29 April 2008

Reseach is Delightful

Or at least it turns up the unexpected sometimes, which is almost always delightful.

Here are a couple of of shining moments from this morning's readings.

First, in Alison Lurie's Boys and Girls Forever: Children's classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter, there is a chapter about Iona Opie's The People in the Playground and Barrie Thorne's Gender Play. Both books are sociological treatments of playground culture. For those of you who are not familiar--Iona Opie is one half of the most famous child-ologist couple in the world (that totally is not a technical term, by the way). Peter and Iona Opie spent most of the 20th century studying and recording child-lore--playground games and rhymes, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, counting and alphabet games and so on--in Great Britain. Their body of work is incredible--and really useful for the kind of work that I do.

Anyway, as you can imagine, some of the stuff that they collected is really strange and wonderful and sort of embarrassing sometimes too. Lurie quotes the following from The People in the Playground which I think is amazing, and which I have not heard before. (Opie heard it on a North England playground in the 1970s.)

One banana, two banana, three banana, four,
Fifteen skinheads knocking at the door,
Five with machine guns, five with sticks,
Five with hand grenades handing from their---
la la la la la

Lurie uses this rhyme as "[proof] again that it is impossible to shield children from contemporary life." I should say so.

The second piece of show and tell for this morning comes from Richard Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy. He's discussing the fact that "mass media" has been slow to change the habits of oral communication among the British working class (something I've always wondered about in terms of American slang/accents. Why doesn't everyone talk like they do on TV and in the movies? This is, maybe, a question that presents itself most naturally to a girl from the West coast like myself). As an offer of proof, Hoggart supplies several phrases overheard "from a bright, pastel-shade distempered and tubular furnished waiting-room of a children's clinic." Where, "[a] handful of drab and untidy mothers were waiting with their children, and the conversation dribbled on aimlessly but easily about their habits." Here is my favorite of the phrases, along with Hoggart's "translation" in parenthesis.

"Y' don't look at the mantelpiece when y' poke the fire" (a woman doesn't need to be pretty to make sexual intercourse with her enjoyable)

I'm totally going to be on the lookout for situations into which I can insert that gem. I invite you to do the same. Let's bring that one back, people.


qwanty said...

Can you describe some situations (other than the one mentioned) in which we, your loyal readers, might attempt to use this expression? In addition to being drab and untidy, I am also dense.

KRD said...

You are not drab, untidy or dense. Well, maybe sometimes untidy. But I think that is the only situation in which you can use the expression. But isn't that enough? I feel like I want to express that sentiment often when I see the women that some men sleep with . . .