Keeping Up with the Goonses

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 6 00:57:01 UTC 2011

On Thu, May 5, 2011 at 6:04 PM, Baker, John <JMB at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Keeping Up with the Goonses
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Â  Â  Â  Â The Hooded Utilitarian, an online magazine/blog, has run a
> series with this title on the contributions of comics and cartoons to
> English popular expressions. Â It seemingly is reasonably
> well-researched, although I didn't notice any claims of original
> contributions to scholarship. Â An index to the seven-part series is at
> -goonses-index/
> John Baker
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

What ever happened to,

"By the way, Ed[ward?]/ed[itor?], how's your mother?"

or something very similar? Wasn't that also a Mad Mag thing?

At the time, I wondered what, if anything, it had to do with the BE
ritual insult,

"How's your mother/mama?"

The problem that I had with leaping to the seemingly-obvious
conclusion is that I had never - and still have not - heard anyone
append any kind of prefatory phrase, such as, "By the way," to that
question in the wild. I myself have done it, but only because I had
previously seen the question formulated that way in MAD.

The Lone ranger joke I first heard so long ago that the closest guess
that I can make to the date is 1947 or earlier. Ours was a
block-busting colored family in our 'hood and the joke was told to me
by a neighbor-boy, Sean Glennon Adams, a name that I now know to be
Irish. But this was so long ago that I hadn't yet learned to parse
white people by ethnicity according to their names. The Adamses moved
out of the 'hood in 1947, when I was in the fourth grade.

IAC, the punchline was told to me as,

"What do you mean, 'we,' _white man_?"

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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