Below is a dialog in the TV series "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" (season 1 episode 2)
(Full video link, at 1:33: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3afclj?start=93s
Full transcript link: https://www.allreadable.com/9d02HgnF)

– I need to speak to the manager right away.
– Marion Moseby at your service.
– Well, Maryann, my Brianna is the odds on favorite to win this years universal mini-miss beauty pageant.
– I've already started working on your special requests.
– Hot rollers, high wattage make up mirror, and a bucket of fried possum fingers.
– Thank you.

I searched for the phrase "fried possum fingers" with and without quotes on Google and the results showed images related to food - which makes me really confused because it is not relevant to the beauty pageant like rollers and mirror in that sentence.

Does this phrase mean something else in this context?

  • 1
    I think it means exactly what it sounds like: a bucket of the fried fingers (toes, really) of an opossum. It's a joke because it is a bizarre thing, which would certainly make it a "special request".
    – stangdon
    Jan 27, 2023 at 16:00
  • @stangdon: I'm sure that explanation would be "good enough" for almost all viewers, but I'd bet any money it wasn't a completely random choice of "bizarre special order" by the writer. He must surely have known the collocation, even if he didn't know the actual meaning "a kind of yam" (which he probably did, anyway). Jan 27, 2023 at 16:49
  • @stangdon I'd definitely go with your interpretation. The dish is bizarre and would make your average diner recoil in disgust. Although I did discover that possums were once a staple food of native Americans and people in southern USA actually ate possums
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 28, 2023 at 10:33

2 Answers 2


For one, it's a nod to the backstage demands that high-maintenance celebrities make. Business Insider has a list:

Beyoncé demands her dressing room be kept at 78 degrees and asks for chicken legs "HEAVILY SEASONED" with cayenne pepper, and rose-scented candles. And, don't have Coca-Cola products anywhere near—Beyoncé can only be seen with Pepsi products due to a contractual agreement.

The woman is speaking with a Southern American accent, which is important for the other part of the joke. Possum is a stereotypical redneck food, so "possum fingers" would be possum prepared like chicken fingers. (Note that "fingers" here refers only to the shape.) Also note that it's very rare even in the south to eat possum considering most see them as vermin (or "varmint") but it does happen. The Roadkill Cookoff has possum, and the image on that page shows a number of different dishes are on the menu, including possum burgoo

  • Do southerners actually eat possum? Is that a thing? The link to the recipes seems satirical rather than authentic. tngenweb.org/tntable/possum.htm#disclaimer
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 28, 2023 at 9:50
  • @Mari-LouA I swapped out the link. If you want to know more about people eating possum, I added that to the answer.
    – Laurel
    Jan 28, 2023 at 10:25

They really are a thing! A dictionary of the Lakalai (Nakanai) language of New Britain by WH Goodenough (1966)...

kuku (la-)
a kind of yam, said to look like fingers
. . .
'possum fingers'
a kind of yam (from its appearance).

In context, obviously it's being used as a facetious alternative to what we sometimes refer to as Kentucky Fried Cat (Chicken, according to Colonel Sanders), which is typically sold in buckets.

The writer probably knew the "fried yam" sense himself (he certainly didn't conjure the expression out of thin air), but I'm sure he only expected viewers to pick up on the outlandish imagery (after all, it's a comedy show).

  • Printed 1966... it's such an obscure reference, and although I searched quite thoroughly on the Internet I found only one reference to yams resembling fingers. I doubt the writers were referring to this freakish vegetation!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 28, 2023 at 9:38
  • I think "friend possum fingers" is not meant to reflect a regional or ethnic dish but rather something so outlandish and "yucky" (possums look like rats) that the audience will positively squeal at the idea. It appears that some southern Americans do (or used to) eat possum flesh, in which case we're talking about thick strips of meat. The British treat for kids, fish fingers, are not shaped like human fingers at all.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 28, 2023 at 10:55
  • Are you saying you think it's entirely coincidence that "possum fingers" happens to be a term used in Papua New Guinea for a vegetable that's probably often served fried? As I already commented, I think it's a racing cert the writer had heard the expression before, even if he'd never seen / eaten the dish, and didn't expect many if any of his readers to recognise anything beyond a "wildly outlandish" alternative label for a "bucket" of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Jan 28, 2023 at 11:39
  • Yes, it's entirely a coincidence. That a country such as Papua New Guinea calls a root vegetable possum fingers is, as you stated, a coincidence. I don't think KFC has chicken fingers; nuggets, yes, fingers… no. But "finger-lickin possum“ now that might have been funny.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 28, 2023 at 11:46
  • I'm astonished. We can't ask the writer, obviously. But I'd say the chances of him coming up with the collocation "possum fingers" if he'd never heard it used (facetiously or in earnest) before would be about zero. But there's no obvious way to prove anything, so we can't really take this any further. Jan 28, 2023 at 12:13

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