AND CALL HIM GEORGE.

There is a meme running around the internet that takes the form “I’m gonna love him and pet him and squeeze him and call him George” (many variations in wording, but all ending with “…and call him George”). This is ultimately based on Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, where Lenny, George’s addled sidekick, has an unfortunate habit of squeezing his pet mice to death, but there is no “name him George” involved; the proximate source of the line is a pair of cartoons, both of which play off of Steinbeck but in neither of which does the line occur as commonly cited. As a public service, I am providing the actual quotes from the cartoons, since it’s probably not going to turn up in the Yale Book of Quotations any time soon. The first is Tex Avery’s 1946 “Screwy Squirrel” cartoon “Lonesome Lenny,” in which the eponymous lonesome dog greets his new pet Screwy Squirrel with: “Hello, George! Glad to know ya, George! You’re my new little friend, George, my new little friend! What I’m gonna do is to petcha and play witcha, George.” After much wackiness: “Now I gotcha, my little friend. I’m gonna petcha and hold ya and petcha and petcha and petcha.” (Warning for the soft of heart: the cartoon does not end happily!) The second is from “The Abominable Snow Rabbit” (1961), in which Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck find themselves in the Himalayas; Daffy runs into an abominable snowman, who picks him up and says: “I will name him George and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him … and pat him and pat him … and love him and caress him…” Daffy escapes his dangerous clutches by offering him Bugs as a substitute; the snowman picks Bugs up and says “I will name him George and I will hug him and… and…” (Here‘s the video clip if anyone wants to check my transcription.) Both these are significantly different from the current version; there may be an intermediate source that I have not found.

Comments

  1. We here at LH can be frivolous at times, but we do not shrink from the big questions.

  2. It’s reminiscent of a meme running around of the form “Well, X me [or "X my Y"] and call me Y”.
    “Spank my ass and call me Sally” is the canonical form, I think. There are multiple variants.

  3. According to the not excessively reliable Eric Partridge, the original form is “cut off my legs and call me Shorty” (“A US c[atch]p[hrase], dating from before 1945 and bearing no very precise meaning”).

  4. Didn’t that early meme show up in multiple Bugs Bunny cartoons, though? I grew up watching those on Saturday mornings, but my recollection may be wrong.

  5. In one of R. Crumbs’ comics a character says “Paint me yellow and call me a cab!”

  6. I heard “butter my butt and call me a biscuit” on a PBS program about language, but I’ve forgotten its name (a recent one, not The Story of Language from the 80s).

  7. Elmyra Duff, of Tiny Toon Adventures, does say a quite similar sentence minus the “call him George,” iirc. perhaps it’s a combination of the two?
    {One web source confirms her quote as “I’m gonna hug you and kiss you and love you forever (and never use you up),” but I had recalled it as “I’m gonna hug him and pet him and squeeze him and love him forever”}

  8. I think I encountered Elmyra not on Tiny Toon Adventures but on Animaniacs, where she had cameo roles… I wonder if her quote differed across the two?

  9. “I heard “butter my butt and call me a biscuit” on a PBS program about language, ”
    Damn you – that triggered a vision of seeing that in a high school ESL text and having to explain it to a completely mystified class. At least their parents wouldn’t know enough to sue, thank God.

  10. J.W. Brewer says:

    I would have said “paint me green and call me Quincy” as the canonical form, but all I can find by googling are variants that generally substitute blue for green. Don’t know if my memory is skewed, if I grew up with a non-standard dialect, or if the stock phrase evolved in between my childhood and the rise of the web.

  11. Barry Popik dated “…call me Shorty” to 1939 in an ADS-L post several years ago:

    Helena (Montana) Independent, Aug. 4, 1939, p. 10, col. 1
    (HARRISON IN HOLLYWOOD by Paul Harrison):
    Hollywood, Aug. 3.–Short takes: When the standing of the Ritz Brothers were offered $50 each for some stunt doubling, Sam Canter, one of the three, said, “For 50 bucks you can cut off my legs and call me Shorty!”

  12. The Argentine variant is “¡Pegame y llamame Marta!” :-D
    ¡No sabía que era una frase de alcurnia internacional!

  13. Julia’s site has some wonderful photographs of lizards, Spanish poetry, murals, landscape photographs, etc.

  14. Yes, I highly recommend her site.

  15. Well ruffle my feathers and call me Frankie. I grew up with that phrase and the internet knows it only very little indeed and explains it not at all.

