M A D   L I B S :
A   P R I M E R


BY DAN VADEN

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It is far too rare an occasion when a piece of popular culture is taken out of circulation. Initially, a viable piece of pop culture is introduced for consideration by the cognoscenti. It is reviewed and/or consumed and rejected by the mass audience. It finally reaches its terminus when it is accessible to the culture that is diametrically opposite the culture that created it. A recent Vanity Fair photo spread of New York socialites and philanthropists wearing luxe grunge clothing springs to mind as a recent example of this swan song.

This system of checks and balances has made our country the leading exporter of pop culture among G7 nations. But it doesn't always work. For instance, just yesterday, I heard a woman use the phrase "Don't go There." I recoiled in shock because:

1. It had been at least a year since I had heard this phrase used with a straight face; and

2. I was on a train and I figured that anyone still using this phrase had to be from an isolated culture, like Lancaster, Pennsylvania and I was not about to miss the delicious irony of an Amish woman on a train.

I have come across another bon mot living beyond its utility. I was in one of Manhattan's tonier boites the other day and I found myself across from an attractive group of people whom I can only describe as The Class of 96. One of the better dressed gentlemen was inquiring about the whereabouts of a mutual acquaintance. Upon hearing the specifics of this acquaintance's whereabouts, the gentleman issued a response of surprise in the form of the phrase "Well spank my ass and call me Susan".

Needless to say, I felt like Schliemann at the Troy dig. Its etymological ancestor appears to be the 16th century's maritime idiom "Well shiver me timbers and blow me down". Its current mutation emerged sometime in the late seventies as an alternative to the archaic "Well I'll be damned" and "How about that". The author is still unknown, yet most leading authorities blindly attribute it to one of the decade's more poignant social critics such as George Carlin or Richard Pryor (neither could be reached for comment).

The phrase's humor cannot be denied. Imagine the slack-jawed look on the face of the recipient of this pointed barb. Actually being commanded to assault their interlocutor and call them by a name to which they were not accustomed. Indeed.

But, as with all commodities of the temporary mind, it is time to send this phrase to a happy death. But we shall not perish. For I have discovered within this phrase a formula that will give us pleasure for time immemorial.

Using algebraic notation, all we need do is change the variables of this chestnut and we have a new phrase ready for consumption. But there are rules:

1. We must strictly follow the Well "---" and "---" format. If it is not placed within this context, it may not be recognized by society at large, dooming its implementation from the beginning.

2. The first group of this compound must be an action taken against or by the speaking party or to a portion of his/her personal effects. Recent studies have shown that the phrase's acceptance depends little on who is doing the ass-spanking- the speaker, the recipient, or an unnamed third party.

3. The second group of the compound must be a demand made upon the speaking party. This could take the form of a charge given to the speaking party by the second or third party or a specific task that the speaker is holding himself/herself accountable for. Below is a sampling of phrases that have tested very well. Mix and match the phrases from column A and column B. Be wary: fine honed comedy is borne of polished fruit. Do not be tempted to place two items from column A or two from column B into the well and carriage. It is possible you will receive beneficial results, but its comedic impact is not guaranteed.

Use the following as a worksheet:

Well _____(A)_____and______(B)______.

(A)_______________     (B)_________________
crack my knuckles           send me to Kinko's
baste my pheasant            find Aaron Spelling
singe my arm hair            tell me I'm gay
clean my carpet                dance on my father's grave
look at my photographs   act like your interested
confirm my fears              put me on a postage stamp
take in my pants               send a mouse to college
eat the rest of my fries      turn in all communists
feed my children              take the rest to China
pay my debts                   abandon me in the desert




OTHER McSWEENEY'S STORIES
- - - -

Recent Dreams by Trauss Santorro
Oh, David Gergen, David Gergen! A Refraction.
by Roger Tichborne
An Amerian (Subsidiary) Tragedy by C.C. Baxter
How Do I War Thee? Let Me Count the Ways by Lavage Scarliotti

 



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