Novelty Songs – WIF Style

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10 Novelty Songs


A Unique Look

Recently, we listed 10 of our favorite novelty songs, and it immediately became apparent that 10 songs are not enough!  There are just too many good ones out there, and so here are 10 more of our favorites.  As always, feel free to mention any we may have forgotten or not yet gotten to.

Story side B…

10. “My Ding-a-Ling,” Chuck Berry, 1972.

A #1 hit for Chuck, his only song to reach that position, this slightly risqué song teases you with sexual innuendo.  More importantly, however, this song provides the basis for a knock-off version I personally made up called “My Yuengling,” obviously about my favorite beer. (No, “my” song is not available for sale or downloading!)

9. “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” Brian Hyland, 1960.

Another of the many novelty songs to top the charts, Hyland sings about a bashful girl who is “afraid to come out of the water” in her bikini. (Brian Hyland has to be one of the least recognized great rock and rollers in history, at least by the hoi polloi.)

8. “She Can’t Find Her Keys,” Paul Petersen, 1962.

This is a song about a young man waiting in vain for his goodnight kiss from his date who is emptying her purse of an incredible (and funny) array of objects while attempting to find her keys.  Petersen’s biggest hit was “My Dad,” a great song but not a novelty.  In the 1950s, he had starred with Shelley Fabares on the Donna Reed Show.  Fabares also had a hit song in 1962 with “Johnny Angel.”

7. “Pink Shoe Laces,” Dodie Stevens, 1959.

In this song, Dodie Stevens sings about her boyfriend, Dooley, whose odd taste in fashion gets him in trouble with the Army when he is drafted.  Dooley even ends up requesting to be buried in his “tan shoes with pink shoe laces…. And a big Panama with a purple hat band.”  Incredibly, Stevens (not her real name) was only 13 when she recorded this song.

6. “Beep Beep,” The Playmates, 1958.

Sung about a race between a “little Nash Rambler” and a Cadillac, this is a cute little song that went to #3 on the charts and sold over a million copies.  Because of goofy British laws, the song had to be modified for play in the UK by deleting the brand names of the cars and replacing them with “limousine” and “bubble car.”

5. “Dinah-Moe Humm,” Frank Zappa, 1973.

If you are into “different,” this is it.  A song about making a woman “come” (sic…) on a bet, it is not for prudes or young children.  For open-minded adults, though, it is pretty funny.  As a child, Zappa’s sinus problems were treated by having radium pellets inserted up his nose.  Perhaps that is where he got his oddball ideas from!  Not surprisingly, and perhaps as a result, he died of cancer (prostate) at age 52.

4. “The Streak,” Ray Stevens, 1974.

Capitalizing on the fad of running around naked known as “streaking,” Stevens put his novelty-song talent to good use and took this song to #1 on the charts.  Look out, Ethel!  Honorable Mention to “Gitarzan.”

3. “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, Rolf Harris, 1960.

Reaching #1 in Australia in 1960, this song was released in the U.S. in 1963 and made it all the way to #3 there.  Distinctly Australian in sound and tone, it is about an “Old Australian stockman” who is dying and leaves his last wishes.  After  “Waltzing Matilda,” it is this song that is most closely associated with the land Down Under.

2. “Lunchlady Land,” Adam Sandler, 1993.

This tune about the trials and tribulations of the venerable “Lunch Lady” (who ends up married to “Sloppy Joe“) appeared on Sandler’s 1993 comedy album They’re All Gonna Laugh at You as well as on the late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live.  Done in a sort of quasi Bruce Springsteen sort of way, we feel this is Sandler at his best, although we must give honorable mention to the his“Chanukah Songs.”

1. “Wet Dream,” Kip Addotta, 1984.

This is an absolutely hysterical spoken song that uses multiple aquatic references as double entendres.  Since “Kip” is actually the comedian’s birth name, it seems his comedic streak was preordained.  He truly is a funny guy.

Novelty Songs

– WIF Style

World Wide Words Issue 903 – WIF Style

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World Wide Words

Issue 903: 13 November 2014

Feedback, Notes and Comments

Lilly-lo.  Following my discussion of this British regional term last time, several readers were reminded of the German word lichterloh, meaning burning brightly. There are also parallels in Scandinavian languages, such as the Danish lille lue, small flame, which suggest that the first element may actually be a survivor of an ancient Scandinavian import.

I’ve expanded the piece and put it online here .

