What does 'she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery' mean? What is 'noggins and choppers' in context?

When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets,” Papa would say, “she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing. ‘Spread your lips, sweet Lil,’ they’d cluck, ‘and show us your choppers!’ ”

Geek Love. A novel by Katherine Dunn

  • 2
    It's not a normal collocation; a paraphrase would be "the biting off of heads". I don't know what a crystal mystery might be; crystals are sometimes thought to have metaphysical powers. Crystal balls. Crystals to cure illness. Etc
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 17:46
  • 2
    'Choppers' is a colloquial word for the front teeth.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


This is not comprehensible language. There are words that we might know: "Geek" here means "circus freak", "Noggin" is normally "head" but might have a special meaning in circus slang, "choppers" might mean teeth. But a native speaker is not able to understand what this all means.

The effect is to puzzle the reader, and draw them in. We have to read more to begin to understand what "papa" is saying. So don't worry about what it exactly means. Papa's monologue is strange and charming. It makes us want to find out what happens next.

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