Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bondage Through The Ages

Nice, and not too expensive.


Growing up, I was infrequently subjected to the bizarre ritual of boys reciting Monty Python lines to each other. One would break out with a declaration that
Strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Another would respond, with a gleam in his eye
We are the Knights who say "Ni"!
To which the retort rang out
No! Not the Knights who say "Ni"! Those who see them seldom live to tell the tale!
Then the query
Oh Knights of Ni, we are simple travelers who seek the land beyond this forest. May we pass?
Retort:
Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! We shall say "Ni" to you if you do not appease us.
Query:
But... what is it you want?
Answer:
We want..... A SHRUBBERY!!!!
Gales of laughter would greet this pronouncement. Then one particularly adept boy would proclaim boldly:
What sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.
To which his friend would inevitably reply
Did you say shrubberies?
This was guaranteed to elicit the response
Yes, shrubberies are my trade. I am a shrubber. My name is Roger the Shrubber. I arrange, design, and sell shrubberies.
My experience clearly was not an isolated phenomenon. Google reveals 2,060,000 search results for boys who recite monty python lines. Madness, I tell you, madness. At least, I thought so until I got older and began quoting favorite lines from movies to friends.

These shared little bits of cultural literacy are the golden chains of friendship. I was reminded of that recently when we went out to dinner with a friend and her husband. He seemed like a nice person, but was somewhat detached from the conversation until I made a chance remark. One of us had mentioned all the Russian immigrant students who go to our kids' schools. Then someone made a joke that they were taking over the Pacific Northwest, so we'd better all learn Russian. Without even really thinking about it, I blurted out "Wolverines!" This man's face lit up like he'd just received the best present ever. He laughed and became more engaged in the discussion.

After 25 years together, Professor X and I have lots of private jokes that we've shared. All sorts of crazy experiences can be summed up in a word or a phrase - e.g. Sidney, Nebraska (we can laugh about it now), or "there's an egg on my food!" - to recall events from previous decades. Someday I may even reveal the details on those to you, dear readers.

Movies, plays, songs, literature and other cultural pastimes can tie us to one another. I've even heard that recounting details of feats of prowess at athletic events can serve this function, although how that might work eludes me.

Consider the phrase "But why is the rum gone?" Did you hear the plaintive voice of Johnny Depp as Cap'n Jack Sparrow? Did it make you grin? You and I are soulmates.

When law student John Manningham departed Middle Temple Hall the night of February 2, 1601 he wrote in his diary

"Feb 2 at our feast (Candlemas) we had a play called Twelfth Night or What you will, much like the Comedy of Errors or Menechmi in Plautus... A good practise is it to make the steward beleeve his Lady widdowe was in Love with him by couterfayting a lettre, as from his Lady, in general termes, telling him what shee liked best in him and prescribing his gesture in smiling his apparraile etc. And then when he came to practise, making him beleeve they took him to be mad."

I like to think of John and his fellow playgoers making passing reference to the play over subsequent months and years, commenting that "some are born great" only to have another reply with a wink that "some have greatness thrust upon 'em." That seems plausible, doesn't it?


My son's Facebook page quote reads:
"We are the knights who say... Ni!" "The knights who say Ni?" "THE same!"

And so it continues.

What are some of your favorite lines? Share them, so we can bond!
Also, five points to the first person to identify the source of the Wolverines line.

8 comments:

phd in yogurtry said...

I fart in your general direction!


Many, many, many hilarious memories associated with a wild, wintry weekend in the Pocono Mountains with Monty Python on the tube.

Brian K. Wingate said...

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

Kathy Amen said...

But, then, NO ONE ever expects the Spanish Inquisition!*

*Does double-duty as important quote from Sliding Doors 8-).

Happy New Year, FF and fam!

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I couldn't get past the rum quote. Johnny is just so perfect in that role.

:)

(See you tonight?)

Shana said...

Red Dawn! Did I win?

Shana said...

Why, it appears I did! Boo yah!

Also, I shall confess to you, here in private, so no one else will know, that recently Red Dawn was on TV (you know, free TV, because we have no cable TV), and I Tivo'ed it. And have saved it. And by *recently* I mean April 2009.

Happy New Year : )

CashmereLibrarian said...

Yes, my family has our own language created of movie quotes! Monty Python is a favorite, as is Austin Powers and The Pink Panther movies. Then there's some really arcane references, to the Muppets and Ernest P. Worrell.

Bee said...

When I was first married to an English man we went to a dinner party with lots of other English people. Most of the "conversation" consisted of trading Monty Python lines back and forth. It was sort of cute; but also sort of annoying.

I completely agree with your thesis, but one of my sad shortcomings is the complete inability to remember jokes or words of dialogue.