February 6, 2018

Rush Limbaugh thinks he's the origin of the phrase "skulls full of mush," but he's not.

Here's Rush Limbaugh exulting that "his" phrase "skulls full of mush" was used on the TV show "Hawaii Five-0" the other day:
So I’m watching the show, I’m watching the show, and I’m thinking, “Obviously some people think something happened here that I need to pay attention to.” Then I saw it. I heard it. The actor is named Chi McBride, and he portrays a member of the Five-0 squad named Lou Grover, and they have a prisoner — a bad guy — in their interrogation room where they’re running CIA enhanced-interrogation measures.

And the guy they have there is one of these New Age gurus, who is selling the secrets to eternal life and eternal health and all that. And what he really is is a drug dealer, and he’s using these acolytes of his to run drugs around the island and so forth. And they’re interrogating the guy, and here is the character Lou Grover as portrayed by Chi McBride…

MCBRIDE: You take these gullible young students out in the middle of the jungle, get ’em baked out of their minds. … You had these young skulls full of mush tripping so hard, they thought they were actually achieving enlightenment.

RUSH: “You had these young skulls full of mush tripping so hard…” Nobody would tell me what it was. I had to go find the episode and hear it. So just another phrase from the EIB Network now finding its way into the popular lexicon.
Apparently, there's a new "Hawaii Five-0." That, I did not know. But I do know that "skulls full of mush" is from "The Paper Chase," which — as a book and a movie — pre-dates the Rush Limbaugh show by at least 10 years, and it's used very conspicuously in the most well-known sequence in the movie:



Rush does indeed use the phrase, and if it comes up in a TV show script, it's possible that it it made its way into the mind of the writers via "The Rush Limbaugh Show." But if the writers have any connections to law school or lawyers — I'm tempted to research their background — then it's very likely that they know if not the whole movie then at least that "skull full of mush" clip.

Footnote: Back in 2007, I wrote about "skulls full of mush" and "The Paper Chase" in The New York Times.

61 comments:

Bay Area Guy said...

Book him, Danno!

The Godfather said...

I'm not entirely sure that "thinking like a lawyer" is inconsistent with skulls full of mush. I seem to remember some lawyers . . . .

mockturtle said...

As there really is nothing new under the sun, coining an original phrase nowadays is difficult.

Jim Grey said...

I have a memory of listening to Rush ...wow, it was the early 90s... where he admitted that he got the phrase from The Paper Chase.

Bill Peschel said...

I'm positive the Hawaii Five-O writers remembered the wonderful review in The New York Times:

"Needless to say, Mr. Barrymore doesn't leave a trick unplayed in his wickedly tart burlesque of a movie magnate with a skull full of mush. He struts, poses, growls, ruthlessly orders his underlings "chopped" and, in the climactic moment, when the saboteurs switch films at the premiere and throw a German propaganda picture on tile screen, he is uncomfortably uncertain whether this is .really the picture he made."

Sure, it's of John Barrymore in "World Premiere" and it's from 1941, but it's a memorable movie!

Humperdink said...

On Rush's show yesterday a caller asked Rush if he was upset at Hawaii Five-0 use of the phrase. His response was no. Interestingly, he further explained that he refuses to watch any cable shows for fear of picking up phrases that he might use on his show. That may have happened here.

rhhardin said...

Maldoror perceives that inside his youthful interlocutor's head the blood boils: the nostrils flare, lips froth forth a fine white spray. He takes the boy's pulse: its beat races. Fever has overtaken the frail frame. Maldoror fears the consequences of his words. He makes himself scarce -- the wretch -- vexed at not being able to converse longer with this child. When in maturity it is so difficult to master the passions, balanced between good and evil, what about a mind still brimming with inexperience? And what relative amount of energy does it further require? The child will get off with three days' stay in bed. Heaven grant that maternal care may bring peace to this sensitive flower, fragile envelope of a fine soul!

Lautreamont

Yancey Ward said...

As there really is nothing new under the sun, coining an original phrase nowadays is difficult.

"Covefe" has been found in ancient Sumerian texts, so you are right.

Yancey Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yancey Ward said...

I hereby coin the phrase "Heads full of Rush".

Nonapod said...

Technically Rush's phrase is "young skulls full of mush", but whatever.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"As there really is nothing new under the sun, coining an original phrase nowadays is difficult."

A drunken Valley Girl came up with "Gag me with a spoon" at a frat party in 1982.

It's a pity her name was not recorded for posterity.

Bay Area Guy said...

Dittoheads would be "young skulls full of Rush"......

As an aside, I remember first hearing Rush in 1990. He really was a revolutionary. There were only 3 networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) and then a fledgling CNN. All of them relied heavily on the NYTimes. Rush smashed this narrow bottle-neck of news dissemination.

I haven't listened to him in years, though. Currently, Dennis Prager is my favorite.

traditionalguy said...

Thinking like a lawyer means resorting to an authority that the judge making the decision knows, or is at least interested in learning about. That means an excellent memory of the Statutes and bringing out handy Legal Treatises your judge knows from Law School.

