Don’t Know Much About History

Posted: May 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Little Rhody, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Sisters | 5 Comments »

Doesn’t it seem like William Safire should have some sort of Nielsen box set up, so the language trends he writes about reflect a wide array of American households, not just what he hears in whatever entitled old white man circles he rolls in?

Sure, there may be some technical hurdles to overcome before people are willing to have their voice boxes wiretapped. Still, it’s a good idea, don’t you think?

Anyway, until they iron out those kinks, I’ll just report here what I’m hearing uttered around the McClusky casa. Which is to say, the McClusky house. (In case you don’t speak Spanish.)

Kate’s modifier of choice these days is the excessively California-surfer-dude sounding double-header, “super super.”

During dinner: “Paige is spitting milk, and being super super funny!”

Attempting to influence me: “I let my boy watch a super super lot of TV. He says to me, ‘Mommy, can I watch TV?’ and I say, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes!’”

Observing a dead houseplant: “Mama, that plant is super super thirsty.”

I’m not sure where she picked up the expression. Figuring that out’d be like trying to track down the genesis of a preschooler’s perpetual runny nose. Where would it get you anyway? Easier to just accept it into your maternal maelstrom as a minor annoyance, and keep rolling.

At a dinner party this week, my neighbor Chicken Daddy and I were comparing notes about the progressive private schools we went to as kids. Or more specifically, about the pot holes of ignorance those schools left us with. Huge knowledge gaps our parents paid good money for.

His school clearly exceeded mine on the hippie groovy scale. They studied American history every other year, and in between learned about the histories of other cultures. “But get this,” he tossed out. “When we did do American history it wasn’t even about the presidents or the Civil War. It was Native American history.”

God, I just love that.

Anyway, as a result, he’s apparently well versed in things like wampum macro economics, but couldn’t tell you the first thing about what the U.S. Senate does.

This is fantastic news. It makes me feel far less freakish and alone about my similar vein of standard-knowledge naivite. Plus, I now know to never partner with him playing Trivial Pursuit.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the excuse that my school didn’t teach the things I’m stone dumb about. They likely did, but I was too busy rolling up notes and sticking them in pens I disemboweled for cheeky “Oh, here’s your pen back, Pam” under-the-teacher’s-nose note passing.

Being caught up in all-consuming God-this-class-is-boring-but-isn’t-Dean-Klitzner-sooo-cute? brain activity seemed like a good thing for me to be doing at the time. You know, instead of laying down fundamental knowledge that would serve me in a lifetime’s worth of jobs, cocktail party banter, and trivia games played drunkenly at rental ski houses. Oh well.

So my brain’s lacking some standard info it really should contain, but as a tragic counter balance it’s brimming with crap that’s of no discernible use at all. I mean, if I could have a yard sale and clear some of the worthless knowledge out, it’d be a long day and all, but I think I could make some serious bank, even if I sold it all cheap.

And I can’t even imagine what I could do afterwards with that freed up brain space! I could maybe retain the fact once and for all that Mark’s birthday is November 19th, not the 17th. Or memorize a big chunk of Pi, or be able to recite the names of all the state flowers.

One of the things that for some reason I’m chock full of—and have been lugging around with me for decades now—is, tragically, radio jingles from the 70s and 80s. Ads for a random assortment of currently likely-defunct Rhode Island businesses.

There’s one for some big car dealership that used to be in Warwick. And of course, who can’t reel off the Van Scoy Diamond Mine song? Most locals can summon those verses faster than the date of their wedding anniversary.

But long before Van Scoy set the small state’s standard for advertising ear worms, a jingle for a New England grocery chain called Fernandes ruled the airwaves. My three older sisters adored that one. Or rather, they loved mocking it.

And really, how couldn’t they? It was sung un-ironically in a wretched—or rather wicked—Rhode Island accent. And one thing that bound us Bruno gals together, was our shared superiority complex about—of all things—our elocution. Pride in how distanced we felt from the take-an-R leave-an-R masses that surrounded us. The name Martha, for example, is pronounced back home Maaaath-UR. Simply take the ‘r’ from where it belongs in the beginning of the word, and tack it on the end where it doesn’t. It’s nearly as complex a linguistic formula as Zoom‘s Ubbi Dubbi language (which I also happen to speak fluently, though it wasn’t the primary language spoken in our home growing up).

So the Fernandes ad went—and I’m deferring (in part) to phonetics here—”SOO-puh SOO-puh MAH-kit with a lot more speh-SHILLS every daaaaaaaay! Fih-NAN-deez knows the waaaay!”

I’d love to have been a fly on the wall in the meeting where someone tossed out the dazzling “super supermarket” marketing concept. And where someone else cried out “It’s brilliant!” and they linked arms and vowed that together they’d spin it into commercial gold.

If you ask me, that’s the kind of history they should write about in text books.

I know it seems like it’d benefit me more knowing what the Speaker of the House does, instead of having scads of lame, outdated radio jingles committed to my everlasting memory. But hey, I’ve made it this far in life, and I feel like what I don‘t know hasn’t really made me miss out on a lot. And for that I am super super grateful.


5 Comments on “Don’t Know Much About History”

  1. 1 Andrea said at 11:18 am on May 26th, 2009:

    Oh, man, we are soul sistuz. Ubbor shobbud ibbay sabbay “subboul sibbistubbuz.”

    One of my favorite radio ads was one for Waldorf Tuxedo – “Yeah we got more tuxeeedos heeeh den any udduh stawww…”

    Thanks for cracking me up!

  2. 2 Mary said at 10:05 pm on May 26th, 2009:

    Ack! I speak this language as well. Can’t wait for next drink-fest when we need to gossip about Sacha or Megan in front of them. Sweet!

  3. 3 The Subtle Rudder said at 4:23 am on May 27th, 2009:

    Ubbi Dubbi is my mother tongue. I can also do the butterfly hand thing from the opening credits, which is about as physically adept as I got as a kid (I was lanky, so the splits were out. I could do a cartwheel and once managed a backbend, but I was not one of those compact Nadias throwing roundoff-back handsprings on the playground. Squatty little showoffs.) Anyway, I figure Ubbi Dubbi is like speaking Klingon for a certain subset of PBS-watching 70′s kids.

  4. 4 megan said at 10:56 pm on May 29th, 2009:

    Dude, super duper is so not a California surfer colloquial, I’m just sayin’…

  5. 5 kristen said at 7:58 pm on June 3rd, 2009:

    dearest subtle rudder: so what was that name of that girl in the zoom opening credits who did that arm thingy? (and yes, i’m truly impressed that you could/can still do it too. and will ask you to the next time i see you.) i think it was something like tish. whatever it was, i remember being as fascinated by her name as i was by her moves.

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