We were discussing faded fads in our last column, considering those phenomena that blazed through the culture with such acclaim that everyone knew what they were about, but which disappeared so suddenly that it isn’t easy to figure out, years later, exactly what was going on. (Not now, Butterscotch Broth, we’ll discuss pogs some other time.)
I’ve been turning up plenty of postcards with cute little jokes beginning “I should worry”
These seem to have hit the American consciousness about 1913, when songwriter Sam Lewis produced an I Should Worry song called “Isch Ga-Bibble”. Now, if you are up on your nostalgia, you are aware that there was in the 1930s and 40s a singer named Merwyn Bogue who made a hit with Kay Kyser’s band under the name Ish Kabibble. He took this name because his rendition of the old song “Isch Ga-Bibble” was so popular. Ish Kabibble, and Isch Ga-Bibble, it was explained, was Yiddish for “I should worry”, or “No, that doesn’t bother me.” (Several sources draw an analogy to Alfred E. Neumann’s What-Me Worry?, but that, and the postcards associated with it, is a whole nother blog. Besides, they don’t deduce anything from it: they just like pointing it out.)
Isch Ga-Bibble, as numerous sources will tell you, is neither good Hebrew nor good Yiddish. It might have been a series of nonsense syllables meant to SOUND Yiddish for comic effect, or it may derive from “nish gefidelt” ,a Yiddish phrase meaning “No worries”.
Well, I say it DID derive from nich gefidelt, on no evidence at all except that songwriter Sam Lewis (nee Levine) must have heard Yiddish working his way up as a New York café singer. Maybe he just didn’t know how to spell it out. (Sam Lewis was not a one-hit wonder, being responsible for “Dinah”, “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?”, and “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?”, with other faded blockbusters of the American Song Book.)
None of this worries me. My own problem, Noodle Nugget, is that I don’t see the connection between the song and the postcards. The jokes on the postcards are wordplay-based and, um, actually funnier than the ones in the song. I’m not saying the jokes on the cards strike me as all that uproarious, just that they’re funnier than the song.
The song gets no more pun-inclined than “I should worry just to give and lend; A goat has got a scent that he can never spend.” A man on a postcard says, “I should worry a lot, and build a house on it.” Points to the postcard.
The song mentions a painting high in the consciousness of the public and says, “I should worry if my clothes are torn And show…my indignation like September Morn.” Not bad, but the postcard shortens it to “I should worry like September Morn and get cold feet?”
I understand these jokes. I get, even if I don’t laugh at “I should worry like a dressmaker and lose my form”, or “I should worry seven days and become a little weak” and “I should worry like an oyster and get in a stew.”
But then I hit the Shape Jokes. This seems to be a whole series on its own, and perhaps picks up another popular trend now forgotten. A young man with a yellow vest speaks of getting a shape like a corn and getting the chickens all around him. A girl thinks about getting a shape like a lamp post and having all the boys hang around. And a child worries about getting a shape like a barrel and having his head knocked in.
Which of these I Should Worry jokes were the real ones, and which the second-rate attempts? Did the Shape Like jokes come first, or did they come along at the end, as the postcard writers were running out of I Should Worry jokes?
If you know more about these things, pass the information along, so I shouldn’t worry.
3 thoughts on “More Worries”
Good to have you back, even in a slightly altered format.
Useless information marches on!
About dang time!