'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
OH WELL, THAT’S JUST BILLY BEING SILLY
There’s a new expression in our culture that is used to excuse a person’s annoying behavior: “Oh well, that’s just Freddy being Freddy.” (This particular variation of the expression works best if the person’s name is indeed Freddy. If his name is, say, Bobby, you would use a different variation of the expression. Hint: it would not be, “Oh well, that’s just Davy being Davy.”)
I first heard this expression a couple of years ago to describe the Boston Red Sox’ Manny Ramirez, one of baseball’s most talented hitters. Manny can hit home runs in his sleep, but he plays left field as if he really is asleep. So whenever Manny does something incredibly silly, such as wave to people in the stands and be completely oblivious to the bases-clearing triple bouncing past him, the announcers often chuckle and say, “Oh well, that’s just Manny being Manny.” (I suspect the pitcher, who just got charged with three earned runs, does not chuckle quite as much.)
I’ve heard this expression used prominently in the past couple of weeks. First, when Vice President Dick Cheney blasted his good friend with a shotgun (makes you wonder what he does to people he dislikes), and then threw the Washington press corps into a snit by refusing to talk about the incident for many days, political commentators rolled their eyes and said, “Oh well, that’s just Cheney being Cheney.”
Next, I heard the expression used to describe Olympic skier Bode Miller. Many experts predicted that Bode would win five medals at the Winter Olympics, at least three of them gold. As it turned out, Bode couldn’t win a gumball in the lobby of a Wal-Mart with a pocket full of quarters. Although he missed out on medals, Bode reportedly did not miss out on happy hour at many Torino-area taverns. He didn’t miss too many last calls at these taverns either.
As Bode slept late, skipped team meetings, and looked rather glassy-eyed and groggy throughout the Olympic fortnight, his coaches and fans shrugged their shoulders and said, “Oh well, that’s just Bode being Bode.”
I’m sure the sports apparel company Nike was thrilled that they chose Bode to be the centerpiece of a multi-million dollar marketing campaign with the catchy slogan, “Join Bode.” Countless sports fans were compelled to ask the rhetorical question, “Join Bode where, at the Betty Ford Clinic?”
I’m not quite sure whether I like this particular expression. On the one hand, it really lets people off the hook for behavior that is simply unacceptable. I mean, when tanks and dive bombers blitzed into Poland, the world did not chuckle and say, “Oh well, that’s just Hitler being Hitler.” It seems that certain behaviors should not be dismissed so casually.
But on the other hand, if a person has a lifelong habit of being a jerk, then it’s pretty unlikely he will change his ways anytime soon. And if the person’s occupation is one that practically requires him to be a jerk—for example, professional athlete, politician, or Hollywood celebrity—then what good does it do to get upset and frustrated when he does something annoying? Maybe our best response is to shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh well, that’s just Clooney being Clooney.”
I can’t make up my mind whether I like this expression or not. Is it clever, or is it stupid? Is it a good stress-reducing technique, or is it a copout? I just don’t know. I can’t make a decision. Which means my friends and family once again will say, “Oh well, that’s just Billy being Billy.”
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