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Requiem for a Retort
There used to be a feature in The Saturday Evening Post called "The Perfect Squelch." In each installment the little story was different, but the punch line always delivered a sly, conversation-stopping retort to some clueless doof. The stories weren’t jokes so much as mildly clever put-downs.

There has always been a need for squelches. Some people really do need to shut up, and getting them to do so has never been easy, especially if we want to do it without spilling blood. The best squelches turn the squelchee’s own words against him in some surprising way; most of them depend on the specifics of the situations in which they are uttered and can only be used that one time.

There are exceptions, though. We have been lucky to live in a time when there have been two such exceptions. Indeed, they have become perhaps the most popular squelches of all time. It is with sadness, however, that I must recommend the permanent retirement of these honorable idioms.

Let me give you an example of the first. Say that your mate won’t stop reminding you to take the recycling out to the curb for tomorrow’s pick-up. If this situation, in your view, calls for a squelch, then you would simply say, “Hey, recycle this.

It is a crude idiom, to be sure, but it uses silliness to soften the blow. And, like most good squelches, it is not a direct blow, but more of a carom shot. What makes this squelch different from others is that it is endlessly adaptable to the specifics of a given exchange. That is the secret of its longevity: “blank this” can be used successfully with almost any transitive verb. Some of its other domestic uses, then, might include clean up this mess, do this outside, vacuum this, and please chew this with your mouth closed. It’s impossible in these cases to tell what exactly is being suggested, and that’s what stops the conversation.

The hook, obviously, is a tangential reference to the speaker’s pubic region and the invitation to the squelchee to do something metaphorical within it. No overtly crude words are used, but an atmosphere of crudeness is created. Behind this idiom’s staying power is its performance as an open-source squelch. And the sillier the verb, the better the squelch.

The other reusable idiom is a cousin to “blank this”. “I’ve got your blank right here” has the same attribute of open source adaptability, except that this blank calls for a noun rather than a verb. Also, whereas “blank this” is open only to transitive verbs, “I’ve got your blank right here” can use any noun. And since there are many more nouns than verbs to begin with, it is a much more versatile form. I would argue, however, that it is not as good a squelch as “blank this”. It’s more about the crudeness and less about the silliness, especially when it is accompanied (as it often is) by a crotch grab. As in, "I’ve got your squelching idiom right here (grab)."

Despite all of their virtues, the freshness of these expressions is well past its expiration date. After sixty years or so of use, they have almost no power left to amuse. Their novelty as open source squelches is gone, and all that is left hanging is the crudity.

Still, we ought to honor these expressions before they finally disappear from general usage. They may not have been perfect squelches (only truly spontaneous wit can produce those), but they have served well over that time by closing the mouths of those who really need to shut up. For that alone, we should salute them. And while you’re at it, salute this.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee