Lions and Tigers and Construction Workers. Oh, my! (And Other Zingers)

Literature Blogs

As we have eves and gutter guys snipping and drilling on the outside of our house, the siding guy going around finishing up siding stuff, and two carpet layers laying away in the bedroom, I thought, “Gutters and siding and carpet. Oh, my!” I’m sure I’ve already fallen back on a similar twisted expression in an earlier post, however, this time I started thinking about word choice, like L.Frank Baum’s word choice of “Lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my.” I wonder how long it took him to work those seven little words to get the rhythm and sound just so?

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written in 1900, and people (well, me, at least) are still quoting from it. Pardon me while I pick up my jaw from the floor. I want to write zinger phrases like that in my own writing, phrases which people will be quoting long after I’m dead. How long will I have to work at seven little words to get them right?

But I started thinking about just why that particular phrase is so memorable. Is it because of the rhythm? Or perhaps the 1939 musical? (Back of my hand lifting chin to proper place once more.) Or is it because of the repetition of a simple phrase drilled over and over into us? Maybe it has to do with the heightened emotion of fear and “Oh, no! Will Dorothy ever be safe?”

Why do you think the phrase lives on? And for that matter, what are some of your favorite zingers from books or movies?

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