They Don't Speak Our Language; Amazon follies (continued)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Mon Dec 6 07:49:18 UTC 1999


THEY DON'T SPEAK OUR LANGUAGE

     On of the interesting articles I've spotted in my scan of the Reader's
Digest is "They Don't Speak Our Language," by H. T. Webster, January 1934,
pages 29-31, reprinted from Forum, December 1933.  On page 112, it's
explained about the author:  "Besides his Timid Soul and They Don't Speak Our
Language series, the cartoonist has several other recurrent captions which
have become almost household phrases, such as 'Life's Darkest Moment,' 'The
Thrill That Comes Once in a Lifetime,' 'The Boy Who Made Good,' 'How to
Torture Your Wife,' etc."
     This is from page 30, col. 2:

     I'll give you the glossary and you can roll your own story.
Peterman--safeblower; keister--suit case; power--explosive; case the
joint--looks over the place; skeletons in--uses skeleton keys;
soup--nitroglycerin; jug--safe; dark horse--night watchman; gun--crook;
bangster--drug addict; snowed up--full of dope; gives the heat--shoots;
heap--auto; gander--lookout; calling cards--finger prints; crib--safe;
mobster--crook; rapped--sentenced; hot squat--electric chair; lip--lawyer;
spring--free; lying in state--imprisoned; dance hall--death house.
     Musicians have learned their code, of course.  I learned recently that a
grunt iron is a tuba, and that when the bull-fiddler (viol player) plucks the
strings of his instrument (Pg. 31, col. 1--ed.) like a harp he is slapping
the dog house.  In the theatrical publication, _Billboard_, I ran into
"flesh-shows," which doesn't mean burlesque, but merely flesh-and-blood shows
in contrast to "grinds"--movies.  From the stage we have "wow," "frost,"
"riot," "ham," and "upstage"--to pick five from 5000 phrases.  "Banana oil,"
"applesauce," and "boloney" (Not baloney--ed.) are the inspirations of
individual comic-strip men, who initiate much picturesque street speech.
     (...)  Listen to two Hollywood cameramen:  "What a day!  I cranked over
5000 feet of raw stock.  All panchromatic and heavy emulsion.  Sprocket holes
bad, too."  "You'd better crash that kodak.  When the last batch came out of
the soup it wasn't fit to drum.  Are you sure the grips got your gobos right?"
     For the benefit of laymen, who may possibly know that grips are
stagehands, soup is developing fluid, and a drum is the reel on which the
film is wound, "gobos" should be more carefully explained.  Why a black panel
screen that shields a camera lens from bright lights should be called a gobo,
I dunno, but gobo it is.
     There's an old movie story of a (Col. 2--ed.) director who hired a bunch
of New York toughs and their molls for a riot scene.  After much drill he
suddenly shouted: "Strip the silks off the broads."  The East Siders began to
rip the clothes off the nearest girls.  "Stop!" yelled the director, "Not you
extras!  I'm talking to the juicer!"  What the extras had interpreted as a
rough-house command was an order to the electrician to take the silk screens
off the stage lights--"broads."
     When a director wants the star to drape a leg over the arm of her chair
or in some  other manner to inject sex appeal, he says impersonally, "Now,
sweetheart, right here, if you please, some of the old McGoo."  Who is McGoo?
 I don't know.  But I can cheer for the Hollywood gag men in conference on a
comedy which has been revealed as toosubtle, when they determine they must
dumb it down.  That phrase saves time.

       "Gobo," "McGoo," "dumb down."  There are a bunch of entries here.
       Amazon.com follies attached.

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