I was listening to WFUV, the public radio station of Fordham University. They were doing one of their themed sets of songs, today’s having to do with songs with Mrs. in them.
The song that inspired me to write about expressions was Harper Valley P.T.A. sung by Jeannie C. Riley.
The lyric that struck me was, “The day my momma socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A.”
Socked it to!
Whatever did that mean?
I had a general idea at the time, but I could have been all wrong. The funny thing is that for a short time in the late 1960s, sock it to me was the most ubiquitous slogan and defined the moment of the sixties.
Sly and the Family Stone, Country Joe and The Fish, Jim Hendrix used the phrase in their songs. However, the most famous use of the expression occurred on the comedy show, Laugh-In, when, then-presidential candidate, Richard Nixon uttered the magical words in the form of a question.
Even Nixon had a sense of humor.
Sock it to me got me thinking about other catchphrases that seem to have gone out of style.
You may remember “Right On!”
I was never too comfortable uttering right on. I was too white. My hair wasn’t quite long enough. My jeans were just a tad too new. You would go to a demonstration, and some speaker would say all the right anti-establishment things, and you were supposed to voice your approval by yelling out Right On!
John Lennon used it in one of his solo career songs, Power To The People. One verse ended “Power To The People, Right On!” He got away with it.
Nelson Rockefeller, however, was not as fortunate.
My friend PJ and I, at my suggestion that we would make fifty dollars a week, joined the Rockefeller’s 1970 re-election campaign for Governor of New York. One Saturday morning we showed up a rally in Astoria, Queens. Our assignment was to hand out buttons and leaflets to the tens of people who showed up to support the Governor. You guessed it. One of the buttons was emblazoned in hippie script with the immortal words:
RIGHT ON ROCKY
I don’t remember ever using Right On after that.
“He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother.”
The story was that a priest saw a boy holding a baby and he asked the boy, “Is he heavy?” The boy replied, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”
Talk about a public service announcement waiting to happen!
But then “heavy” took on new meaning. Thoughts became heavy. Words and actions became heavy. You were never quite sure if it was a good thing, but you knew it was heavy when you heard or saw it.
The only time I hear heavy anymore is when I go to the doctor.
“Are You Together”
I just googled that phrase, and one of the responses was. “32 Signs You Have A Future Together.”
Back in the day, Together had nothing to do with being a couple. It was more a term indicating you were one with right thinkers. You were hip if not a hippie. It was important to be together, and I am not sure what the alternative would have been. In any case, it was a subjective determination that might be in dispute on occasion.
These few examples of arcanery (my word) represent a specific time in American culture. I suppose we have no business using them in the twenty-first century any more than using the phrase Twenty-Three Skiddoo at Woodstock would have been proper. This had me thinking of twenty-first American catchphrases.
I had to go to google again to learn if there were any current terms or sayings that correspond to my time sensitive vocabulary.
There is a list of television phrases that seemed cute. There was a list of things that supposedly millennials say that seemed more foreign to me.
I chose not to record them as they only served to make me feel older than I am.
I am much more together, and I refuse to sock it to millennials who routinely get abused for being young.