July 27, 2012

"RAT is an anagram of ART. Do you think that inspired them, perhaps subconsciously?"

Asks Dr Weevil.

"A weevil is any beetle from the Curculionoidea superfamily. They are usually small, less than 6 millimetres... and herbivorous." Sounds delicious!

Dr Weevil. A nice portmanteau pseudonym. Combines Dr. Evil with our theme-of-the-day: pests.

Let's listen to Tex Ritter and Mantan Moreland:



10 things I judge to be interesting:

1. The term "portmanteau" originated in "Through the Looking-Glass," as Humpty Dumpty explains "Jabberwocky," within which, for example, "slithy" combines "lithe and slimy" and "mimsy" combines "flimsy and miserable." "You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word." (The word "portmanteau" already meant suitcase.)

2. "Portmanteau" comes from French — combining words for "carry" and "coat" — but the French don't say "portmanteau" to refer to "suitcase words." They say mot-valise — which they came up with by making a literal translation of the English term "suitcase word." That makes "portmanteau" something that's called a "false friend" (a term I did not know).

3. Tex Ritter's real name was Woodward Maurice Ritter. You'd think if he needed a nickname, Woody would have popped up. Think of all the Woodys that that had to stretch to get to "Woody." Woody Allen, for example, was named Allan Stewart Konigsberg. I can't discern how he got to Woody from his Wikipedia entry, which says: "It the age of 17, he legally changed his name to Heywood Allen." That sounds like he was setting up a knock-knock joke: "Heywood who?"

4. Now Woody Guthrie got to Woody quite directly. He was named Woodrow Wilson Guthrie. Born in 1912. You might say: Woodrow Wilson! Woodrow Wilson didn't even become President of the United States until 1913. Yes, but he was Governor of New Jersey. No matter that Woody Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma. It would be like somebody today living in some state that's not New Jersey naming their new baby Chris Christie Smith or Chris Christie Jones or whatever.

5. Back to Mantan Moreland, the other guy in the Tex Ritter "Boll Weevil" video. Looking at his Wikipedia page, I see he was in a surprising number of movies, including many movies I'd never heard of like "Freckles Comes Home" (1942) and "King of the Zombies" (1941). "He is perhaps best known for his role as chauffeur Birmingham Brown in Monogram's Charlie Chan series. (The lyrics of The Coasters' 1963 song 'Bad Detective' are sung from the first-person perspective of Birmingham Brown, Mantan Moreland's character in the Charlie Chan movie series.)" There's some very heavy racial context here. Spike Lee's movie "Bamboozled" appropriates some things about Moreland. And the Beastie Boys sampled something of his about mashed potatoes, and you can listen to the original (NSFW) here.

6. Moreland "was briefly considered as a possible addition to the Three Stooges when Shemp Howard died in 1955." And he was in the 1957 Broadway stage production of "Waiting For Godot." He played Estragon, the role played by Bert Lahr in the original production of the play.



7. In the "Waiting for Godot" with Moreland, Geoffrey Holder played the character Lucky.



8. You may remember Geoffrey Holder from 1970s-era 7-Up commercials.

9. The New York Dolls recorded "Bad Detective" — replete with the opening notes that you may well recognize as the music that was always used in the past to signify: This is Chinese.

10. Mantan Moreland was known for his "Incomplete Sentences" comic routines. They went like this (from some Charlie Chan movies):

52 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Geoffrey Holder was evil in a Bond Film, as I recall.

BTW, this free-association type of blog post is one of my favorite of your types of blog posts. I think it's interesting to see where a human mind moves.

edutcher said...

"Live And Let Die", the only decent one Roger Moore made.

And Ann forgot Brook Benton.

And how Mantan Moreland was Charlie Chan's wide-eyed chauffeur.

"Mr Chan!!! Mr Chan!!! Feet, don't fail me now".

wyo sis said...

A veritable tour-de-force of interesting!

Bob Ellison said...

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor to present the former President of Princeton University and the President of the United States, "Woody" Wilson.

No, doesn't work.

William said...

Woodrow Wilson doesn't look like the kind of guy who ever had a nickname and certainly not Woody.

Dr Weevil said...

The small size and unobtrusive habits of Curculionid beetles explains why people generally 'see no weevil' and 'hear no weevil'.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If the trendy New York apartment you're renting out comes complete with a breeding pair, does that make you the lessor of two weevils?

lemondog said...

Also tar anagram.

Why not Tar Art?