  16. “A meme on the Internet”? Wow. We were misquoting “The Abominable Snow Rabbit” (in more or less the same way) back in the ’80s. Not only do the kids today have to bring back legwarmers, now they have to resurrect our misquoted pop culture references? I’m shocked, shocked!

  17. This wild-card seach get 12 million hits:
    “Well, * my * and call me *”
    There are only 2 or 3 duplicates out of the first 12 or so.

  18. And this very thread is on page 3. We’ve achieved self referentiality.

  19. I was able to google 693 of the 12 million.

  20. FYI, Fred Shapiro of The Yale Book of Quotations guest blogs at Freakonomics. You could suggest this.

  21. Currently on PBS there runs a kids animated show called Cyberchase. It’s a show where these 3 kids are actually sucked into their computers at the bequest of the head of Cyberspace called Motherboard who needs them to solve cyberspace problems caused by her nemesis The Hacker (the voice of Christopher Lloyd). The Hacker has two henchmen, Buzz and Delete–Buzz’s big desire in life is to own a doughnut shop but Delete’s desire is to own a pet store where he can raise bunnies, all of whom he says, “I want to name George.” In several of these episodes–I know them because I know one of the actresses on the show and besides they are very well done kids shows–Delete says “Boss can I please get a bunny of my own, a bunny I want to name George and he’ll be my bunny and I’ll love him and he’ll love me.” And in another episode, Delete actually gets a bunny who he names George who turns out to be Georgette when multiples of Georges start appearing out of nowhere around Delete.
    Sorry, I’m just entering my second childhood…
    Ur fiend,
    thegrowlingwolf

  22. Helena (Montana) Independent, Aug. 4, 1939, p. 10, col. 1
    (HARRISON IN HOLLYWOOD by Paul Harrison):
    Hollywood, Aug. 3.–Short takes: When the standing of the Ritz Brothers were offered $50 each for some stunt doubling, Sam Canter, one of the three, said, “For 50 bucks you can cut off my legs and call me Shorty!”

    Was that a misprint from an OCR scan of the newspaper (or however that’s done)? “When the stand-ins of the Ritz Brothers…” would make more sense for me.

  23. Paul: I checked Newspaperarchive, and yes, it says “standins” in the original column. But here are two earlier cites, with the second one intimating much older use:

    Brainerd (Minnesota) Daily Dispatch, Nov. 25, 1936, p. 9

    “Ends and Odds” by Wee Willie
    Famous Last Words … Wilbur Knudsen – “Well, cut my legs off and call me shorty.”

    San Antonio (Texas) Light, Jan. 1, 1938, p. 8
    “Once-Overs” by O.O. McIntyre
    Wilson Misner in the Klondyke days pulled the now current radio gag “Cut off my legs and call me Shorty!”

  24. (Sorry, make that Wilson Mizner.)

  25. Jeff Blakeslee says:

    In “Hoppy Go Lucky” (1952), a giant cat named Benny says something along the lines of “love him and pet him and squeeze him”, referring to a mouse that his friend Sylvester hopes to catch. Benny calls Sylvester “George” because “I can’t say Sylvester, George!”
    The original cartoon takeoff on Of Mice and Men is probably Tex Avery’s “Of Fox and Hounds” (1940) in which a big dog named Willoughby (an exaggerated Lon Chaney Jr. impression) meets a fox named George (who sounds and acts like Bugs Bunny). Willoughby really wants to catch a fox but he doesn’t mention loving, petting, etc. He does say “George” an awful lot, though.

  26. Sorry, for just posting links, but I believe they are relevant.
    TV Tropes, which carries listings of appearances of standard tropes across media forms, has an entry on “And call him George”
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AndCallHimGeorge
    There it is claimed:
    comes from the Looney Tunes shorts with the Abominable Snowman, a furry giant who would “adopt” fuzzy animals (like Bugs) and nearly smother them with adoration. He would always call his new pet “George.” (This is something of a Shout Out to the origin of the character, which was Lon Chaney Jr.’s portrayal of Lennie in Of Mice And Men.)
    Another Looney Tunes version of this occurs in “Hoppy Go Lucky” (1952), in which Sylvester the cat tries to catch Hippety Hopper as a pet for his large, dumb friend Bennie. In a neat twist, Bennie calls Sylvester “George”, even going so far as to utter the immortal line, “But I can’t say ‘Sylvester’, George.”

