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SPEAKING IN TONGUES
23 January 2006
If I had been drinking coffee, I would have spewed it all over my monitor screen. I called Walt in to read it over my shoulder.
Mary had written:
She offered two pats on the head to anyone who could tell her where the quote came from, but that was in a footnote and I hadn't bothered to read the footnotes. I just left a smartass comment in her guestbook, and got my pats on the head anyway.
I shouldn't have been surprised, of course. We had already established with Mary and Joe when we had dinner with them in D.C. that we spoke the same language and belonged to the same small group.
The quote is from Stan Freberg's History of the United States of America, a comedic look at the founding of our country by one of the best satirical writers in the business.
Freberg people, like Gilbert & Sullivan people, and theatre people speak in tongues. They are always quoting esoteric lines from plays or comedy routines which are deeply engrained in their memory banks.
The problem with being a Freberg person, or a Gilbert & Sullivan person, or a theatre person is that you have all these marvelous quotes at your fingertips, quotes that often fit any situation and reveal you to be a very clever person.
The problem with this is that there are so very few other nuts out there who know Freberg or G&S or theatre intimately, so just when you have come up with the perfect bon mot and toss it out there, expecting others to fall on the floor laughing at your cleverness, you realize that people are looking at you strangely and haven't a clue what you've just said.
The problem is particularly acute with Gilbert & Sullivan nuts. W.S. Gilbert was such a master of quotable material, phrases that just fit into daily life.
"Life is henceforth a blank," I may
"Though I am a fool, there is a limit to my folly," I write here frequently. Does anyone get it?
"Oh, to be wafted away, from this black Aceldama of sorrow," I may say, dramatically, while people look at me blankly.
It's a disease.
When you are around Gilbert & Sullivan people you just get used to speaking in tongues and don't think anything about it.
I was having dinner one night with my Gilbert & Sullivan friend Bill Walsh (who has disappeared out of my life and whom I miss very much) and I made some comment about somebody being hostile.
"Well, we're all a little hostile now and then," he said, "Some of us are able to sublimate, others can't adjust. You know how it is"
The quote was so familiar that it took me a second or two to realize that he was not quoting Gilbert & Sullivan, but Stan Freberg. My quote lines had crossed.
We laughed a lot about discovering our mutual love of Stan Freberg and how quotable he is as well.
Walt and I always say that we "courted" to The History of the United States of America. It was such fun when the kids began listening to that record. David could spout quotes as readily as we can.
rumble, rumble, rumble....mutiny, mutiny, mutiny...
And then, of course, we all started doing theatre. Music Man, Oliver! and a host of others, shows that we all knew so intimately that quotes just came to mind when speaking.
How often can you work "anvils have a limited appeal" into the conversation--and how frustrating is it when nobody "gets it"!!
From time to time I work quotes into journal entries, knowing that I'll be lucky if anybody other than Walt gets it. But it's fun for me to know that I've found the perfect quote to fit the situation, even if nobody knows what the heck I'm talking about.
Speaking in tongues is really fun.
But it's a lot more fun when the people around get what you're saying!
For anybody who is not yet convinced that So.
California is on another planet, you must read this.
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