CSotD: Funny But Not Necessarily Silly

This Carpe Diem (KFS) wouldn’t be funny if everybody lined up their cars properly in parking lots, and so the idea that aliens would visit and start things off by being annoying gets a laugh, though perhaps the nitwits who park across the lines won’t get it.

And then there are the overthinkers like me, for whom the punchline raises the issue of how old you have to be to know that “scumbag” has a vulgar etymology, mentioned but not elaborated on at Wikipedia and apparently unknown to the good and well-behaved people at Merriam-Webster and Cambridge, though I note that Merriam-Webster lists “schmuck” among its synonyms and that’s not a very nice word, either.

Well, we’ve seen fart jokes and suchlike in the funny pages for quite a while now, and I about fell out of my chair when Potsie Weber told someone to sit on it, and when Bob and Doug McKenzie spoke of hosers right there on the television.

It reminds me of a clipping my father sent me when I was in college, an essay in which someone asked, if you say “#&%@$” in casual conversation, what does it leave for you to say to a flat tire on the George Washington Bridge at rush hour?

If you knew me back in those days, you wouldn’t think I’d be so easily shocked today, but at least now you know why I avoid driving over the George Washington Bridge: I’ve run out of things to say there.

Meanwhile, today’s Frazz (AMS) also brings me back to college, because this is the time of year when we were tempted to have Class in the Grass, which everyone but me seemed to enjoy a great deal. For my part, I marvel at the fact that it was another 25 years or so before I realized that there was such a thing as Adult ADD and that I had it.

I should have guessed back then, because I had enough trouble maintaining focus within four walls. Take me outside amid the birds and flowers and airplanes and people walking past and I was hopeless.

Okay, one more college story, this one sparked by Candorville (KFS). I had a professor emeritus who was one of the most popular people on campus, in part because he had a vast store of wisdom compiled over a very long life.

He told us of a friend — this would have been in the 1920s or 30s — who took a job teaching on a Hopi reserve. Darrin Bell jokes about this, but the fellow sent a half dozen kids to the blackboard, instructing them to solve a math problem, then turn around and raise their hands to see who was first.

But while this was a routine activity in the outside world, it was deeply against Hopi culture, so the kids watched each other out of the corners of their eyes, waiting for the slowest one to finish the problem, whereupon they each drew a final digit, then spun as one and all raised their hands simultaneously.

Thus the teacher became the student.

Dr. Nutting always insisted that he was just there to learn from us.

Shifting up a very few years, this Barney & Clyde (Counterpoint) reminded me of my brief career selling the Kirby Classic. I came aboard too late to qualify for the big incentive, a trip to Las Vegas, but it was a brilliant move by management, because all their top sales people went and had a great time and then came home desperately needing to sell more vacuum cleaners.

One of the fellows got lucky the first night and made a four-figure score at the tables, then wisely spent the rest of the weekend in his hotel room eating room service and watching TV.

But as they were checking out, he decided to have one more wander over to the bright lights, just in time to come home desperately needing to sell more vacuum cleaners.

BTW, our modus operandi was the “free demonstration” and a set of steak knives, and we’d get a laff when a wife would agree, saying “My husband is a salesman, so you won’t have much luck.”

We knew we were in like Flynn, because salesmen are the biggest suckers on the planet.

Wotthehell, we were all sufficient proof of that.

Speaking of those who hornswoggle themselves, here’s an update on the saga of mining baroness Gina Rinehart, who demanded that an unflattering portrait — satirized here by John Shakespeare — be removed from Australia’s National Gallery.

She may be among the world’s richest women, but she certainly isn’t among the smartest. As Shakespeare indicates and common sense would predict, the uproar she launched was vain in both senses of the word, and has drawn crowds to view Vincent Namatjira‘s exhibition.

Another follow-up, this about Joe Heller’s piece, which follows my remarks two days ago about summer and kids and parents.

We were lucky in the late 70s/early 80s, because we had a three-bedroom house with a market value of about $70,000, and then-wife was a professional who earned enough that I could stay home with the kids and write.

We were adjacent to a neighborhood largely made up of professors and attorneys, so there were plenty of at-home parents and therefore plenty of at-home kids to play with throughout the summer.

