July 16, 2006

"So I said to myself, 'Self...'"

Language Logger, Benjamin Zimmer tries to figure out who got the first laugh with that locution. Does it come from country music or Spike Jones or does it go back to vaudeville ... or is it in the Bible?

Speaking of Spike Jones -- and unrelated to "self, Self" -- I turned the satellite radio all the way down to the 1940s channel the other day as I was watching for the light to turn green at the corner of Regent and Midvale, and they were in the middle playing his version of "You Always Hurt the One You Love." I was laughing in my car, something I almost never do -- unless I'm with a passenger, in which case, I laugh all the time and I might not even wait for the light to turn green.

So you were at the corner of Regent and Midvale, eh? Any more stray info you'd like to include in this post?

Yes, in fact, I'd like to say that I've noticed the mind's strange tendency to record and store the locations where the car was when a particular song was played on the radio or a passage read in an audiobook. I don't realize I've saved this unnecessary knowledge until I hear or think about the song or passage again and I picture the place where the car was. The reverse happens too: I'm driving through the place again and I remember the song/passage. I think that's awfully funny but also profound and quite mysterious. They mind has its own wild system of organization, and if you tried to organize your house, office, work, or life according to that system, you'd get all mixed up, wouldn't you? Perhaps not. Perhaps we are using this system, and it's why we're always failing to do much at all after all those times when we say to ourself, Self, you've got to get organized.

By the way: visualizing the placement of ideas in a physical environment is a classic mnemonic device, the one used by this fabulous character.

Tracking down links for this post and reading the Wikipedia entry for Spike Jones's "You Always Hurt the One You Love," I see that the first part of the song contains some "Amos and Andy"-style humor -- which you can hear in the clip found on this page -- and I hasten to add that I showed up in the 1940s zone of the radio after that part of the song had played. So don't knock me for laughing at that. But go ahead and hit me if you think I've failed to respond correctly to a song that makes a big joke out of domestic violence.

14 comments:

-Peder said...

I've long associated albums with whatever book I was reading when I first fell in love with them. Probably related.

JohnF said...

I'm old enough (sigh) to actually remember Spike Jones. Listening to his "music" was like being in the middle of a very big kitchen accident. Pots crashing, glasses pinging, and some one hitting different plates with spoons. Every once in a while there'd be a sound like Clarabell's horn (do I need to explain that?).

The words were always making fun of something. In the song Ann cites, I think Spike was making fun of the mushiness of the original lyrics, not of domestic violence. So laughing is OK.

Roger Sweeny said...

Domestic violence? I always thought it was about emotional hurt, like the "hasty word you can't recall."

What about Roy Orbison?

Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds, and mars any heart
Not tough or stong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain
Love hurts......ooh, ooh love hurts

Im young , I know, but even so
I know a thing or two, and I learned from you
I really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a flame, it burns you when its hot
Love hurts......ooh, ooh love hurts

Some fools think of happiness
Blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves I guess
Theyre not foolin me

I know it isnt true ,i know it isnt true
Love is just a lie, made to make you blue
Love hurts......
Ooh, ooh love hurts,ooh, ooh love hurts

I know it isnt true, I know it isnt true
Love is just a lie,made to make you blue
Love hurts......
Ooh, ooh love hurts, ooh, ooh love hurts

Ann Althouse said...

Roger: You don't seem to know what the Spike Jones version is like. It's punctuated with gunshots and that sort of thing. It makes the emotional into the blatantly physical.

Joe said...
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Joe said...

Oh, you're so right about associations and the way the mind works.
I, for one, would never remember that the square root of 3 is approximately 1.732, or that George Washington's birthday was in 1732. But when I put the two together...

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Joe: I can still remember where I was sitting and what the weather was like on the other side of the window I was staring out when my 8th grade math teacher told us that method of remembering the square root of 3. Isn't it uncanny? We were all thinking/saying but I don't have any reason to remember what year George Washington was born and realizing that we actually never would forget the square root of 3.

vnjagvet said...
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vnjagvet said...

I just listened to the page Ann linked to the song sample.

Like johnf, I am old enough to remember this stuff. The Amos and Andy type humor is a take off on the Ink Spots, a very popular singing group of the Forties. Their songs usually featured one verse where the bass recited the lyrics to an obligato featuring the falsetto voice of the lead singer. The bass always spoke in a exaggerated "black" dialect.

The Ink Spots' records were a big seller with both black and white audiences in the thirties and forties.

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, but they are making fun of the Ink Spots. The Ink Spots sang the song sincerely.

Seneca the Younger said...

I hasten to add that I showed up in the 1940s zone of the radio after that part of the song had played.

Because, omg, you wouldn't want to admit that Amos and Andy were funny.

I recommend this collection.

vnjagvet said...

That put the Ink Spots in good company. Spike made fun of everyone. Subtlety was not his way.

Kent said...

"or is it in the Bible?"

Perhaps you're thinking of Luke 12:19?

" And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, beat, drink, and be merry."