¡Feliz frijoles, muchachas y caballeros! No, this is not another ethnically-tinged Odd Man Out, such as the immortal Canadian classic, Odd Man Oot. I just thought that, by starting with some atrociously bad high-school Spanish, I might help you to feel not-so-foolish by comparison as you flub most or all of the following questions. That is why they call me “Mr. Nice-Guy.”
Speaking of those ridiculously-easy questions, here, in all their simplicity, they be.
“The Masquerade is Over”
“The Tears of a Clown”
Now, if you’re done laughing at your narrator over the stuff he somehow considers puzzling, let us get on to a more serious matter: the intervening joke.
A fellow went to try a new local bar out. As he finished ordering his first drink, he noticed a sign posted behind the bartender:
Dirty Limerick Contest
$50 Cash Prize
“No kidding? he asked the barkeep. “I bet I can think of a good one, right here and now. Gimmie a spare napkin, and I’ll write you a jim-dandy.”
As it turned out, the customer did exactly as he boasted he would. In fact, his limerick won the contest.
“Say, buddy, you’re pretty good,” the bartender told him as he handed over a fifty. “D’ja ever think of entering the Nationals?”
“What Nationals?” the guy wanted to know.
“There’s a National Dirty Limerick contest that one ‘a them porno rags is staging. The prize is fifty thousand bucks. It’s winner-take-all, though. No runner-ups.”
“Okay, I’d like to give that a shot. You got any entry blanks?”
The guy took a week of vacation time he really couldn’t afford. During that week off, he went nowhere, saw no one and, in fact, did nothing interesting at all. He hardly ate and barely slept. Every minute he could spare, he spent writing limericks, each one dirtier than the last one.
Even as he composed verses that, very soon, were well beyond making a sailor blush, he never got the feeling he had reeled off a winner. Finally, late Sunday night, at the absolute end of his vacation, he wrote it: the filthiest limerick imaginable.
“I’m rich! I’m rich” he gloated as he danced around his living room with the prize-winner clutched in his fist.
He mailed off his entry that night and returned home, blissfully wondering how soon the contest people would be breaking the good news to him.
The contest deadline came…and went…and he had heard nothing.
“What the hell is wrong with those people?” he wondered. After a while he decided to call the magazine and find out what the hold-up was with his fifty grand.
The receptionist at the magazine’s HQ answered and advised him to call back, since everybody was out to lunch, but the contestant would not be put off.
“Well, you’re here, aren’t you?” he stormed. “Suppose you tell me where my prize money’s gotten off too?”
The young lady reluctantly said she’d try to help him and asked for his name. When he gave it, she responded, “Oh, yes, sir, everyone here is aware of your limerick, and they thought it was very filthy, but, in the end, the judges went with an even filthier one.”
“WHAT?” he screeched. “How can that be? There flat-out can’t be a dirtier limerick than the one I wrote. I demand to hear this so-called winner! I insist you read it to me this instant!”
“Gee, I don’t know, sir, it’s awfully filthy. It has a lot of words I’m just not comfortable saying.”
“Look, Miss,” he told her. “I’m a guy who’s seen it all and done it all, so why don’t you just go ahead and blank out any words you’re not comfortable with. I’m sure I’ll be able to fill them in.
“I’ll be blanking out a lotta words,” she demurred.
“Just read the limerick, please.”
“Okay, here goes:
There once was a dah dah dah dah,
Who dah dah dah dah dah dah dah.
She dah dah dah dah
(Oh, dear, this is simply awful!)
To dah dah dah dah
Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah fuck.”
Go ahead, take a minute to clean up the coffee you snorted through your nose, then follow me over to the answer key.
You may recognize this entire group as the first eight words to a well-worn cheer, as in, “Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar; all for Single-Payer Governmental Medical Insurance, jump up and holler!” Your narrator needs to jump up here to remind you not to confuse this cheer with the similarly-metered, “You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream,” or it’s modern-day healthier counterpart, “You cuss, I cuss, we all cuss for asparagus!”
Getting back to the group (Group, what group?), you probably know that most of these items are terms for units of money. Two bits equal a quarter. A dollar is a dollar, which is a more succinct way of saying eight bits. Way back in the 17th century, or thereabouts, a dollar was divided into eighths (or “bits”), rather than fifths (or “fits”). Thus, two bits (@ 12½¢ x 2 = 25¢. In our monetary system, both present and past, we have a quarter, a half-dollar (four bits) and a dollar, but we continue to spurn the neglected 6-bit 75-cent piece, despite the incessant demands for its use in slot machines and laundromats.
The first, third and fourth items are characters in a popular comic-strip and cartoon series about a spinach-chugging, grammatically-challenged sailor. The second item is an ingredient which, when mixed with vinegar, forms the basis for a salad dressing. If you were looking for Popeye’s anorexic girlfriend, you would need to check the listings for “Oyl” in the phone book.
“The Masquerade is Over”
“The Tears of a Clown”
Please forgive the blatant insult to your intelligence, but, as your narrator has pointed out many times before, he needs to throw his quizzically-challenged readers a bone in each series. This, obviously, is the bone. Sorry to be so ham-fisted about it.
As we all know, the first song is the odd outcast because-all together now-there is no mention anywhere in the lyrics of the famous opera, Pagliacci (actually, i Pagliacci).
“Mr. Sandman,” recorded by the Chordettes, “The Masquerade is Over” (Billie Holiday) and “The Tears of a Clown” (Smokey Robinson) all make mention of the operatic clown. Bobby Vinton, on the other hand, could not be bothered, in that first song or any other. Che picat’!
While the first item does not date back to prehistoric times, to Fred’s considerable surprise, it does have ancient origins. The next three items were all made up in relatively modern works of literature.
Wendy was a girl’s name that author J.M. Barrie invented for his story, Peter Pan. “Chortle” was coined by Lewis Carroll in his poem, Jabberwocky:
And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
He chortled in his joy.
The term “geek,” as in a low-life carnival entertainer (rather than a computer whiz), first came about in a novel called Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham.
All of you readers who typically store your towels on a hat-rack will have no trouble with this one. Items one, three and four are English haberdashery terms that have their roots in Hindi or Urdu. A shirt, on the other hand, is just a shirt; a sigh is just a sigh. On that you can rely.
Speaking of which, how much time has gone by while you vainly attempted to crack these riddles? Somewhere, I’m sure a reader is muttering, “Go dah dah dah yourself!”
Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll
John Coffman (for the gag)