Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

January 14, 2014

A nation big on words

We Americans  are a wordy bunch, particularly after election to public office.

At all levels of government, officials gain experience quickly in “proclaiming,” whether or not they’re any good at all in framing laws.

Proclamations often are stacked on top of days, weeks and months already taken. No matter. Most of the thousands of documents are so issued to satisfy special interest groups. (All could be significantly shortened with lessened use of the word “whereas.”)

Once approved, these designations are almost never disturbed. I’ve found just three now deemed defunct — Afghanistan Day, Baltic Freedom Day and National Catfish Day. (Not sure how the catfish came under fire, unless other species started making bigger splashes.)

It seems to me that all of us would do well to stand up for national treasures on the brink of total abandonment. This seems particularly true when said works reach the century mark.

Let’s focus, for example, on music. Shouldn’t we properly respect tunes we have hummed, whistled or sung — albeit poorly — over several decades? One such ditty is Aba Daba Honeymoon, written in 1914. The lyrics — perhaps Greek to most — are purportedly what the monkey said to the chimp in, uh, yes, “monkey talk.”

Back in  the day, such songs had staying power. Debbie Reynolds’ rendition vaulted to number three on Billboard Magazine’s chart in 1951. Eight years later, it was featured in Have Rocket, Will Travel, The Three Stooges’ first feature film.

In 1964 — a half-century after composition — American novelist Thomas Pynchon, referring to Aba Daba Honeymoon in a letter to a friend, said:

Our souls (the world) leave to whatever obsolescences, bigotries, theories of education (workable and ‘un’), parental wisdom or lack of it, happening.… between the cord-cutting ceremony and the time they slide you down the chute (at death).… while the guy on the Wurlitzer plays Aba Daba Honeymoon because you had once told somebody it was the ‘nadir of all American expression’; only they didn’t know what ‘nadir’ meant, but it must be good because of the vehemence with which you expressed yourself….

The tune’s popularity returned in the 1970s, when Fritos corn chips claimed the melody for its jingle — “Muncha buncha, muncha buncha, muncha buncha, muncha buncha, Fritos goes with lunch.” A Houston jewelry factory used the melody as well, and lead performers on Laverne & Shirley once performed as chimps on roller skates, singing Aba Daba Honeymoon.

Think of what we risk losing. If we don’t stand up for near-classics such as this, we’ll crumble under the onslaught of contemporary music, almost all of which has words we can’t understand.

And if we can distinguish them, we blush.

If efforts to guarantee the song’s deserved space in antiquity are successful, perhaps pictures of the three monkeys who didn’t see, hear or participate in evil could be added to bolster interest in the proclamation.

Origin of these drawings — never proclaimed for anything as far as I know — is fuzzy at best. Some historians claim the monkeys’ refusals to “see/hear/do” appeared first in China, before Christ’s earthly pilgrimage. Others insist they didn’t gain notoriety until some 400 years ago — not in China, but Japan.

“Twitter techniques” for 2014 proclamations might be considered, significantly shortening the documents. This might actually help researchers a hundred years from now as they refurbish, rework or rehash current works.

Other now century-old works are worthy of recognition. Some of the recognizable 1914 titles include Baby Face, Down Among the Sheltering Palms, By the Beautiful Sea, Keep the Home Fires Burning, Saint Louis Blues, There’s a Long Trail A-Winding and Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral. (Come on, uncross your eyes. You remember The Irish Lullaby.)

Before you classify this treatise as absolute minutia, consider some proclamations already approved. For example, we observe National Dairy Goat Awareness Week annually in June. (How do you think goats that give up their mohair feel about their cousins getting such recognition?) Equally lame is a proclamation spanning the entirety of December — National Critical Infrastructure Protection Month.

Clearly, it’s time for us to bow our necks, raise our voices and stomp our feet, if necessary, to preserve classics. The late Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan, Aba Daba Honeymoon composers, would be proud.

          —————

Dr. Don Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He may be reached by email at newbury@speakerdoc.com. His website is www.speakerdoc.com. Follow him on Twitter @donnewbury.

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