September 7, 2012

Paraprosdokian.

"I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long."

That's a Mitch Hedburg joke, and an example of paraprosdokian, "a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part." It's usually done for comic effect, but not always and not in the example that got me reading about paraprosdokian, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

"He Ain't Heavy... He's My Brother," is the title of a song, which you probably know from the Hollies' 1969 recording. (The phrase itself seems to go back much further, perhaps to 1884.) I looked up "He Ain't Heavy... He's My Brother" because I couldn't remember who recorded it. (I was thinking The Moody Blues, for some reason.) And the subject came up because, over at the Isthmus forum, they're talking about what's happened to the notorious Wisconsin protester Segway Jeremy. There were reports that he was on his deathbed, and then some confusing contradictions, and somebody linked to this inane montage — "nice tribute" — which uses "He Ain't Heavy... He's My Brother" as the audio track.

It's mostly lefties over there in The Forum, though Meade likes to prod them with questions and jokes (which they either don't get or pretend not to get). Meade is skeptical of the beatification of Jeremy.

Trying to figure out what Moody Blues song I had confused with "He Ain't Heavy... He's My Brother," Meade came up with "Legend of a Mind" — which most people probably think is titled "Timothy Leary's Dead," that being the familiar lyric. Timothy Leary was not dead at the time, but there seems to be some LSD-influenced connection between getting high and being dead, as noted in this morning's post about The Beatles' "She Said She Said."

And now Meade's done a "Legend of a Mind" parody about the mystery of Segway Jeremy.

39 comments:

jimspice said...

It's also a slogan for Boys Town.

Amexpat said...

Paraprosdokian, new word for me and a useful one at that because it describes something that I've been aware of but never had a way of articulating clearly (though I doubt it will enter my active vocabulary).

Dylan is a master at it.

rhhardin said...

Imus had a clip of some black poet woman with that line. It's probably on my HD somewhere but not indexed well enough to find it.

In tone it reminds me of Thylias Moss's Warmth of Hot Chocolate on not believing in God:

But to trust him implicitly would be a mistake for he then would not have to maintain his worthiness to be God. Even the thinnest, flyweight modicum of doubt gives God the necessity to prove he's worthy of the implicit trust I can never give because I protect him from corruption, from the complacence that rises within him sometimes, a shadowy ever-descending brother.

chickelit said...

I don't drink anymore...or any less!

creeley23 said...

I'm curious how one gets from "He Ain't Heavy" to "Legend of a Mind."

There is a similar sonic smoothness -- acoustic guitars and violins -- with a ballad tempo and lugubrious lyrics about someone offstage, so I guess I can hear it, but it's not a connection I would have made.

Amartel said...

That song induces nausea. It's apparently based on a real life event that was actually sad and heartbreaking. The maudlin manipulation does not do the inspirational reality any justice.
Go Niners.

kristinintexas said...

I never run with scissors. Those last two words were unnecessary.

(From this website. I can't find the direct link right now but here's another good one.)

Crunchy Frog said...

Just pulled up the Hollie's vid on yt... yeah, it's still insipid trash. I so do not get the love for it - I guess you had to be there.

God the 60s sucked.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm curious how one gets from "He Ain't Heavy" to "Legend of a Mind.""

Well, Meade was wrong about what Moody Blues song was jamming the channels of my mind. It was "Knights In White Satin."

But, still, what's the connection? Same era. Same thing of a group that used to do bright pop songs and tried to get with the deep "concept" psychedelia. That stuff annoyed me at the time. I'm grounded in the mid-60s proto-punk like early Kinks and early Who. I didn't like when everything got lush and pretentious.

Looking back, what I didn't like then seems musty and old, and what I did like is still fresh and better than ever.

That's the connection in my mind.

Ann Althouse said...

Another way to put it is: The groups were taking LSD or trying to act like they did.

Freeman Hunt said...

That Jeremy Ryan thread has been most entertaining.

rhhardin said...

some black poet woman

Here's the clip real audio, 1 minute.

Synova said...

Someone I know uses the sig line...

"Gravity is no laughing matter."

I always thought that was cute.

AF said...

Apparently paraprosdokian is a neologism. It sounds awful. And isn't it just a fancier and vaguer way of saying pun?

Synova said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Conserve Liberty said...

I have never beaten my wife ..... at anything.

Conserve Liberty said...

I have never beaten my wife ..... at anything.

tiger said...

I've got a feeling ol' Segway(tm) Boy is faking any healthe issues he - or others - claim.

He's gonna be in serious trouble if he continues to protest without permits and is looking for sympathy, be it from the public or the courts.

He really is a POS.

And this: 'He ain't heavy' may very well be taken from the movie 'Boys Town' starring Spencer Tracy.

A boy shows up at BT carrying his brother and he says 'Hah,hmb' to Tracy.

Crimso said...

Oddly, I was thinking of that song yesterday for some unknown reason. And then I recalled the old SNL skit where Jimmy Carter is talking about Billy Carter, and he ends with "He ain't heavy, he's my brother." I think it was in refernce to having to carry his drunk ass (remember Billy Beer? "It's the best beer I've ever tasted, and I've tasted a lot." Sounds like an SNL skit, but that was for real).

EMD said...

The Housemartins do a great a capella rendition of "He Ain't Heavy"

Mitch Hedberg was awesome. Too bad he was a junkie.

SarcastiCarrie said...

