Monday, April 21, 2008

Somewhere Between Parody and Homage...

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that David Lynch directed some of the odd Calvin Klein ads with lines such as “Somewhere between love and madness — lies Obsession” and that the ads had been parodied by The Simpsons and others.

Well, I’m pleased to see the meme survives over twenty years later, with the new faux-pretentious ads for the practical Toyota Sienna using the parody tagline “Somewhere between luxury and soccer practice…”

It reminds me that I’d love to have an online phrase-etymology guide as effective as the online dictionaries and word-etymology guides and such that we all use.  Who first said “the lovely and talented,” for example?  Had it already gone from mere cliche to joke before Letterman started saying it all the time?  So many questions, so much history.

On a related note, I find it interesting — and sort of humbling for anyone who imagines himself a highly-modern wiseass — that silly, random catchphrases were popular centuries before TV sitcoms existed, with phrases like “Quiz!” (before the word actually had any meaning) and “What a shocking bad hat!” being thrown around purely for their comedic-repetition value.  Human psychology doesn’t change that much.


Laura said...

Todd, you are the very model of the highly-modern wiseass!

Many of your questions could be answered by a lovely and talented librarian armed with a few subscription databases — Lexis-Nexis, for instance, works quite well as an “online phrase-etymology guide” to TV news transcripts from the past 20 years or so. Letterman may have been spoofing Larry King, who seemingly cannot introduce a female guest without calling her “the lovely and talented” — and, occasionally, he interjects “gee, that sure sounds like old-time radio,” suggesting the phrase has a much longer heritage. You might also be interested in The Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases, ed. Anna Farkas (2002). The very last entry is attributed to Lisa Simpson: “If anyone wants me, I’ll be in my room.”

Todd Seavey said...