'Behold the proverbs of a people, a nation...'
0 comment Thursday, November 20, 2014 |
In the discussion about American culture, cabbageroll observed that
I think Americans used to have a cocky self-assuredness. Like the gun slinging cowboy. We like those types ... Annie get your gun. Don't tread on me. Straight talkin', straight shootin'.''
That reminded me of this part of Carl Sandburg's 'Good Morning, America', where Sandburg reels off a list of American sayings, slang, and proverbs that seem to sum up a lot of quintessentially American qualities.
A code arrives; language; lingo; slang;
behold the proverbs of a people, a nation:
Give 'em the works. Fix it, there's always
a way. Be hard boiled. The good die young.
Be a square shooter. Be good; if you can't
be good be careful. When they put you in
that six foot bungalow, that wooden kimono,
you're through and that's that.
The higher they go the farther they drop.
The fewer the sooner. Tell 'em. Tell 'em.
Make 'em listen. They got to listen when
they know who you are. Don' t let 'em know
what you got on your hip. Hit 'em where
they ain't. It's good for whatever ails
you and if nothing ails you it's good for
that. Where was you raised--in a barn?
They're a lot of muckers, tin horns; show
those slobs where they get off at. Tell 'em
you're going to open a keg of nails. Beat 'em
to a fare-thee-well. Hand 'em the razz-berries.
Clean 'em and then given 'em carfare home.
Maybe all you'll get from 'em you can put in
your ear, anyhow.
They got a fat nerve to try to tie a can
on you. Send 'em to the cleaners. Put the
kibosh on 'em so they'll never come back.
You don't seem to know four out of five
have pyorrhea in Peoria.
Your head ain't screwed on wrong, I trust.
Use your noodle, your nut, your think tank,
your skypiece. God meant for you to use it.
If they offer to let you in on the ground
floor take the elevator.
Put up a sign: Don't worry; it won't last;
nothing does. Put up a sign: In God we
trust, all others pay cash. Put up a sign:
Be brief, we have our living to make. Put
up a sign: Keep of the grass.
Aye, behold the proverbs of a people:
The big word is Service.
Service--first, last and always.
Business is business.
What you don't know won't hurt you.
Courtesy pays.
Fair enough.
The voice with a smile.
Say it with flowers.
Let one hand wash the other.
The customer is always right.
Who's your boy friend?
Who's your girl friend?
O very well.
God reigns and the government at Washington lives.
Let it go at that.
There are lies, dam lies and statistics.
Figures don't lie but liars can figure.
There's more truth than poetry in that.
You don't know the half of it, dearie.
It's the roving bee that gathers the honey.
A big man is a big man whether he's a president or a prizefighter.
Name your poison.
Take a little interest.
Look the part.
It pays to look well.
Be yourself.
Speak softly and carry a big stick.
War is hell.
Honesty is the best policy.
It's all in the way you look at it.
Get the money--honestly if you can.
It's hell to be poor.
Well, money isn't everything.
Well, life is what you make it.
Speed and curves--what more do you want?
I'd rather fly than eat.
There must be pioneers and some of them get killed.
The grass is always longer in the backyard.
Give me enough Swedes and snuff and I'll build a railroad to hell.
How much did he leave? All of it.
Can you unscramble eggs?
Early to bed and early to rise and you never meet any prominent people.
Let's go. Watch our smoke. Excuse our dust.
Keep your shirt on.''
He captures the jauntiness, the bravado, the toughness, the playful spirit, the cynicism, and the self-assuredness of America. I wonder how well this fits us today -- or are we still the same people as in Sandburg's day?

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