Metaphor: chewing gum for the eyes (or ears)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 13 20:10:15 UTC 2013

A memorable metaphor that is listed in several quotation references
states that television is "chewing gum for the eyes". The Yale Book of
Quotations has a citation dated July 28, 1955 in a compilation dated

Below is a citation from before the mass-television age. A professor
at Yale referred to "the chewing gum for the eyes of the movies" and
"the chewing gum for the ears of the radio".

Further below is a January 21, 1955 citation stating that "TV seems to
be chewing gum for the eyes".

Earlier and/or interesting cites for this metaphor would be welcome.

[ref] 1944, Writers and Their Critics: A Study of Misunderstanding by
Henri Peyre (Sterling Professor of French at Yale University), Quote
Page 291, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. (Verified with

[Begin excerpt]
Yet there is no sorrier sight to watch then the vacant faces of those
former high school and college students when, at thirty-five or fifty,
all their mental alertness having vanished, the spark gone from their
eyes, they dutifully chew their gum to keep from yawning, while
absorbing the chewing gum for the eyes of the movies or the chewing
gum for the ears of the radio. The same men who once read Shakespeare,
Molière, Byron glance at the headlines of their tabloid papers, turn
straight to the page of the funnies, to devour them with the same
dutiful sense of boredom as they swallow their hamburger at lunchtime
and their highball after dinner.
[End excerpt]

In January1955 a columnist interviewed critic John Mason Brown in New York.

[ref] 1955 January 21, Syracuse Herald-Journal, Ed Murrow To Call on
Critic Brown by Steven H. Scheur, Quote Page 32, Column 1, Syracuse,
New York. (NewspaperArchive)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Although Brown is generally recognized as our most eminent theater
essayist—Saturday Review of Literature—he confesses to a special
partiality for TV news shows.

"So much of TV seems to be chewing gum for the eyes.
[End excerpt]


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