Look! We’ve got Carolyn Crane here today! Another author who gets to go to Nawlins! How jealous are we? Very! Luckily, Ms. Crane is here and bribing y’all with a prize today, so we can beat that green eyed monster back. Some. 😉 Also, her post is adorable. Kinda like she is. (And Carolyn Crane also introduced me to See’s vanilla suckers. She extolled the virtues of the chocolate one… but I fell for the vanilla. Nom.)
Oh nooooooo! Mister Bill! Some of my fave pop culture references are getting too old to use in books and blog pooooosts!
The other day I was talking to my husband and I told him a certain character in a book I was reading was way too much of a Gilligan. He totally got it. Because of course we both grew up watching Gilligan’s Island, and almost every week, Gilligan would use the special antenna of the radio they needed to get off the island as a fishing lure. Or invite cannibals to dinner at their huts or something.
But when you’re a genre author in your 40s like me, you have to think twice about the references you use. Most of them ever only worked in North America anyway, but now the ones that once worked in North America have grown too obscure. I think it’s safe to say that half my audience did NOT watch Gilligan’s island.
I’ve quizzed my grade school nieces and nephews on these things. They know who the Brady Bunch is, but not the Beverly Hillbillies. No more cleverly calling a pool a see-ment pond! And describing a man to look like Mr. French, a favorite sly reference of mine? Forget about it!! Ditto for Doctor Bombay.
Here are some pop culture references that were once great but now may be too obscure in books and even blog posts like this, because there are now too few people who will get it. And some of these are borderline, and some seem to still be going strong.
Sample usage: “I hate this character. She is such a Gilligan!
Backstory: Doofusy character from Gilligan’s Island who annoyingly messes everything up.
Thoughts: In my mind, calling somebody a Gilligan is no longer meaningful to too many people for a book or even a blog post. Out! *sob* This means “three hour tour” is also out.
Sample usage: “He’s such a Rambo.”
Backstory: The movie with Sly Stallone, of course.
Thoughts You can still totally call somebody a Rambo…I think. Right? I’d feel confident readers would get this.
Sample usage: This used to be a personal fave of mine, often in conjunction with jobs, where Frank Burns types were the bane of my existence. “Joan is the Frank Burns of the Embers breakfast shift!”
Backstory: I think we’ve all worked with a Frank Burns or two—the rule-following tattletale from M*A*S*H.
Thoughts: Too obscure. Maybe still okay in conversation.
Sample usage: “Who does he think he is, the Fonz?”
Derivation: The Fonz was the greaser on the show Happy Days.
Thoughts: I think this is very borderline, possibly out. Maybe commenters can weigh in.
After school special:
Usage: “The last half of the book is like an after school special!”
Backstory: I think most people know what these are – edifying shows about the evils of drugs or cults that ran when you got home from school in the 1980s. This was before kids had things like schedules.
Thoughts: Open for debate. I will continue to use this term in analogies, and I would feel comfortable using it in a book.
Don’t drink the Koolaid:
Usage: I saw this recently quoted all around online in reference to self publishing. Somebody said something like, “Don’t be so quick the self-publishing Kool-aid.”
Backstory: When Jim Jones made his cult followers drink poisoned Kool-aid and kill themselves.
Thoughts: This term is still going strong even though, as a cult reference, it dates back earlier than the Koresh thing. Still meaningful to people. I’d use it in a book or a post.
Usage: I always liked this. I said it the other day when I dropped something.
Backstory: It’s from an old Saturday Night Live skit—these aliens always said it when something went wrong.
Thoughts: SOOO out.
OH NOOOOO! MISTER BILL!
Usage: Something to say when you drop something, or accidentally hit your friend’s hand with a hammer, etc.
Backstory: Another from Saturday Night Live – Mister Bill was this claymation character who always got squished, and the voice over would say Oh nooooo! Mister Bill!
Thoughts: I think this is way too obscure. But it was funny in the 1980’s!!
HEY CULLIGAN MAN / CALGON TAKE ME AWAY
Usage: Things to say when everything is going wrong
Backstory: Both of these are from TV ads that ran in North America incessantly in the 70’s and 80’s. Culligan is plumbing, Calgon is bath salts.
Thoughts: I was shocked to see somebody relatively young use ‘Calgon take me away!’ I would’ve thought it borderline. ‘Hey Culligan man’ is gone, though.
DON’T DO THE CRIME IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME
Sample usage: A funny, snotty thing to say to your pal when she messes up and gets caught at something, or is contemplating misbehavior.
Backstory: The song from the Baretta, a cop show. Awesome!
Thoughts: I’ll still use this in conversation or blog posts, I would even feel fine to have certain characters say this in a book under the right circumstances. Because it stands on its own – you don’t have to know it’s from the Baretta song to get it, but knowing makes it that much cooler.
BEAM ME UP / WARP SPEED / NO INTELLIGENT LIFE
Usage: Commentary and analogies. Self explanatory.
Backstory: The original Star Trek!
Thoughts: These phrases are still totally meaningful! Yay! Not only do they have the Trek resonance, but they stank on their own. However, Tribbles, Live Long & Prosper, and Prime directive are borderline as references. I would still use them in blog posts and conversation though, and let characters who are Trekkies use them. I kind of feel like Star Trek lingo is a protected class.
GENTLEMEN, WE CAN REBUILD HIM. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY.
Sample usage: When something is dropped or broken, or somebody has something really high tech going on their person. “Wow, check out your new Bluetooth ear thingy. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him! We have the technology!”
Backstory: Opening of Six Million Dollar Man.
Thoughts: Questionable. Probably no longer meaningful to too many people, and it just doesn’t stand on its own. I think it would sound weird if you never watched the show. That probably won’t stop me from using it in certain conversations, but I feel I have to retire it from blogs and books. Ditto for “I can’t hold her! She’s breaking up! She’s breaking up!”
AAAAND LOVING IT.
Sample usage: Sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek retort. Q: “Are you babysitting the neighbor’s kids again?” A: “Aaaaand loving it.”
Backstory: Maxwell Smart from Get Smart always said it. His boss might say something like, “But Max, you’ll be in constant peril every second!” And Max would say “Aaaaand loving it.”
Thoughts: This is one of those references you can still use, and even if people don’t get where it’s from, it still makes sense.
UP YOUR NOSE WITH A RUBBER HOSE
Backstory: The character Barbarino from Welcome Back Kotter always said it.
Thoughts: I don’t think people know what this is anymore. Even in its day, it was nonsense. But, in a certain strange mood, I’d still be willing to use it. Not in a book, though.
Ah, my misspent youth! So, do you agree with my assessments? Are all of these terms totally alien to you, or do you know and use them? Or do you mourn their passing into disuse? Are there other terms you wish you could still use? Do tell!!!!
And thanks to lovely Limecello for having me over on the blog today!
Bio: Carolyn Crane is the author of the urban fantasy/romance trilogy THE DISILLUSIONISTS, as well as assorted novellas and the upcoming Parnormal spy romance series, MR. REAL (late 2012). She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two cats.
Ms. Crane is giving away a copy of Devil’s Luck today! It’s a standalone ebook (well, novella) to her Disillusionists world. So tell us – what’re your thoughts?