On The Road Again (1965) part 2: The shitting Pope


by Jochen Markhorst

On The Road Again (1965) part I: I don’t know why everyone is so rude

The shitting Pope

Well, I asked for something to eat
I’m hungry as a hog
So I get brown rice, seaweed
And a dirty hot dog
I’ve got a hole
Where my stomach disappeared
Then you ask why I don’t live here
Honey, I gotta think you’re really weird

The sleazebag Jackie Treehorne asks if Jeffrey Lebowski wants another White Russian, and The Dude replies with one of the most beloved malaphors since: “Does the Pope shit in the woods?”

It is not a Dude original. The origin of the witty mixture (of the sarcastic retorts is the Pope a Catholic and do bears shit in the woods) is unknown, but in any case arguably older than The Big Lebowski (1998). Jeff Bridges’ stellar starring role while quoting this particular malaphor undoubtedly contributed greatly to its popularity, however.

The popularity of mangled expressions is, of course, centuries old. In the 19th century, the British called it Dundrearyisms, after the side character Lord Dundreary in Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin (1858), the play Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated. History does not mention it, but presumably Lincoln also chuckled at Lord Dundreary’s wisecracks like birds of a feather gather no moss and a stitch in time never boils. Even more amusing are the accidental malaphors. Mr. Trump tweeting, “It’s finally sinking through” or Mr. Obama’s wonderfully nerdy “I should somehow do a Jedi mind-meld with these folks,” mixing up Star Wars‘ Jedi mind trick and Star Trek‘s mind-meld, Mr. Spock’s telepathic communication trick.

Artists love to use it. For the comic effect, especially, or to wake up the listener. Like Jimmy Buffett’s we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it (“Burn That Bridge”, 1984), Charlie Rich’s “Rolling With The Flow” or Shania Twain’s “Party For Two” – which already comes close to corny, wordy malapropisms and spoonerisms like Kirsty MacColl’s Electric Landlady or Elton John’s Rock Of The Westies.

Irresistible for a playful language artist like Dylan, who now, at the beginning of his mercurial years, after four linguistically more “clean-cut” records, is letting go of the reins altogether. Bringing It All Back Home is littered with inversions, puns, spoonerisms and “incorrect” metaphors, including the two malaphors in this stanza; “hungry as a hog” (instead of hungry as a horse and eating like a hog) and the bizarre “I’ve got a hole where my stomach disappeared” (disappear in a hole and empty stomach).

Content-wise, the misery piles up for our poor protagonist. The boy has just got up, has had to endure all the tiresome practical jokes of his in-laws and humiliating encounters with shady fellows from his girlfriend’s secret life, and now he wants his breakfast. And then, to add insult to injury, he is served brown rice with seaweed, a macrobiotic nightmare for which recipes are indeed enthusiastically advertised as a super-healthy organic meal on dozens of sites in the twenty-first century, up to and including New York Times Cooking (“I somehow believe that eating it makes me a better person,” as the enchanting Nigella Lawson says).

And for dessert, a dirty hot dog. Disgusting, but above all a wordy paraphrase of and a nod to the signature song of one of Dylan’s greatest heroes, to “Blue Yodel No. 1 (T For Texas)”, the third track on Side B of Jimmie Rodgers’ My Rough & Rowdy Ways;

I'd rather drink your muddy water, sleep down in a hollow log
Than to be in Atlanta, Georgia, treat me like a dirty dog
(I don't have to go for that)

Oh Give me a T for Texas, give me a T for Tennessee 
Give me a T for Thelma, woman made a fool out of me

… Jimmie also suffers from a woman who makes a fool out of him.

To be continued. Next up: On The Road Again part 3: A handsome Malacca sword-cane

Jochen is a regular reviewer of Dylan’s work on Untold. His books, in English, Dutch and German, are available via Amazon both in paperback and on Kindle:

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One comment

  1. Jeeez,,,,I had no idea that most bears are Catholic….goes to show what I know!

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