Our boys spent the summer goofing around with their friends, playing with the dogs and making their own fun. They’d do a two-week crafts or sports camp, but for variety, not as daycare.

It was privileged then. It is impossible now. According to Zillow, that cute little bungalow is currently worth $548,200.

Today, even if a parent can afford to take a few years off to be home, there aren’t enough other kids hanging around to get up a game of tag, never mind baseball.

Yes, they’re overscheduled. So are their parents.

If you aren’t raising youngsters with a $548,200 mortgage hanging over you, you don’t get it.

This Bliss (Tribune) brought all sorts of sea chanties to mind. I settled on this one: When a homeward-bound crew had rowed through the horse latitudes and picked up the trade winds, the sailors would say that the women had hold of the towline and were hauling them home.

11 thoughts on “CSotD: Funny But Not Necessarily Silly

  1. Re: scumbag. Back in the late ’80s, a nitwit TV GUIDE editor (back when it was a pocket-sized magazine that people actually used to find out what was on) decided to make a big deal about a TV show which used this “profane” word, then went on to explain that it was slang for a used condom. Well, not only had I never heard that before, I’d never heard the word “scum” used to describe anything but what’s left in the bathtub after you’ve gotten out, and concluded that either this guy made it up or its alleged origin was so obscure that it those who popularized it thereafter had never been aware of it. And today, 35 years later, I daresay that 99.9% of those people using the word only have one definition for it: a person with a set of despicable moral attitudes manifesting a personality that makes others physically ill by their presence or acts. (And yeah, I’m thinking of HIM, but I’d include the likes of Howard Stern or Seth Rogen or other famous people I would never choose to be in the same room with–because they’re scumbags. And not a discarded rubber.)

    1. The only place I’ve run across “scumbag” in that context is in Wentworth and Flexner’s Dictionary of American Slang, published around 1960. If it’s a dirty word, but nobody knows what it means, is it still a dirty word? See also: Belgium.

      1. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation price calculator, $70,000 in January, 1978 is equal to $351,173.76 in today’s dollars.

      2. The Bureau of Labor Statistics isn’t taking into account the real estate market.

    2. That’s exactly what we used the term for, I’m thinking in the mid-60s. We also used it for people we didn’t like, but it was extremely vulgar and could be an invitation to a fistfight.

      The terms “hoser” and “hosed” were vulgar but in a comic sense, so I was astonished to hear them on SCTV but not horrified. BTW, a lot of SCTV humor seems to have emerged from the Kingston-Brockville section of the border, which was a stone’s throw from where I grew up, so I’d be willing to bet that hoser was something that crossed the border there but wasn’t known elsewhere in either country.

      Meanwhile, “sit on it” came with a gesture that made its meaning unmistakeable. And the Sweathog insult “Up your nose with a rubber hose” originally ended “with a broken glass.”

      Anybody not offended yet?

    1. We called dibs on stuff all the time. In fact, my kids called dibs on the front seat so often and vehemently that I imposed an odds-and-evens day on the privilege of sitting there. Of course, the end of the month sometimes put two odd days back-to-back, at which point the evens kid really felt that he was getting hosed, but if he had referred to his brother as a scumbag he’d have been in some serious trouble.

  2. Mike wrote: This Carpe Diem (KFS) wouldn’t be funny if everybody lined up their cars properly in parking lots, and so the idea that aliens would visit and start things off by being annoying . . .
    I reply: NASA has little room to criticize aliens. NASA has dumped more trash on the moon than most people would dump in a city park in a year.

    Mike noted: She may be among the world’s richest women, but she certainly isn’t among the smartest.
    I reply: That reminds me of the ongoing ‘saga of the elongated muskrat’

    Mike wrote: ‘According to Zillow, that cute little bungalow is currently worth $548,200.’
    I reply: It would be more accurate to say ‘it is priced at’ $548,200. It may be nice. But, there are many reasons why it is not ‘worth’ $548,200.
    Also, if you had to sell it, some real estate agents would get $32,892 in commission. Talk about ‘not worth it’. Then add thousands in closing/escrow costs. Now tell me this ‘economy’ isn’t out of control.

  3. P.S. having worked with Hopi, in many ways they are much more civilized than our waspy society.

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