Friday, October 24, 2008
The other day, MY WIFE was telling me a story about two people with whom she had dealings. The crux of the story was that their looks were wildly disparate. Being my usual annoying self, I jumped ahead and suggested that perhaps they looked like Mutt & Jeff. This was NOT the case. It was some other sort of odd pairing. I can’t remember what it was, specifically, because from that point on in the conversation, I was already formulating this piece in my head. This means I’ve been mentally absent from my marriage for about ten days now, so I apologize to MY WIFE and hope this at least turns out to be amusing.
(After reading what follows, you could make all sorts of unkind remarks concerning the fact that it took me ten days to come up with it. You won't, though, because you're nice people.)
Anyway, the thing that struck me was that there are certain expressions, still used by some of us, that have little chance of conveying useful information to the younger members of our society. For instance, describing two people as a Mutt & Jeff team.
(A few of you will find the following information superfluous, but so is this whole thing.)
Mutt & Jeff was a comic strip, no longer extant, involving the adventures of two men named, conveniently enough, Mutt & Jeff. Augustus Mutt (you might not have known his full name, so I figured I’d give you a little value here) was very tall. Jeff (he never had anything other than the single name, so far as I know) was very short. So, to describe a pair of people as a Mutt & Jeff team was to immediately identify them as comprised of one tall person and one short person.
I’m not certain when Mutt & Jeff stopped being published, but I’d hazard a guess that anyone born after 1980 would have little idea what in hell you were talking about if you said that two people looked like Mutt & Jeff.
(Reproduction of "Mutt & Jeff" from Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonist's Index. Fun Page!)
Other comic strip or cartoon allusions that will make people under the age of 30 look at you strangely include:
Jane! Stop this crazy thing!
Here I come to save the day! (Those who still recognize this know that it must be sung.)
We have met the enemy, and he is us. (This has more-or-less been replaced by “D’Oh!”)
Or, if you're really hankering for a lecture about political correctness, just show them a bunch of "Andy Capp" strips.
There are not only outdated references to comic strips and cartoons, but also to real people. For instance, the title of this piece. It was said whenever someone stated something ridiculously obvious. The more vulgar version was "No shit, Sherlock!" Today, the more economical "Duh!" has become the phrase du jour. There were regional variants for other situations, such as the always-popular "Thanks for the weather report, Don Kent!" That was said if you were standing in the middle of a thunderstorm and some dope felt the need to tell you it was raining. Don Kent was a weatherman on WBZ in Boston. Of course, I probably didn’t need to explain it that fully, so maybe you just said, "Duh!"
(Those from the Boston area who really want to wax nostalgic will enjoy this clip from You Tube that features footage of Mr. Kent.)
Anachronisms abound. I often find that I have to spout them as a part of my work. Since I do voice-overs, I’m often called upon to say something akin to, "For further information, dial 617-555-4646!" Well, nobody dials anything these days, do they? We still say it, though. Silly us! Same applies to "going to the record store" - if there still are such places. I think there are, but I do all my shopping on the internet now, so I'm not sure.
Another one occurs to me. Have you ever accused someone of trying to gaslight you? If that person was under 30 - or maybe under 50 - they probably looked at you as though you had lobsters crawling out of your ears (which I stole from a more recent movie - and no prizes for telling me which one, because it’s one of those movies some people memorize all of the dialogue from and I don’t have that many prizes.)
Finally, there are those things that our parents said to us that didn’t quite make sense. Of course, I can’t tell you what nonsensical things your parents said to you. You might mention one or two in the comments, though (hint, hint.) I do know that the one thing my Mom used to say to me that left me scratching my head was something she told me when I was dirty, disheveled, or otherwise not up to her standards of cleanliness and dress. She would say, "You look like the wreck of the Hesperus!" I’m still not sure what the Hesperus was, but I know it must have looked like crap.
Well, this was hardly worth ignoring my marriage for such a long time. I’m going to go plant a big smooch on MY WIFE. I’ll try really hard to listen to every word she says from now on and not go off on unproductive mental tangents. I’ve been living the Life Of Riley for some time now. I’d hate to end up like The Bickersons.
Soon, with more better stuff.