An American friend was telling me today how his Dad used to say, “Jesus, it’s enough to piss off a midget”. I’ve been collecting Daft Dad Sayings for years now, and I’m fascinated to find that they seem to transcend both nationality and culture. My chum in the US still doesn’t have a clue why his Dad thought it should take a lot to annoy a midget, and this is the hallmark of every great DDS: they have to be almost impenetrable.
One of my Dad’s favourite ripostes when – as a teenager – I’d whine “But I thought you said….” was, “Well lad, yer know what Thought did don’t yer?” And I’d say no, I don’t know what Mr Thought did, and Pop would say, “He fell in a shitcart and thought it was a wedding”. Apart from not having the foggiest idea what a shitcart was, I couldn’t begin to imagine what possible role any such mythical shitcart might play in a matrimonial service. But all Dads said stuff like that in those days.
I had a colleague for years in advertising whose Dad would adopt the voice of a corny Music Hall comic, and say – apropos of very little – “I shall be in condition tonight!” Once again, it remained a mystery that died with my friend’s father.
It’s just possible that this father-to-son epidemiology lay behind the at times hysterical practice among admen from about 1975 onwards to try and slip meaningless aphorisms and fortune-cookie bollocks into new business presentations – purely to see if and how the clients might react. It was astonishing how often the potential prospects nodded gravely in agreement with the most ridiculous drivel.
My chum Adam had a favourite one, “Remember, it’s always darkest under the lighthouse”. A copywriter now sadly no longer with us had a belter, “He who plays with the typewriter pays for the tune”. I had one – never detected as horseshit in the fifteen years during which I used it – “The long and short of every case history is bitter-sweet”. And so on, and so on.
Today in business, banking and politics you can come out with any old Aunt Fanny, and not only will the hacks take it down judiciously – the folks watching at home will nod, saying to others present, “You know, I like this bloke – he’s a safe pair of hands”. It is truly terrifying to watch. Two or more years ago, I watched as George Osborne came out with “We’re all in this together”, and a 32 year-old chap I had hitherto thought quite bright nodded in a manner suggesting well-deserved respect.
In fact, it seems to me that a Cameron/Miliband joust at PMQs today could quite happily proceed as follows without attracting much ribaldry:
Mr Edward Miliband: Last week, the Prime Minister told this House that the G8 would be a waterbed in the history of ensuring sleeping dogs don’t lie. Would he now agree with me that those who lie down with the lamb are sauce for the gander?
Murmurs of “Quite so”, “Hear, hear” etc.
Mr David Cameron: Well hahaw, what can I say other than if you make your bed, you must lie in it, and be hung for a sheep as for a lamb?
Loud laughter, shouts of “Resign!”, “Brilliant!” and “Order! Order!”
Mr Edward Miliband: The Prime Minister may laugh Mr Speaker, but we who laughed at him last will be the first to laugh longest.
Cheers and waving of order-papers, shouts of “That’s got him!” and “Bravo Ed!”
Mr David Cameron: I think it entirely possible that the Opposition leader is laughing up the wrong tree, from which he may one day soon be foisted upon his own facade.
Pandemonium as the Speaker yells “Order! Order!”
Mr Edward Miliband: That’s as maybe, but he who makes his bed in the tree-house may get the birds eye view, yet still wake up too late to catch the worm.
More shouts of “Order! Order! ORDER!”
Mr David Cameron: You turn if you want to, but the worm that turns is worth less than a sleeping dog left sniffing at the mint sauce for the lamb.
Hysterical laughter from the Conservative Benches. BBC Parliament viewing figures plummet from 57 to minus 6.