Here's what I love most about Google: it lets you look up the derivation of things that you have always wondered about, and also quickly settle bets at dinner parties. Sort of like a cross between Space Food Sticks: and the OED: One thing I Googled while writing A Field of Darkness was "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines." This is because every time my mother served pork and beans to her boyfriend Drayton when we were living in his house on Centre Island, he would shove them around the plate with his fork and sullenly mutter "Pork and beans, pork and beans, I'm Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines." Turns out he was quoting the lyrics of a 1901 Broadway musical, Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines by one Clyde Fitch, which debuted at Manhattan's Garrick Theater in NYC.
I’m Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines I feed my horse on pork and beans, And often live beyond my means, And sport young ladies in their teens Tho' a Captain in the Army.... I joined the Corps when twenty-one Of course I thought it capital fun When the enemy comes, of course I run For I'm not cut out for the Army.
This is the kind of thing Google can instantaneously satisfy your curiosity about. I got to thinking about this the other day when I Googled "We had to destroy the village in order to save it," because I wanted to mention it in a comment on Our J's post last Friday:
One of the most infamous statements made during the Vietnam war was "We had to destroy the village in order to save it," which has been attributed to varied sources, including journalist Peter Arnett. A phrase I did not realize was also from that era is "the light at the end of the tunnel," first used by Lyndon Johnson in a November 1967 speech. One blogger reports that "Johnson himself remarked to his press secretary, Bill Moyers (who probably coined the phrase), 'Light at the end of the tunnel? We don’t even have a tunnel; we don’t even know where the tunnel is!'” As Elvis Costello sings, "History repeats the old conceits/The glib replies, the same defeats..."
Here are some other phrases I've Googled since, just for the hell of it: D'yer Mak'er What the hell is this? How would you begin to attempt pronouncing it? What does it mean? I have long pondered the answers to those questions, presuming that it was some sort of Brit slang for "hey, dj'ya get any lately?", or possibly something about the antique art of adding pigment to textiles (dye maker?)but was too lazy to get off my ass and Google it until this morning. SO. From Wikipedia:
"D'yer Mak'er" (intended to be pronounced with a British non-rhotic accent as "jah-may-kah") is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin, from their 1973 album Houses of the Holy. This song was meant to imitate reggae and its "dub" derivative emerging from Jamaica in the early 1970s. It emerged from rehearsals at Stargroves in 1972 when drummer John Bonham started with a beat similar to 1950s doo-wop, and then twisted it into a slight off beat tempo, upon which a reggae influence emerged. The distinctive drum sound was created by placing three microphones a good distance away from Bonham's drums. "D'yer Mak'er" is one of the few Led Zeppelin songs where all four members share the composer credit. The sleeve on the album also credits "Rosie and the Originals", a reference to the doo-wop influence which was evident in the song's construction, as well as sharing the chord progression in its verse portions with the Rosie and the Originals' song "Angel Baby".
Jamaica. Yeah, that was totally obvious. Knees Up Mother Brown Here's another confusing Brit thing, song-title wise. Who is Mother Brown? Why should she raise her knees? Here I often think she's someone's mother-in-law, sitting on the sofa when the young married daughter is trying to vacuum the living room or something. "'Ere Mother Brown, knees up, I'm trying to get the zwieback crumbs out from beneath the coffee table..."
KNEES UP MOTHER BROWN Traditional Party Song Knees up Mother Brown Knees up Mother Brown Under the table you must go Ee-aye, Ee-aye, Ee-aye-oh If I catch you bending I'll saw your legs right off Knees up, knees up Never get the breeze up Knees up Mother Brown Oh my, what a rotten song What a rotten song What a rotten song Oh my, what a rotten song And what a rotten singer Too-oo-ooh
Wikipedia claims "knees up" means having a party or dance. Or maybe vacuuming. Also that "is a 1938 song composed by Harris Weston and Bert Lee. It is particularly associated with cockney culture." Lee is also justly famous for the hits "Paddy McGinty's Goat" (1917), "My Word You Do look Queer" (1922), and my personal favorite, "And The Great Big Saw Came Nearer And Nearer" (1936). The Knees Up Mother Brown awards (KUMB, at kumb.com) are bestowed annually by fans of West Ham United Football Club, and include seven categories, including last year's: SPECIAL AWARD: SCHADENFRAUDE CORNER - LET'S ALL LAUGH AT ...
1. Tottenham, for blowing a Champions League spot and £15m in the process 2. Steve Bruce, for being relegated - revenge is a dish... best served cold (especially by ex-Hammers manager Glenn Roeder) 3. Milan Baros, for rejecting West Ham in favour of Aston Villa.
Yeah, soccer. Scintillating. Also there's a song about a chick from France who can only dance the knees up Mother Brown. May be a chicken and the egg thing.... 50 Million Frenchman Can't Be Wrong I'd always presumed this was an ad slogan popular sometime before I was born... picture an old Life magazine photo showing Pepe LePew lounging against the bosom of a reluctant black female cat, blowing heart-shaped smokerings while holding up a pack of Gauloise for the viewing audience. But no... it is in fact a lyric from a Rose/Rasker/Fisher song of the same name, made famous by Sophie Tucker. My favorite verse is the last one:
In Viva la France They're full of romance You'll find policemen with embroidery on their pants. And when they start to sing the Marseillaise They sing it forty different ways Fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong.
I Say It's Spinach, and I Say the Hell With It... I first heard this from my friend Candace in college. Her parents were older than mine, and she had a whole slew of phrases I'd never before run across This one is the second part of E.B. White's tagline for a 1928 New Yorker cartoon drawn by Carl Rose, picturing a child turning her nose up at a serving of green stuff. Her mother has just said "It's broccoli, dear..." I think it's close kin to the "Ach, kreplach" joke told in Nora Ephron's Heartburn. Smoke 'em if You Got 'em This always sounded like a WWII type phrase, to me. My brother-in-law Tom Murphy says it a lot. The Urban Dictionary posits two derivations/meanings: 1. Smoke em if you got em When there is an unavoidable delay in an activity, some people will say "smoke 'em if you got 'em" as a way of saying "this is going to take a while to fix, so you might as well do something other than just wait (like taking a smoke break)". After Joe's car broke down on the deserted country road, he called a tow truck and told his passengers "Smoke em if you got em." 2. Smoke em if you got em 1. In a battle, when both sides have ammo, and lots of em, they just let loose. Smoke 'em if You Got 'em is also the first album by The Reverend Horton Heat. It was released in November of 1990 on Sub Pop. This is also the title of a 1988 Australian film, supposedly a black humor treatment of nuclear apocalypse, etc. If anyone else can help out with the true derivation of this, I'd love to know what it is. Doesn't it just kind of scream Ernie Pyle? What phrases have you wondered about? Here's one of the first things I ever looked up on the internet: Potato cannons. My Uncle Hunt was talking about them at a dinner party, so I downloaded blueprints for one to show my mom, who wasn't getting what they were intended for.