Bob Ellison said...

Professor, thanks for that Mantan Moreland video link. What a wonderful comic concept!

Ann Althouse said...

If Woodrow Wilson had acquired the nickname Woody, the entire course of history would be different.

I'm sure I would never have been born.

KLDAVIS said...

On False Friends, Eddie Izzard had a great bit he did in his Paris show on how the word for for transvestite in French was 'traviste' (pronounced like travesty).

deborah said...

In that linked 7-Up commercial Geoffrey Holder reminds me of a typical Project Runway contestant.

Coincidentally, recently the subject of the taste of Coca-cola came up, and I reminisced to my daughter that in the seventies there was a commercial that called 7-Up 'the un-cola.' She gave me a pitying 'how sadly lame' smirk. lol

MadisonMan said...

Geoffrey Holder

I had forgotten he designed the costumes for The Wiz on Broadway, as well.

Talent.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

If Woodrow Wilson had acquired the nickname Woody, the entire course of history would be different.

I'm sure I would never have been born.


I have a feeling we don't want to go there.

Anywho, Woody's first name was Thomas. He came along when it was fashionable for WASPs and WASPirants to address their male children by their middle names - Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses Grant, Armstrong Custer, etc.

MadisonMan said...

Geoffrey Holder

I had forgotten he designed the costumes for The Wiz on Broadway, as well.

Talent.


Choreographer, painter, director; a true Renaissance man.

But, yeah, I loved those 7-Up commercials, too.

Craig said...

My swimming and diving coach was named Woody Treelore. His actual first name was Dennis, but Woody just made more sense than Denny. He could swim three lengths of the pool on one breath of air.

traditionalguy said...

That was a portmanteau Post. A very nice communications job.

Speaking of pests, in southern Georgia at the lower elevations beneath "the fall line" they have a special summer treat called gnats or no-seeums. A cloud of nearly invisible insects can be heard in the ears or just felt as tickles needing a slap.

So gnats are terribly irritating pests, as are the Braves' nemesis this year who also call themselves the Nats.

William said...

I congratulate Paul Zrimsek on his pun. Frank Loesser, the composer, had two wives (sequentially). His second wife was said to be a god awful bitch. She was referred to as the evil of two Loessers.

ricpic said...

I used to think that the fact that Tex Ritter was a drugstore cowboy somehow disqualified his singing of cowboy songs, but what counts is the singing itself and anyway some of his best work - Do Not Forget Me Oh My Darling - was on songs that weren't "authentic" either.

ricpic said...

Oy Vey -- Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling.

edutcher said...

He was a country singer, not a folkie.

Besides, the theme to "High Noon" wouldn't count anyway.

Portia said...

I thought the theme to High Noon was done by Frankie Laine?

ricpic said...

edutcher -- maybe I'm denser than usual today. Why doesn't the High Noon song count? And Tex Ritter sung mainly songs written by tin pan alley songsmiths working out of tall office buildings on Broadway in Manhattan or out of bungalows on Hollywood lots. So I don't see that he was either a country or folk singer.

ricpic said...

not count

FWBuff said...

Ha Ha! I had forgotten about that "Boll Weevil" song! We used to sing it at 4-H Camp (in Texas, no less!) when I was a kid. I can still attest that boll weevils are hated by cotton farmers like my brother, fancy Alabama statues notwithstanding.

Craig said...

High Noon was based on the short story Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane. The hero was actually a Swede who didn't speak English.

edutcher said...

Most cowboy singers didn't sing cowboy songs, first of all; there was a lot of Texas swing, country, and other genres - including Tin Pan Alley, witness both Roy Rogers and Gene Autry both covering "I'm An Old Cowhand From the Rio Grande" (a neat little exercise in syncopation IMHO).

Second, the "High Noon" theme, like other movie themes, was something done as a one-off. They got Ed Ames to do the theme from "The War Wagon", after all.

If you're looking for somebody to do "Cowboy's Lament" or "The Chisholm Trail", you're probably going to have more success with The Kingston Trio.

edutcher said...

Portia said...

I thought the theme to High Noon was done by Frankie Laine?

"Rawhide".

edutcher said...

PS The genre was originally called Country & Western music for a reason.

Think about the outfits most country singers wear and have worn for the last 80 years or so.

Robin said...

The late John Ritter was Tex Ritter's son.

Craig said...

Frankie Laine sang The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

Carnifex said...

Marty Robbins for western songs.(no relation to Tony, so he won't burn you). Love me some "El Paso", "Streets of Laredo", or "Big Iron".

