The other day, I called Big a silly rabbit. “Silly rabbit, dessert comes AFTER dinner!” He didn’t bat an eyelash, presumably because he’s used to me calling him by various pet names. This time, though, I started laughing to myself when I realized where this phrase came from. Do you recognize it?
That’s right, it’s from the Trix cereal commercial. “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!” It occurred to me that I say random stuff like this All. The. Time. I remembered all the little sayings that my parents used, sayings that were seared into my childhood memories, and I wondered where they had come from. I thought it might be fun to take a stab at defining or explaining a couple of the more memorable ones and then adding some of my own.
“According to cardinal law . . .” I grew up thinking that there was a list of sacred, serious rules, sorta like Commandments for us atheists, that we referred to as cardinal law. According to cardinal law, you shouldn’t lie or steal or whatever. Then about ten years ago, amidst the news reports of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, I read these words in print: “According to Cardinal Law . . .” At first I didn’t notice the capitalization. Then I read on and it hit me — Cardinal Law is a guy. Who is a Cardinal. Whose last name is Law. DUH. He became a cardinal in 1985 and was later the Archbishop of Boston. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that my dad was using this phrase facetiously, probably during the 1984 presidential race when Cardinal Law was denouncing VP candidate (and woman, egads!) Geraldine Ferraro for her pro-choice stance. I’m sure I didn’t understand the context but little pitchers have big ears, you know.
“Who’s ‘we,’ White Man?” Usually this one was my parents’ response to my announcing something very matter-of-factly before asking permission. “WE are going to the mall and then to a movie.” “Who’s ‘we,’ White Man?” What this really meant was, “No.” When I Googled this one, I discovered that it’s really the punchline to an old Lone Ranger and Tonto joke. Who knew?
Then I started thinking more about the things that my own kids will grow up hearing, laughing to myself as I imagined them Googling some of my favorite phrases and saying to themselves, “What the hell??” Stuff like this:
“You’ll get nothing and like it, Spaulding!” In a house that’s constantly echoing with the begging and whining sounds of a two-year-old and a four-year-old, this phrase is ubiquitous. My mister and I say this one so often, in fact, that both boys have now taken to saying it to each other. Little do they know it’s a Ted Knight line from “Caddyshack.” (Knight didn’t actually call his grandson by name in that scene but it sounds wayyyy funnier if you call your kid Spaulding.)
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I originally learned this from my seventh grade history teacher, Mr. Shreve. Every other Friday he would announce, “Yes, Virginia, there is a quiz today,” and we would all groan and curse him out. Only later did I find out that this was a bastardization of the famous 1897 editorial in The (New York) Sun. I use it now to answer nearly any of my kids’ questions in the affirmative: “Yes, Virginia, there are alligators in real life.” (Why do I find it so funny to call my kids random names? First Spaulding and now Virginia, hmmm.)
“Why . . . so . . . SERIOUS?!” This is my mister’s stock reply to any pouting face or temper tantrum. He’s really perfected that Heath Ledger Joker voice from “The Dark Knight.” He’s also been known to channel Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own” and drop a, “There’s no crying in baseball!” in these same kinds of situations.
“Look at this gentleman here.” Myriad uses for this one with little kids: when they walk around wearing mismatched clothes . . . when they walk around wearing NO clothes . . . when they have bedhead or food smeared in their hair or . . . the list goes on and on. All you Lloyd Dobler fans out there know that he originally said this to Barbra Streisand’s drunk son in “Say Anything.”
“Gee, your hair smells terrific.” Apparently I watched more television than I remember when I was a kid because this is the second reference to a commercial. I have no idea if this eponymous shampoo actually DID smell terrific (and my saying it now to my kids is even stranger when you know that I have no sense of smell myself), but it’s a great go-to phrase when pulling squeaky-clean, freshly washed boys from the tub.
“I’m not going to be igNORED, Dan.” This is another one that comes in handy with little kids, what with their selective hearing and all. My mister and I also say this to each other but with much more ominous meaning. Hopefully this “Fatal Attraction” reference will drop quickly from our lexicon if the boys ever get a pet bunny. And again, make sure to call your kid “Dan” for full comedic effect, though the comedy will be lost on them.
And the best one: One day a while back when Big was eating breakfast, I started singing in a very high, screechy voice, “I like bread and butter, I like toast and jam . . .” I didn’t know the rest of the words and I had no idea why I knew that song. Absolutely no clue what it was, whether it was even a real song or something a family member made up. Big thought it was hilarious and asked me to sing it again (as he was still eating jelly toast), so I did. A quick Google search later, I discovered the original song; it’s “Bread and Butter” by The Newbeats from 1964. So weird. Maybe my mom used to sing this, or could it have still been on the radio by the time I was born (1972) and then became aware of music on the radio (1978 maybe??)? I decided to learn the other lyrics so I could sing Big the rest of the song.
A month or so later, my mister and I were (ahem) watching “9 1/2 Weeks” and this came on the screen (NSFW):
Oh my. I was singing to my young, impressionable child a song from one of the most famous food/sex scenes of the 20th century. What the hell, Mama?!
So what about you? Do you have pet phrases that you use with your kids, phrases that are sure to mystify them well into adulthood? If so, are they mostly pop-culture or movie references like mine??