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
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
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:
crack my knuckles send
me to Kinko's
baste my pheasant find
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