Sons of the Pioneers is a fun group too.

My Dad bought a Springsteen Album(yes the Boss), singing "Froggie Went A Courtin'". It's actually quite good.

David said...

Love the incomplete sentences clip at the end. Pure joyful nonsense.

From Inwood said...

This reminds me of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or Pirandello.

William:Frank Loesser's wife's name was Jo Sullivan & the mot has ben attributed to George S. Kaufman

chickelit said...

Are blogging weevils related to cockroaches?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Woody Allen was nicknamed after his erect penis, according to the urban legend.

Old RPM Daddy said...

@Trad: "So gnats are terribly irritating pests, as are the Braves' nemesis this year who also call themselves the Nats."

And as a NoVa boy, I will continue to laugh gleefully, at least until Strasburg is pulled out of the lineup (and this moment is almost upon us).

edutcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

Craig said...

Frankie Laine sang The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

Wrong. Gene Pitney.


Left Bank of the Charles said...

Woody Allen was nicknamed after his erect penis, according to the urban legend.

Created by someone who never saw or heard his stand-up routine.

OT: Piers Morgan agrees, the Romster's on the money with the Olympics.

Even better, Ras has the Romster up by 5.

David R. Graham said...

"Woodrow Wilson doesn't look like the kind of guy who ever had a nickname and certainly not Woody."

His grandson Woodrow Wilson Sayre did. Choate School publish or perish controversy. "Four Against Everest." Brother Dean of National Cathedral. Nickname Woody Sayre.

http://www.k2news.com/sayre.htm

creeley23 said...

It's little known but Woodrow Wilson coached football when he was at Wesleyan. If he had had a big winning season maybe he would have garnered the nickname, "Woody."

Wilson also holds the record for Most Rounds of Golf Played by an American President -- over 1000.

Palladian said...

My friend, my friend, I was born
doing reference work in sin, and born
confessing it. This is what poems are:
with mercy
for the greedy,
they are the tongue’s wrangle,
the world's pottage, the rat's star
.

Anne Sexton, from "With Mercy for the Greedy:

Rocketeer said...

Whenever I'm in a blue funk, I can always plunk a Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys CD in and I can't help but smile.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I forget where I read it (actually, I think it was a Bill Safire column, a long time ago), but once upon a time there was a "Boll Weevil" Democrat who insisted that he hadn't "sold" his vote; he'd only "rented" it. To which someone commented that where there had been one vote rented, there surely must have been another, thereby making someone the lessor of two weevils.

Hey, bad puns are their own reward.

DADvocate said...

Loved those 7 Up commercials and the Incomplete Sentences routine. Hilarious. Did Burl Ives ever sing the Boll Weevil song? I remember the song clearly, "Gotta have a home." My father played a lot of Burl Ives when I was a kid.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I was told a memory from the 70's is a false memory.

Which is worse than a false mammary.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Back in the day, when few could read, but heard "idle hands are the devil's ... " was that encouraging masturbation?

Slyly?

In an age without much to do, perhaps that's even worse than our own with too much, it makes me wonder.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I heard herd refers to socialistic hearing, hence the group consciousness b.s.

Interesting theory, but I question the logic. - Dotty Parker in "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" portrayed by J.J. Leigh.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

The GOP many times argues dinosaur arguments, as they are in many cases dinosaurs.

Young folks never figure this out.

So after four years of borrowing over 1 Trillion dollars (dollars, American, is a term that could have little meaning soon compared to now) we're not less fucked and Barack Obama says it's because he hasn't the power to effect change.

Just four more years, and damnit Peggy, he won't just pay for your gas and mortgage he'll lick your boredom!

EMD said...

My birth name was Christine Todd Whitman Johnson.

jeff said...

"Geoffrey Holder was evil in a Bond Film, as I recall."
Evil? No, no. Just misunderstood. He still has that voice and does not look like he's 83 years old. Has some problems walking, but hey,83 years old. Gets around with a cane. No way you dont know who he is when you see him though.

EMD said...

Ahh yes, Geoffrey Holder and his amazing voice.

He was the narrator (never appearing onscreen) of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake.

Nichevo said...

High Noon: Dimitri Tiomkin IIRC.

Geoffrey Holder: FTW! MuahahahahahaaaahHAHAha...
They're heading for the hills...

John Ritter: Late? LATE? The faux-fegelah from Three's Company? Dead?!?!?!?