Telling the 'big lie'

David Christy

Americans are a people of sayings and colloquialisms, jokes and memorable movie lines.

And if you think spelling colloquialism early in the morning is easy, well … you try it.

We all use them in offhand, everyday conversations, and sometimes don’t even realize it.

We use lines from movies all the time, to make a point, to be funny, to end a conversation.

We have people like Bill Shakespeare to thank for some, great novelists and more than a few from award-winning movies.

And some, made up by just plain old folks.

Seems like Southerners are the most eloquent.

Ever seen someone have a “hissy fit”?

Ever “run around like a chicken with your head cut off”?

Well, that was a big one with my mom.

Apparently, I did a lot of that when I was growing up in Waukomis, America.

Found a few online I hadn’t heard for many, many years, mainly from my Grandma Christy. She was full of them, from her Southern roots in Virginia, Texas and Southwest Oklahoma.

Ever heard this one?: “He’s so cheap he wouldn’t give a nickel to see Jesus ridin’ a bicycle.”

Or these two, about a total lack of any financial wealth: “I’m so poor, I can’t afford to pay attention,” or “I was so poor, I had a tumbleweed as a pet.”

That’s gotta be a 1930s Great Depression phrase.

Or, “it was so hot, I almost burst into flames.”

Sorry, that was mine I slipped in, because Wednesday (111 heat index) I really thought, while out in the sun, I was going to burst into flames.

But movie lines seem to be our favorite.

I mean, who hasn’t used a famous movie line like “Here’s Johnny!”?

That chilling yet funny line from “The Shining” is a classic double meaning. Jack Nicholson’s character was there to kill Shelley Duvall, yet it also was a funny classic Johnny Carson intro, in a twisted way.

Ever used this one?: “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Chilling when Marlon Brando said it in “The Godfather,” yet kind of grandfatherly in a way, despite his Mafia background.

“Go ahead, make my day.” When Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry said it, it always seemed to me to have multiple meanings.

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” from the classic “Wizard of Oz” — I have to admit I’ve used that one more than a few times over the years.

My favorite actor, Strother Martin, used a line in “Cool Hand Luke” that had more than one meaning, both serious and amusing at the same time: “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

Yep, I can identify with that one.

Or the chilling yet sardonic line uttered by Robert Duvall in “Apocalypse Now”: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

There is no more chilling, yet at the same time having more than one meaning than this line by Anthony Hopkins’ character Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs”: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

And who hasn’t used this as a funny line (I’m guilty): “Bond. James Bond,” from “Dr. No.”

Dead pan and funny at the same time, which makes for a great statement, a great line.

“I’m walking here, I’m walking here,” says Dustin Hoffman’s character in the classic “Midnight Cowboy.” It was painful, serious and funny all at the same time, and was 100% improvised by the actor, playing the tragic, iconic New Yorker, Ratso Rizzo.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” says Roy Scheider’s character in “Jaws.” Again, serious, perilous and funny all at the same time.

Again, actor Jack Nichol­son is probably my all-time favorite for turning his lines from reality to intensely emotional.

In the award-winning “A Few Good Men,” Jack uses his bigger-than-life screen presence to dominate the tense courtroom scene with Tom Cruise — “You can’t handle the truth.”

Used that one myself a time or two.

Or again, Nicholson, who can convey more with his exceptional facial expressions than any actor we’ve ever seen on the silver screen, like his characters in “Easy Rider” or “Five Easy Pieces.”

Jack has priceless expressions when he gets on a movie screen.

Bet some of you out there have used this one from Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump”: “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Or this serious/funny line from Hanks as a coach in “A League of Their Own”: “There’s no crying in baseball.”

So, not sure you like this week’s column?

With apologies to Clark Gable, Rhett Butler and “Gone With the Wind,” “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” … LOL!

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Christy is news editor in charge of the layout desk and a columnist for the Enid News & Eagle.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for David? Send an email to davidc@enidnews.com.

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3rd-generation journalist, Univ. of Oklahoma School of Journalism 1968-1972, OU Sports Information Office, sports editor Sherman (Texas) Democrat, editor weekly Waukomis Hornet, news editor Enid News & Eagle. Retired 27-year volunteer firefighter and EMT.