Thinking, in the back of a southbound car, looking at the high and unbothering clouds, about people and the things they say. Let me narrow that down a touch: people who’ve developed their own catchphrases in life; the little and constant expressions that they have made their own. And thinking on both the fact that they do and how they ever came to – with particular wonderings as to what age, what stage in one’s life (and in what kind of life?) does one decide, or drift, into catchphrase ownership – for everything must begin sometime, somehow.
I know a fellow* whose catchphrase is ‘Never Better!’: his response to any and every alright?, how you doin’?, how’s it goin’?; delivered with such a ready-steady tautness that no oxygen is given to irony, self-consciousness or playful variation, except perhaps in the mind of the odd receiver who walks on, maybe, with a little wonder if this spring-heeler is actually saying something that’s more trough than peak in its definitiveness (really, things never seem to get any better) – which brings one quickly to a point of awareness of the state of one’s own lens on life, to have had such a notion at all.
Did Never Better, the person, try out this line in a lined-up control of other options, when a young man – and I’m minded to believe that catchphrases are a very-mainly male characteristic – did he have it from his father, mother, a college bestie? How readily formed in adult working life must a catchphrase be to carry it off at all? Very, I imagine – elsewise others are in on its inception and development, and there would be nothing much personal about that.
I am interested – to the point of its being my sucky travel sweet for this bit of the car journey – in how anyone sets out; in the first attempt, the trembling diarising at bedtime – today for the first time I said ‘Fare to Middleton’ when somebody asked how I was. Went v. well – and how, and as to what type of person one must be – which I’m tempted to simplify as clownish or repressed, or both, or frankly just busily economical (Never Better slots best in to the latter), but know enough fellows with phrases to know there’s no one sort, aside from them all knowing me, and I don’t have one at all.
I tried as a school child to create my own thing, but I caved at the first ‘what do you keep saying that for?’, and in hindsight (which began as the uncommitted Beano-ism snaked from my David Platt-Tilsley sneer (and the Beano mention is key, as comics and their characters were how I navigated)) it was an unsustainable pun of a thing, the like of which was later wheeled out on Colin Hunt’s office trolley, or on North Norfolk Digital, come to that. Is there time enough yet to try over with another? How old must one be to shelve all plans for a catchphrase?
*I am re-reading Mark E Smith’s rollicking rock tales, Renegade, and enjoying his use of ‘fellow’.
© Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2013