Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Closing of the American Mind (Jazz Version)

Whenever I listen to my Ella Fitzgerald CD, I want to comment on this. Here are the opening lyrics of the Cole Porter song Just One of Those Things:

As Dorothy Parker once said to her boy friend,
"Fare thee well,"
As Columbus announced when he knew he was bounced,
"It was swell, Isabelle, swell,"
As Abélard said to Héloïse,
"Don't forget to drop a line to me, please,"
As Juliet cried in her Romeo's ear,
"Romeo, why not face the fact, my dear?"

This was written in 1935, the depths of the Depression. At that time, these references were considered intelligible enough to use in popular culture. Can you imagine such a thing today?


  1. People are sadly lacking in general knowledge today, James. Do you know that they've stopped teaching Greek Mythology in schools? If it wasn't for Percy Jackson, kids wouldn't know anything about Greek Mythology.

    On the other hand, I don't get most of thoses references in the lyrics either.

  2. @Gary:

    All can be Googled, of course. I would consider them roughly, in order from least to most obscure: Romeo and Juliet (surely you get THAT one?), Columbus and Isabella (who had an apocryphal affair), Dorothy Parker (a famously "liberated" woman and writer of the first half of the 20th century), and Abelard and Heloise (about whose story you can read here:

  3. Of course I've read Romeo and Juliet, but I don't know what line from the play they are paraphrasing (completely modernizing) in that song

    Google? What's that? :P ;)