Boot and trunk. As a footnote to our discussions, a reader named Ian wrote, “A colleague told me that he once said the following at a car rental desk in the States: ‘I hired a car here a fortnight ago, and I think I left a pushchair in the boot’. He was greeted by a blank stare.” Puzzled British readers may like a translation into American: “I rented a car here two weeks ago, and I think I left a stroller in the trunk.”


Improved search. The back-issue archive at the new list server doesn’t have a search facility. So I’ve added one to the custom search box on every page of the website. Successful searches will display a plain-text file of one month’s issues. You may need to use your browser’s search function to find what you’re looking for within the file.


Q. I was in India recently at the time shortly after Diwali when very many weddings take place. There were festive wedding processions everywhere. Each featured the groom riding on a white horse to collect his bride. It got me wondering about whether groom in this sense has anything to do with taking care of a horse. Or maybe that’s what the groomsmen are supposed to do? [Ellen Smithee]

A. Groom is common as a short form of bridegroom . How a word that we now use for a man who looks after horses came to be linked to one half of a marrying couple is a classic story of popular misunderstandings — folk etymology — that cause language to evolve in unpredictable ways.

In Old English, a bridegroom was a brydguma, a compound of bryd, a bride, and guma, a man. Guma, which is related to Latin homo , was a poetic term for a man, which turns up in the epic poem Beowulf, as does another version of the same word, gome.

Beowulf (/ˈb.ɵwʊlf/; in Old English [ˈbeːo̯wʊlf] or [ˈbeːəwʊlf]) is the conventional title[1] of an Old English epic poem consisting of 3182alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, the oldest surviving epic poem of Old English and thus commonly cited as one of the most important works ofAnglo-Saxon literature, and also arguably the earliest vernacular English literature.[2] Wikipedia


By the sixteenth century brydguma had become brydegome (though the spelling was variable). This was starting to look puzzling, because gome had become obsolete, and people didn’t connect it with that old word for a man. On the other hand, they did have groom.

In the twelfth century, this had been a term for a boy or lad, with something of the colloquial informality about it that kid still possesses, though it could only refer to a male child. Where it comes from is a mystery. Two centuries later it had grown up to mean an adult man, but it had also taken on the idea of a menial male, a serving-man or manservant. In the 1500s and 1600s it could also mean a shepherd, sometimes in the extended herd-groom. Our sense of a servant who attends specifically to horses developed in the seventeenth century. People casting about in the sixteenth century in an attempt to make sense of this mysterious old word gome seized upon groom as an alternative, despite its often inappropriate associations.

A very few grooms had by then gone up in the world. Servants in the English royal household had titles such as Groom of the Privy Chamber, Groom of the Stool and Groom-in-Waiting, all of which survived into the nineteenth century. They were notionally menial — for example, the Groom of the Stool was an intimate body servant, as you may guess from stool (from close-stool) meaning a commode — but in reality they were high-status posts because of the close association with the monarch they provided. However, I doubt whether the person in the street knew much about these unique positions.

Groomsman, by the way, appeared around 1700 as the male equivalent of the bridesmaid. Before then the attendant on the groom was a bridesman or brideman. This is odd to us today, but from ancient times, compounds that began with bride- had often been used for a wedding, not specifically a bride. As with gome, people in time lost that connection and changed bridesman to groomsman to make it clear which person was being attended.


In view of the story above, the misprint that Al Segall spotted in a story in Jerusalem Online on 8 November seems relevant: “Welcoming the bridge and the groom back from the hospital.”



Another misprint suggested an unwise remembrance. John Straford tells us from Australia that his wife had received an invitation to an open day, which announced, “We will be commemorating Dame Nellie Melba with the unveiling of a plague in her honour.”

And Barry Prince found yet another in a subhead to a story in the Express online about Frank Zappa: “Fans of rock’s most avant grade figure will adore this 40th anniversary re-release of his cult 1974 album.” The French language police will be after him.

Zappa with Captain Beefheart, seated left, during a 1975 concert

Steve Cray and Bruce Ackerman noted this unfortunate sentence in the Mail online on 8 November (later understandably changed): “Robin Williams’ devastated widow was questioned whether he had practiced auto-erotica following his death, the Coroners report yesterday revealed.”

The headline John Emery saw in the police beat column of the Ellsworth American on 31 October didn’t sound quite so daft once he had read the story underneath: “Bottle in bathroom brings charge against local man.”

Almost equally puzzling was the headline that Sue Freivald found on the Fox News site on 11 November: “Man who took phone from a woman killed by train in custody”.

World Wide Words Issue 903

– WIF Style