That is how to control the Judge. It is not jury persuasion, which is the other half of the needed skill sets of a lawyer; and it is a place where being half mush brained is a good way to win a jury's acceptance, or at least the Foreman's.

Humperdink said...

I think I'll coin the phrase .... er ..... name President Triumph.

Not to be confused with Triumph motorcycles and automobiles, manufactured in England, which also blessed us with Christopher Steele.

Curious George said...

I came up with "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on."

robother said...

A skull full of mush, not to be confused with a "head full of ideas that are driving me insane." But Maggies Farm had a great deal in common with law school.

Trumpit said...

I have to go somewhere now, or I'd say more about my experience with lawyers (and doctors). I believe in socialized medicine and, socialized and Mirandized law.
No one should go broke trying to get medical treatment or justice, and the poor should be entitled to medical treatment and justice just as the rich are. That's not the way it is now, not in the least. That's a travesty of justice.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

No, I don't wish to speak to you, go to blazes. There would be no need for the Miranda Rule if everyone learned to Shut the Fuck Up (SFU).

Virgil Hilts said...

How do we know Rush's use did not come first? Rush started broadcasting at age of 16, in about 1967, and Paper Chase did not come out until 1973 (the Novel, if it included the phrase, came out in 1971).

virgil xenophon said...

@CG/

In the Armed Services the phrase goes: "........and the Colonel that sent you." FIFY :)

Michael K said...

It wasn't intended to be an instruction manual, though.

Skulls full of mush are supposed to be bad thing.

Somebody should tell Nancy.

Yancey Ward said...

George Costanza "I once told a woman I coined the phrase, "Pardon my French."

David said...

"A drunken Valley Girl came up with "Gag me with a spoon" at a frat party in 1982."

Around way before that.

Mush for Brains is a polite version of Shit for Brains, which likely anteceded it.

Yancey Ward said...

"Somebody should tell Nancy."

Is air a form of mush?

Ralph L said...

It's difficult to take a Steve McGarrett with tattoos seriously.
Which turns your skull to mush quicker: reality TV or scripted?

southcentralpa said...

John Houseman. Won an Academy Award for that movie, essentially his first acting role. Quite a story.

Speaking of Rush and cable tv, I can't help thinking that Rush may have killed off "Major Crimes" by talking about it too often as his favorite show (shades of ABC axing "Last Man Standing" in a fit of post-election pique).

Howard said...

Mush Ado About Nothing

Freder Frederson said...

Rush full of shit. Meanwhile, dog bites man. Both these shocking stories will have film at 11:00.

Big Mike said...

So perhaps Rush reads Althouse and then Althouse listens to Rush. Hmmm.

WA-mom said...

I want to know if @AnnAlthouse was inspired by "Paper Chase?"

StephenFearby said...


AA's 2007 NYT OpEd piece is a very piece of wordsmithery. It sparkles.

Concluding with:


"We show the greatest respect for their individual autonomy if we deny ourselves the comfort of trying to make them happy and teach them what they came to learn: how to think like lawyers."


Certainly far better than teaching students how to conform with the latest metastasis of identity politics.

Francisco D said...

I suspect anyone who saw and enjoyed "The Paper Chase" recalls Professor Kingston (?) giving the "skulls full of mush" talk.


John Housemann was terrific in that movie.

Rumpletweezer said...

How about the phrase "Business Climate Change Deniers?"

Big Mike said...

We show the greatest respect for their individual autonomy if we deny ourselves the comfort of trying to make them happy and teach them what they came to learn: how to think like lawyers.

As opposed to thinking like normal human beings?

Sorry, could not resist.

chickelit said...

Heh. I made a chirbit recording of an Althouse rant several years ago, using my Houseman impression. I ended it with the “skillful of mush” quote as an added rhetorical flourish. I’ll try and find it later tonight.

Jess said...

I prefer to call such brainwashed people "fleshy headed mutants".

victoria said...

Thank god we aren't living in Rush's world, where he is the first, last and best where everything is concerned. I guess that's why he loves Trump so much. They are feeling the same about themselves.

Vicki from Pasadena

Humperdink said...

Not that long ago, I thought about coining the word "Nothingburger". I failed to jump at the chance. Then I heard the MSM used the word 2,403,244,765 times this past weekend.. So forget that.

Humperdink said...

"Thank god we aren't living in Rush's world .."

Ah, but we are. And President Triumph's also. Thankfully

MountainMan said...

I can still hear Houseman in the commercials he did for Smith Barney back in the '80s: "They make their money the old fashioned way...they EARN it."

David said...

Nowadays sometimes it seems "In with mush. Out with glib and refined mush."

Aesop said...

Newsflash:
Limbaugh explicitly referred to the Kingsfield line, multiple times, going waaaaaaay back when he started syndicated broadcasting, 28-29 years ago.
He's used the phrase weekly, if not daily, five days a week ever since (on a radio program that probably has weekly audience that dwarfs the number of all theatre tickets sold for The Paper Chase while it was in release, and I'd even spot you the video sales and rentals and the failed ABC TV series as well), not to mention his certain repetition of it in a newsletter, on his website, and in an untold number of speeches.