  27. There’s a Louis Armstrong song with the “call me Shorty” line… it also has “Well, cut off my hair and call me Baldy!”. That must be from the 30s or 40s…

  28. Wilson Gray says:

    Sheriff Mike Shaw of the old “Tom Mix” radio show of the ’40′s used the catchphrase,
    “Well, bow my legs and call me banty!”
    As a child in Texas, ca.1939-41, I used to hear,
    Lordy, Lordy!
    Nineteen-forty!
    Cut my legs
    And call me “Shorty”!

  29. But there are some little know secrets about the proper care of your Guinea Pigs that most people never learn
    Call ’em George!

  30. Guinea pigs are both lovable and edible.

  31. Guinea pigs are both lovable and edible.
    But unlike wabbits, they are not particularly wascally. On the other hand there are few rodents quite as awsum as the supersized capybara: in the unlikely event that a capybara decides to call you George, I recommend you answer.

  32. (Actually maybe not: I remembered them bigger than 65 kg.)

  33. My ex-wife once left the table at a Peruvian restaurant because someone ordered cuy (guinea pig) and when it came it was an entire guinea pig, limbs, head, and all, looking solemnly ahead (and, if I remember correctly, which I probably don’t, with its forepaws draped cunningly over the edge of the plate). It was quite a sight, and (by report) delicious.

  34. And here I was thinking your headline had something to do with George Clooney. Maybe because he’s always on our TV with his Nespresso ads. And there’s a song about him that’s fairly popular in Belgium: “Mais qu’est-ce qu’il a ce George”.

  35. Wikipedia: The top recorded weight is 105.4 kg (232 lbs)… Other fossil caviomorphs that were eight times the size of modern capybaras have been called “capybaras” by the popular press, but were actually dinomyids related to the pacarana.
    I blame Rupert Murdoch.

  36. If the truth about the fossil caviomorphs were known, the Republican Party would be shaken to its foundations.

  37. I sat down with my Human, this morning, to watch these cartoons, and all I can say about the Dog one is…it figures.
    A Spoiled Dog has too many bones, and too much time on its paws, or something like that. ;-D
    I know FLEAS smarter than that Mutt!
    Oh, and, um…my Daddy, The Mad Macedonian (http://www.madmacedonian.com), has the middle name of Giorgio, and his Father, born, and raised in the Macedonia region of the old Yugoslavia, was named Gorge. ;-D

  38. marie-lucie says:

    Other fossil caviomorphs … were actually dinomyids
    Very informative, I am sure.
    Coud dinomyid have dino as in dinosaur and my as in the word for “mouse”? so “monstrous mouse”?

  39. Does dynamite mean monstrous mouse?

  40. If you put “guinea pig recipes” into Google, and then go for Images…yes, they look remarkably like themselves, even fried or roasted. But they do look rather small…

  41. komfo,amonan says:

    The Onion once listed “Well, Treat my Williams!” as a “catch phrase that never caught on“. Still makes me laugh.

  42. Could dinomyid have dino as in dinosaur and my as in the word for “mouse”? so “monstrous mouse”?
    Does dynamite mean monstrous mouse?
    Dinomyid is the Linnean category to which Mighty Mouse belongs.
    Dynamite is a *tiny* dyna. Note the “-mite” suffix, as in widow’s mite and catamite.

  43. So a catamite is a tiny cat? Live and learn.

  44. A dyna is a quilt in Norwegian. I have a tiny dynamite. And in this weather.

  45. A small gey cat, actually. And a trilobite must be a small flute player.

  46. I don’t have any specific cites, but I know that Warner Brothers made some new Looney Tunes cartoons many years after their heyday, probably to give them more TV fodder. I’m guessing these would have been made in the 70s or 80s.
    They were, as a rule, cringeworthy facsimiles of their predecessors, lacking their charm and originality. Even as a kid, I knew thes were not my Looney Tunes cartoons.
    One of these was a kind of sequel to/remake of Hoppy Go Lucky. True to form, the dialogue in this version was a mangled copy of the original, and this is where I first heard the version of “love him and pet him” etc. that ended explicitly with “…and call him George.”
    As young as I was, this change to canon infuriated me, and it made me even angrier that this version was picked up by my friends at school. They were quoting something wrong! They were quoting a FRAUD, god damn it! (I was a pretty intense kid.)
    Sadly, this is the version that entered the popular vernacular, resulting in the form we see today.

