Posted by Smokey Stover, a.k.a. somebody on August 24, 2007
In Reply to: Picky-picky posted by Lewis on August 24, 2007
: : : : : : : : : What does "Dancing in the dark" mean? Where did the phrase originate? I have searched the web (this site included) and cannot find it. Is the meaning so obvious that no one thinks it needs explaining? Most of the phrases I see explained on the web are ones I already know: I am well educated and a compulsive reader. But I've never been able to understand this phrase that's so common Bruce Springsteen wrote an entire song about it! Please help!
: : : : : : : : Since you have searched this phrase with no success, I doubt that I would have any greater luck. So I'll go ahead with my theory that your suggestion is correct, that the meaning is so obvious as to require no explanation.
: : : : : : : : The earliest appearance of the phrase that I know of is the 1931 song by Arthur Schwartz (music) and Howard Dietz (lyrics). It appeared in the 1931 revue, "The Band Wagon," and reappeared in the 1953 film of the same title.
: : : : : : : : Lyricists are poets, often with a wonderful feeling for words and a good imagination. Dietz may have simply coined this phrase to express the feeling one gets from dancing in the dark--presumably a very romantic experience, with shared intimacy in the privacy of the dark. Even if dancing in the dark doesn't do anything for you personally, the poet conveys that it does for some people, and renders it romantic-sounding, reality aside.
: : : : : : : : If the phrase sounds like a common cliché it's probably because the song has been immensely popular, deservedly so. It has become a "pops standard," recorded by a who's who of pop singers. It is hard not to have heard the phrase, even if only as the beginning of a song.
: : : : : : : : SS
: : : : : : : Nobody has mentioned the Bruce Springsteen record (of about 1984) which I think made number 1.
: : : : : : : "Can't light a fire without a spark...
: : : : : : : ...dancing in the dark"
: : : : : : : (cue saxophone)
: : : : : : : L
: : : : : : The first post mentions it rather prominently. (^_^)
: : : : : Mel Brooks does a very funny riff about the leading cause of death among Jews vacationing in the Catskills is sitting on the porch, and starting to sing "Dancing in the Dark" in a key that seems normal at first. The song goes higher and higher and higher, and eventually they fall over dead from the strain. (Try singing it and you'll see....)
: : : : whoops! read straight through that. D'Oh!
: : : : L
: : : You can't win today, Lewis. Your spelling, "D'oh," is heterodox at best. Bart Simpson's pronunciation aside, the word began it's long tour of duty as an expression used by Mortimer Snerd. He was Edgar Bergen's rustic creation, a colorfully-dressed hayseed completely baffled by even the simplest of the accouterments of modern life. He could never quite grasp the obvious. His "Duh" was his way of saying "Uh," when something obvious was explained to him, caused by his holding his mouth funny, after which he often said, "Who'd a thunk it?"
: : : Mortimer Snerd's personality was a great and deliberate contrast to that of Charlie McCarthy, who was debonair, cosmopolitan, dressed to the nines as though for some very formal function (complete with top hat and red sash), sharp in intellect and speech, and tending to cut people down with wisecracks and sarcasm.
: : : SS
: : Heterodox? I must rush to Lewis's defense. The OED seems to prefer the spelling "D'oh," although "Duh" makes more sense to me. It was around long before "D'oh." Apparently Bart Simpson sets the fashion nowadays. He's the new Mortimer Snerd - and th ere's another modern cliché for you. Pink is the new black, and all that. ~rb
: BTW -somebody used "it's" the truncated "it is" instead of the possessive "its" above. Just thought I'd mention it before Lynn Truss comes on here in high dudgeon.
: Somebody else's turn to decide between "Duh!" and "D'Oh!" (I see it that way more often than with the lower-case "oh!"
Yes, it is I that incorrectly used "it's" for "its." Can't say it's the first time, either. Or its. I even mistakenly type "there" for "their" all too frequently, and vice versa. I find that the little box in which we type our posts tends to stifle my ability to proof my own writing. If you like to spot variability in spelling, I commend to you the original version of Spenser's Faerie Queen. It's truly a revelation in terms of Spenser's spelling.
One more thing. If our British friends are insufficiently acquainted with Mortimer Snerd it's not surprising. He was not really at home on television. Edgar Bergen, his creator (1903-78), started his ventriloquial career in vaudeville, and found his stride in radio, on which he had his own show from 1937 to 1956. It was sometimes called the Charlie McCarthy Show, sometimes the Chase and Sanborn Hour. We know how Charlie and Mortimer looked because the show or its characters also appeared in various movies and in guest spots on television. Bergen had his own show, briefly, but his memory lingers because of the radio shows.
His memory lingers also because of his daughter Candice, who starred for a time in her own television show, Murphy Brown, for which she earned five Emmys before declining further nominations. Her performance on another show, Boston Legal, won her another Emmy. She has had numerous other appearances in movies and television. (I caught a few glimpses of her in person when she was an undergraduate at Penn, before she was asked to leave.)