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Comment by Cornelia Read on March 27, 2007 at 4:11pm
I think they took all the leftover ones and mashed them flat and call them Powerbars now, Tim...
Comment by Tim Maleeny on March 27, 2007 at 3:59pm
Cornelia, you don't happen to know where I can buy Space Food Sticks, do you? I have this sudden craving...
Comment by Cornelia Read on March 23, 2007 at 12:28am
Jeri, I think I loved them because my mother WOULDN'T buy them or poptarts. But I still commiserate.

Karen, thank you--that makes perfect sense about the munitions dump. I read somewhere online that it was a navy thing, for the same reason, but then the person started talking about wooden ships and I didn't take it seriously.
Comment by Jeri Westerson on March 22, 2007 at 6:31pm
Oh my God! I HATED Space Food Sticks! The only thing I hated more than SFS was Tang! My mother loved that shit. She loved anything in a package. She thought packaged food was the greatest thing since sliced packaged bread. Ugh! I can almost taste it. Like melty crayons with a slightly silicony flavor. This was supposedly a boon to Mankind's snack eating habits. And you see where we've gone from there. Pringles and other strangely configured food. Not good, America. Gimme a greasy chip and fattening dip anyday.
Comment by Karen from AustCrime on March 22, 2007 at 4:32pm
I had an uncle who was very fond of "Smoke 'em if you've got 'em" and he always used in terms of when all else was about to blow up in our faces - get anything you've got in your system out of the way now.

Talking to Grandfather about it he thought it came from the old days in the British Army when you weren't allowed to smoke near munitions dumps / on guard duty because the glow would be seen and so on. Sort of in the context of this whole thing is doomed now anyway so you may as well smoke 'em if you've got 'em. Of course my Grandfather is not the most reliable / academic source in the world.

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