  47. Even as a kid, I knew these were not my Looney Tunes cartoons.
    Probably kids are the best cartoon critics. They like things to be right. But they’re pretty conservative.

  48. As young as I was, this change to canon infuriated me, and it made me even angrier that this version was picked up by my friends at school. They were quoting something wrong!
    I like your style. Are you by any chance an editor?

  49. Trond Engen says:

    A dyna is a quilt in Norwegian.
    A ‘dyne’ (except for some western dialects). ‘Dyna’ is definite (except in those western dialects, where it’s ‘dyno’) since it’s feminine.
    I have a tiny dynamite. And in this weather.
    Joke from my childhood: “Har du dynamitt i senga?”

  50. Je pense donc je suis = jeg er dynamitt

  51. marie-lucie says:

    dyne must be related to “down”, the material in it, no?

  52. I’m sure. The Norwegian “y” sounds like ü in German, so the sound of the word is even more similar than the spelling is.

  53. Siganus Sutor says:

    In the excellent movie named after the “eponymous” novel*, Lenny is played by John Malkovich. I don’t know how tall Malkovich is — here and there it is said that he is around 6 feet, which is not that much —, but in the movie he looks like a giant. He must definitely be a great actor.
     
     
     
    * For me eponymous and eponym are treacherous words. Until I check, I’m never sure if the eponym is a) the first person/thing whose name was used to name the second or b) the second who was named after the first. And even after checking I am still confused. (The city of Athens was named after Athena, the goddess, that’s understood. But is Athens the eponymous city or is Athena the eponymous goddess?)
    In his post LH mentioned “Tex Avery’s 1946 “Screwy Squirrel” cartoon “Lonesome Lenny,” in which the eponymous lonesome dog greets his new pet Screwy Squirrel”. In this case, who’s the eponym? According to the AHD it is “2. A person whose name is or is thought to be the source of the name of something.” So it would be Steinbeck’s Lenny who is the eponym. (In French, from which the English word is supposed to come, éponyme (adj.) means “who gives is name to”.) So, who is eponymous here, the dog or the human being, the movie or the book?
    ***Goes into the kitchen to fetch some aspirin…***
     
     
     
    _________________________
    Hoy, Emersonj, what happened to your Idiocentrism? While trying to go there from this new trollblog of yours here’s what I got:
    Erreur DNS. Impossible de trouver le serveur.
    Google Oups ! Petit problème… Ce lien semble corrompu.

    Ach! Corruption is everywhere nowadays…

  54. Nice to see you here again, Siganus!
    I have a hosting problem which I hope to revolve shortly (by switching hosts). I don’t know the nature of the problem but my old host was overpriced and had few redeeming qualities anyway.

  55. Didn’t English get it from Greek? I know I first heard the word at school while being told about the eponymous archon.

  56. Didn’t English get it from Greek? I know I first heard the word at school while being told about the eponymous archon.

  57. my old host was overpriced
    You are actually paying for a website? I thought nowadays what was offered free of charge was more than enough for a blog. (Steve, are you paying for your blog as well?)
     
     
    Kron: Didn’t English get it from Greek?
    Ultimately yes (from epônumos, i.e. epi, upon, in addition, and onoma, name), like everybody else. But on thefreedictionary.com page I linked to, which quotes the AHD, it is suggested that the English word was borrowed from French.
    Regarding the eponymous archons, didn’t they give their name to the year during which they were in office? Therefore it is to them that the adjective eponymous applies, not to the year which is named after each of them.
    This is in line with what Dauzat et al. say at éponyme: “désigne celui qui donne son nom à quelque chose” (refers to the one who gives his name to something), and this is also what Petit Robert says (by the way using “Athena, eponymous goddess of Athens” as an example). At eponym he SOED says “One who gives, or is supposed to give, his name to a people, place, or institution”, taking as example “Pelops is the eponym or name-giver of Peloponnesus”.
    Therefore, when LH mentions the “eponymous dog”, I’m getting a bit confused since the name-giver is the man (well, at least the man-character in Steinbeck’s novel), not the four-legged cartoon character who pats the squirrel. But I suppose in contemporary language eponymous has come to mean “having the same name”.
    _________
    Incidentally, in my comment above it should have been: éponyme (adj.) means “who gives his name to”.