We talked about "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" when the Hollies were nominated for induction into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, didn't we?

Time to link back to old Althouse and see.
http://althouse.blogspot.com/2009/11/abba-chantels-jimmy-cliff-genesis.html

Ann Althouse said...

"And this: 'He ain't heavy' may very well be taken from the movie 'Boys Town' starring Spencer Tracy."

My link goes to the Wikipedia article citing that but also going back to earlier uses of the same or similar lines.

alan markus said...

I made the mistake of following your link to Isthmus the other day and wasn't going to do that again, but glad I did, otherwise would have missed this Meade song:

Has anybody here seen my old friend Segway?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He annoyed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
You know, I just looked around and he's gone

Didn't you love the segway that he stood on?
Didn't he try to find funding from you and me?
And live rent-free
Some day, and it's a-gonna be one day ...

Anybody here seen my old friend Segway?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
I thought I saw him rollin' up over the hill,
With Chief Tubbs writing a citation.

Patrick said...

Thanks, Kristin. You've pretty much ensured that I will not get much done for the rest of the day. Very funny link.

kristinintexas said...

Patrick, happy to be of service :)

Hazy Dave said...

"Nights In White Satin" (no 'K') is the Moodies song I was going to suggest as similar in style and tempo to "He Ain't Heavy"... Which is close to my least favorite Hollies (hit) song, FWIW. On the other hand, I likes me some mellotron, and consider the revamped Moodies a big improvement over the R&B cover band of their early years. Which puts me solidly in the 99% on that subject, anyway.

Lem said...

I may have heard one.. I dont know for sure.

"I thank God for the man upstairs."

Chip Ahoy said...

I thought the Osmond Brothers sang that. In four part harmony. I'm imagining. Also who's carrying whom? Are they all carrying each other. At one point or another each one needed carrying and there was only one there at the time to do the carrying but that doesn't matter because he ain't heavy, he's his brother, I tell you what, both my brothers are twice as heavy as I am, and they are heavy. And there ain't no one else here to harmonize, it's just me and heavy-ass brother, both of them. That's right, I said it, both brothers are heavy, and the other one is never around when you need him, especially for heavy brother lifting. Although that precise situation never actually came up.

Jason said...

The comedian Stephen Wright built his whole act around that technique.

"I put spot remover on my dog and now he's gone."

Bob_R said...

This may be wrong, but I remember reading the boys town "He ain't heavy..." line in one of my father old books or magazines when I was a kid. I think it was one of those Big/Little books, but it might have been an old copy of Boy's Life. I can remember being able to tell people the back-story (orphan carrying his crippled brother on his shoulders into Boy's Town) to people when the song came out.

My grandmother was extremely houseproud and preserved all of my father's toys from the '30's and '40's. Of course, except for the lead soldiers, they were all made of cardboard and fell apart when we played with them in the '60's. Did not please Grandma. She would have been even more upset if she realized we destroyed a small fortune.

sydney said...

How did the world ever survive the 1960's?

Bob_R said...

If it were made of thirty year-old cardboard it would not have.

Trochilus said...

Huffington Post writer, Mellisa Jeltson, pens an eye-rolling puff piece about Sandra Fluke, regarding the latter's backstage meeting with Bill Clinton, which liaison was held after her talk to the DNC, but which was agreed to via an invitation from Bill that was extended to her before she spoke.

When they met, seems the old dog told her he was "nervous" regarding his own upcoming speech, to which she reportedly delivered the following "snappy" reply:

"Sir. Please."

HP author Mellisa Jensen's opening line . . . her hook for the story was:

"Girl's got some spunk."

Steven said...

I know the Moody Blues, to an extent, but not this song. Interesting. Late Beatlesish, if the Beatles had taken to the flute rather than the sitar. Of course, flute makes me think of Jethro Tull.

Of course, Jethro Tull isn't really similar to either the Moody Blues or the Beatles, it's just a connection, see? I'm not sure whether the connection is only in my own mind - just what the truth is, I can't say anymore.

kentuckyliz said...

Spunk! ba haa haaaaa

creeley23 said...

"Nights in White Satin" is from the Moody Blues' first album, Days of Future Past and that's a strange story.

The album wasn't their idea. They were in hock to Decca Records for the huge advances they had taken and spent, trying to make it as a conventional rock band. Luckily they had the backing of a Decca manager and obtained a very weird record deal that, in exchange for their debt, the Moodies would make a rock/classical music fusion album based on Dvorak's New World Symphony which would show off Decca's new hi-tech stereo format.

People just up and did things like that in the sixties.

The project should have turned out a disaster, and no doubt would have, but the Moodies were able to convince their classical conductor to abandon the Dvorak concept and wing it, combining some of their own material with the conductor's orchestral arrangements. The result was magic. No one since has been able to pull off the fusion of rock and classical as well as Days of Future Passed.

Based on that album the Moody Blues radically changed direction to pursue their new brand of prog-rock.

Pace Ann, I'm confident that "Nights In White Satin" will be remembered as long as "Lola" and "My Generation."

wyo sis said...

Oh, please, not Lola.

creeley23 said...

OK. "All Day and All of the Night."

Trochilus said...

@kentuckyliz said...
Spunk! ba haa haaaaa
9/8/12 12:09 AM

###

When I posted my comment, I was wondering if perhaps I needed to say a little more?

Obviously not.