Catching a Few Loose Catchphrases. The Idle American.


   A half-century ago, cigarette companies flew on the wings of advertising that blitzed the nation like June bugs in Mr. McGregor’s garden. Chesterfield took on Benson and Hedges, claiming its smokes were “a silly millimeter longer.” That meant 101 millimeters to B&H’s 100.

Granted, the government has since intervened, inflicting rigid advertising restrictions and reducing exposure more than the smoke-filled air that limited visibility of cigarette-laden billboards.

The campaign worked for awhile. At least the “silly millimeter longer” catchphrase caught on, like some tossed about excessively today. Included are “at the end of the day”—“it is what it is,” and a favorite in sports—“taking one game at a time.”


     Maybe word of mouth endorsement from the nicotine crowd drowns out the pleas of doctors and patients lamenting their fate in physicians’ waiting rooms. Some figured ad-limiting laws would smother the industry to its last wheeze.

Smokers are still at it, despite the difficulty in finding spots where “lighting up” is permitted. Back when, they’d “walk a mile for a Camel,” perhaps whistling the Phil Harris hit, “Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette.” They guarantee it to be worth it, even if the camel questions whether they know what day it is.


   All this to say—following my longest digression ever—catchphrases worth their salt can hang on until they’re beyond stale. Who can forget the 1959 novelty song, “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Over Night?”

You might counter by citing Clara Peller’s demand, back in the ‘80s, to know the exact location of the miniscule beef patties on all burgers competing with Wendy’s.

Or what about the old TV show, “Laugh In,” which made us laugh weekly with “Sock It to Me” vignettes? We wore the expression down to a nub.


   Sometimes sportswriters introduce statistical data that become humdrum catchphrases. Revealing “this and that,” the obscure stats sometimes are buried so deeply in paragraphs, they’re destined to be lopped off by space limitations.

In a piece about Oklahoma State’s shocking loss to West Virginia, one scribe wrote of OSU’s top rusher averaging just 2.4 inches per try on 15 plays. In a stat category usually based on yardage measurements, can “silly millimeters” be far behind?

Such an obscure stat likely inflames OSU fans. It may rankle T. Boone Pickens greatly. This donor has poured hundreds of millions into the Cowboys’ athletic program. And the other Cowboys in Dallas–also anemic in rushing yardage–may face the prospect of using this kind of measurement.


   Not all catchphrases are universal. Sometimes regional ads strike us well and hang on. One slogan has found its way into Hoffpauir Auto Group’s ads for decades. Lee Hoffpauir, with several Hill Country dealerships and almost 50 years in the field, makes this simple claim: “We couldn’t have stuck around this long if we were steering you wrong.”

During each service at Goldthwaite’s First Baptist Church last month, guest tributes to Rev. Doug Holtzclaw cut into his preaching time. Many speakers cited the Bible often in their praise of his 35-year pastorate there. (He and his school teacher wife, Juel Ann, have been deeply enmeshed in church, community and regional service.)

They are beloved. Few—maybe none—of the flowery accolades impacted like the simple observation of teacher/coach Bryan Jernigan, who grew up in the church, played on the Eagles’ state championship football team and said “I do” on cue when Holtzclaw conducted his wedding. Jernigan said one need go no further in describing value than linking Holtzclaw to the Hoffpauir Auto Group. “He couldn’t have stuck around this long if he was steering us wrong.”


   The community said “thanks” with a packed-out civic center luncheon. Included were some 30 family members, as well as dozens of appreciative widows and widowers whose spouses’ funerals Holtzclaw conducted–more than a thousand times.

The Holtzclaws now live in their retirement “home on the hill.” At night, they can see the lights of San Saba and Brownwood, a half-hour drive away. He steals glances at his driveway, where a shiny new red pick-up is parked. It’s his first new one, a retirement gift from his loving church. The truck has a Hoffpauir insignia, of course.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    It’s a funny thing about life. At least it is in East. We grow up throwing around catchphrases as though they were scriptures, and, after a while, we can’t remember which ones came from the Bible and which ones came from Poor Richard’s Almanac or the cotton farmer down the road.

  • Roger Summers

    Why someday we could have a collection of catchphrases in a book called, say, The Gospel According to Uncle Mort.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      i think the Beatitudes of East Texas would be a nice addition.

  • Don Newbury

    Uncle Mort almost never gets into the gospels….

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