There’s a toy I remember from when I was very small, with a ad that sometimes resurfaces from the depths and starts ear-worming me. The toy, Odd Ogg, was… well, kind of stupid. You bowled plastic balls at Odd Ogg and he would spit them out.
What’s memorable to me was the jingle. I have roamed the internet trying to find a video of the ad itself, to no avail. But it started out something like “Odd Ogg, Odd Ogg, half turtle and half frog…” I’m sure there were more lyrics, but I don’t remember ’em and I can’t find them, so you’ll just have to trust me on this. Unless, of course, you remember this was muddily as I do.
Think of the ads that insinuated themselves into your brain, like a commercial version of an ear worm.For some of us of a certain age, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!” (irate housewife responding to her aged mother peering into a pot and asking “don’t you think it needs a little more salt?”–the product was Anacin, the problem it solved was a headache that made our heroine snap at her intrusive parent) rings a bell. For others, “Where’s the beef,” immortalized by Walter Mondale during a presidential debate (some of you may remember Walter Mondale, too). Advertisements are meant to be remembered, so that when you go to the store you reach, as if unstoppably, for the Anacin or the weird toy that looks like a demented reptile.
I gave up eating sugared cereal a couple of decades ago, but I still superstitiously believe that Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes are “Grrrreat!” After all, a cartoon tiger told me so. I usually get my Chinese food fix at Alice’s on Sanchez Street, but I cannot quite forget that “La Choy makes Chinese food swing American.” Whatever that means. And I’m delighted that we no longer have to sit through tobacco commercials, if only because it means that no one is exhorting the public to “show us you Lark!” or explaining that “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”
Not all of those made it into my everyday language. “Mother, please,” did, as did “You’re soaking in it!*” “Ring around the collar,” and “The white tornado” did too. It’s really impressive, for someone as lackadaisical regarding household chores as I am, how many of the phrases that stuck with me are about cleaning. For my husband, for some reason, “Harriet, the Ajax turned blue!” is what he says whenever he encounters some household occurrence that is more in my sphere than his. And there are the beauty products (“Does she or doesn’t she?” To which the answer is always “Only her hairdresser knows for sure,” regardless of whether the underlying question is “does she intend to come downstairs?” or “does she have the screwdriver?”). And miscellaneous slogans like “We try harder,” in which Avis confronted their number two status right behind Hertz in the rental car market. I use that one a lot.
Now, of course, my children occasionally echo these slogans from ads they’ve never seen, for products they’ve never heard of. I did the same thing with a few of the radio and magazine slogans my parents used. I’m not sure if any of them have made it into the next generation, and probably they don’t need to do so. But I sometimes think that this is the stuff of which real culture is made: the lingua franca of everyday conversations, as famous as “Castoria, babies cry for it.”
Only one question: is there a way to back them off my internal hard drive? How about you: what commercial revenants find their way into your daily conversations?