I'm therefore certain Limbaugh's under no illusions where the line originated, and never claimed to have authored it, but having far more currency at popularizing it for three decades of number one radio program in the country than did a relatively minor movie from 1973 (whose villain, Houseman, died in 1988, even before Limbaugh started on radio), I'd go on a limb to note that any popularization of it in the culture since than has far more to do with Limbaugh's use of the phrase than anything achieved by a movie from 45 years ago, that ranked a humble 73rd in box office even in the year it was released, and famous primarily for bringing Lindsay Wagner to the screen, and John Houseman a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the same year, and probably never viewed by 80-90% of living Americans. (The fact that you saw the movie, and wrote about it, merely puts you - like Limbaugh - in that smaller group of the whole.) Limbaugh didn't say he originated it, he said it's a phrase "from [his] EIB Network," which the previous three decades of live-air tapes would reveal in some thousands of instances.

Of course, that's just a hunch, but doubtless one that will upset the reflexive Limbaugh-haters. As will his pleasure both that the line has transcended, and how apt its use has been. John Jay Osborn and James Bridges can walk tall.

Minus points for trying to bootstrap the word "from" into "originally authored", which wasn't claimed by him, either in or out of context.

Lipperman said...

There was a variation of this phrase in Zell Miller's RNC Speech in 2004

""George Bush wants to grab terrorists by the throat and not let them go to get a better grip.
From John Kerry, they get a "yes-no-maybe" bowl of mush that can only encourage our enemies and confuse our friends."

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Can "gag me with a spoon" really date from as late as 1982? I could swear I'd heard it before that. By 1982 it was everywhere, along with spinoff jokes. There was one valley girl sitcom (can't remember the name now) where a character said "Gag me with a fondue fork."

But, yes, "skull full of mush" just can't be Rush. It wasn't just in "The Paper Chase"; it was at the end of the opening credits of every episode of the TV show. You couldn't possibly miss it.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Aesop,

How was the CBS/Showtime (not ABC) TV series "failed"? It's been a long time, but I remember watching an awful lot of episodes.

rhhardin said...

More Mush from the Wimp

editorial on a Jimmy Carter speech.

victoria said...

James Bridges can stand tall but, as a gay American, would have probably shut down by Rush and his gang.

Bridges was all for gay marriage and had a sustained relationship with James Larson (Jimmy Olsen on the first TV version of Superman).

Rush, gag me

Vicki From Pasadena

Sally said...

I thought Professor Kingsfield was the hero of Paper Chase.

Mike said...

The singular version is singularly attributible to Paper Chase but the plural is El Rushbo’s trademark phrase. The dude on H50 used the plural: ipso fatso Rush.

Mark said...

Hawaii Five-Zero is lame. With a boring Steve McGarrett who is easily confused with Danno.

buwaya said...

Re your 2007 article - six degrees of separation I guess - a good friend of ours was a paralegal in Scott Turow's office back in the early 90's.

Paul Kirchner said...

Another of Rush's catchphrases is "Having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have." Wasn't that David Letterman's originally?

chickelit said...

Here is the original chirbit from 2013: Althouseman Talks Down To Her Flock

I adapted the text from Althouse herself, except for the very end: link

jeff said...

I saw him speak at wichita state university back in the early 90's and he made no secret of the origins of thst phrase. But as someone else said, more people probably associate it with his show verses the movie/tv show.

Benster said...

I coined the term "robal warming" to commemorate Al Gore's massage adventure.

McGehee said...

I can even remember Limbaugh crediting "The Paper Chase" as his source for the phrase. If he can't, that's kind of sad.

Tim said...

The guy talks 3 hours a day, five days a week, for what 25 years or more?

Unknown said...

I disagree with Rush so he must be a bad person.

Picki from Vasadina

iowan2 said...

I thought Ann listen enough to understand Rush's exaggerations. We all know that the independent auditing firm is tracking Rush's accuracy percentage as almost always right 99.2% of the time.

The Pathetic Earthling said...

Kingsfield is the only character in that whole movie worth rooting for.

Aesop said...

Forgive me for misremembering, Michelle.

Yes, it was on CBS, not ABC. And it was a failed series because it was cancelled the first year, after 7 months and only 22 episodes, because of abysmal ratings.
The ratings were so low no one even keeps track online, and it isn't worth digging through industry library archives to look them up.

CBS and 20th Century (who filmed it) got 30K letters in protest, but in fairness to CBS, that was probably every person in the US who'd actually watched the show, plus the Harvard Law School Booster Association.

Showtime dredged it back from the dead for pay for view, in a desperate search for content, and 4 years later, with even fewer watchers than the broadcast version, which doesn't transcend the original failure. If anything, it amplifies it. And then Showtime cancelled it again, after admittedly milking the idea for all it was worth, in seasons that dwindled year by year.

And 59 total episodes is a burp for a television series.