  58. marie-lucie says:

    Siganus, there is a difference in complexity between blogs, hence the variation in price, from 0 to … (whatever, I haven’t tried i myself).

  59. Steve, are you paying for your blog as well?
    Yes, I started with a free Blogspot blog but it kept losing comments and the archive would disappear for days and I finally decided I needed more control and security. I’ve been very happy with my host, insiderhosting.com.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, LH, your blog is extremely well-organized among other reasons to recommend it.

  61. I would say that it is mostly due to the organizer himself.
    And, er, as a matter of curiosity*, how much does it cost per month/year?
     
     
    * luckily I’m a rabbit-fish, not a cat

  62. Idiocentrism is a handcrafted website, not like these funky prefab websites. I started in 2002 and have stuck with the highly non-ideal method I worked out then.

  63. SiG: Regarding the eponymous archons, didn’t they give their name to the year during which they were in office? Therefore it is to them that the adjective eponymous applies, not to the year which is named after each of them.
    Yes, you’re right. But it’s one of those things like “to substitute X for Y”: once you start worrying about what it means & whether the writer means the same as you you can never understand it, but before you started worrying you never had any trouble. So I’m going to pretend you never mentioned eponymous.

  64. John, I’ve got to say I don’t like your front page. I like the images a lot, but I never know what my options are: where stuff is, what’s available and what’s new, where I can go & so on. Just my opinion.

  65. Well, not all handcrafted things are crafted well. I never made that claim.
    Nothing on Idiocentrism has been new for some time. Basically the archive link will be the place to go when I get it going again. I’ll tweak things to make the site slightly more user-friendly.
    Canada won and that’s a relief to me. I’m not quite an anti-patriot but darn near. I do tend to too for Minnesotans, but not so much on the hockey team.

  66. It’s $15/month. Used to be $10 till I needed the extra bandwidth.

  67. You could also let us know on your front page whether you’ve got any other blogs going.

  68. Nope, this is my only child.

  69. Sorry, Language, I didn’t mean you. Your front page is very clear and the whole is beautifully organised, as m-l said. I meant John Emerson. I’ve seen him make guest appearances at other sites besides Idiocentrism, so he should paste up his tour dates somewhere.

  70. Siganus Sutor says:

    The extra bandwidth is because you have too many visitors? (Who sometimes drop silly comments.)
    15 dollars? That’s not far from 500 rupees. It’s a bit of money for some people.
     
     
    Arthur: once you start worrying about what it means & whether the writer means the same as you you can never understand it, but before you started worrying you never had any trouble
    Exactement !

  71. The extra bandwidth is because you have too many visitors?
    Yup. Everything was hunky-dory until all these damn people started showing up. Nobody told me when I started blogging that anybody would actually read it!

  72. It’s a bit of money for some people.
    Well, it’s a bit of money for me, too, but I consider it a necessity. And what with the Amazon referral gift certificates, it pretty much pays for itself, if you assume I would have bought the books anyway (or books of equivalent value) with my own money, which is a pretty safe assumption.

  73. I’m not sure why Sig is thinking about changing, but WordPress has had a rocky week, yesterday going down for almost two hours. They were down last week too for almost an hour. They just got some huge new customer, so I suspect they will have some bugs to iron out before it all stops. I remember their fiasco with the image upgrades a couple years ago; I had to use blogger for my class for several weeks, but it’s fine now. So far no one has demanded a refund; I suppose that’s part of what you have to put up with when you have a free blog.

  74. The other problem with WordPress is that you can’t use it to make any profit, since WordPress already does that with your blog (you won’t see the ads yourself, but other people will see ads on your blog unless they use Firefox.)My little blog probably doesn’t have enough traffic to make any money from google ads anyhow.

  75. I was worried to discover that I had named my daughter not, as I thought, after a joke in the Book of Ruth, but a relative of the guinea pig.

  76. Well i think anyone who names their daughter Capybara is asking for trouble when the child reaches school age.

  77. marie-lucie says:

    I had never heard of the mara, which looks like a mix of rabbit, dog, kangaroo, and some other undefinable animal.

  78. My daughter saw lots of maras last week at the Barcelona zoo. She says they were “flopping around”.

  79. Oprah Winfrey got her name from the book of Ruth, too, I believe.

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