivan Simon Cary Elwes was born in London on Oct. 26, 1962. He has been married to photographer Lisa Marie Kurbikoff since 2000. They have one daughter.

Elwes stays very busy with roles on TV and in the movies, both acting and voice parts. You may have seen him in “Psych,” “New Year’s Eve” or “Saw.”

Q: Azure is one of my favorite colors. How did it get its unusual name? — I.B., Santa Rosa, Calif.

A: Azure has its roots in the Persian word “lazheward.” Lazheward is located in northern Afghanistan, a place famous for its deep blue stone. We know those stones today as “lapis lazuli,” which means “stone of Lazheward.” The gemstone was among the first to be worn as jewelry; it was used extensively in ancient Egypt.

By the 12th century, the French had adopted the word “l’azur.” The first use of the color name was in Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1394 work, “Troilus and Criseyde.”

Q: I am almost 80 years old, and I still have and enjoy my collection of Shirley Temple dolls and toys that my mother bought for me when I was very young. I haven’t heard anything about Shirley Temple for the past several years. Is she still alive? — L.D., Easton, Md.

A: Shirley Temple Black is alive and well. The 84-year-old former child star and U.S. ambassador lives in California.

Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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