Saturday, October 04, 2014

Nervous in the Service

I was lounging in bed earlier, reading a new book when the cat decided to join me. He paced around, up and down my body (ouch, bony little feet) and circled trying to find his "spot". I got exasperated and burst out with, "What's the matter? You nervous in the service?!"  Then chuckled to myself. That is one of my Dad's old expressions. He used to say that to me, occasionally, and to my brother a LOT. It's especially funny because I have seriously fidgety kids and have NEVER (in my memory) said this to them. Curious.

I wondered about the origins of the expression. I do recall Ruby Rhod saying it in The Fifth Element (one of my fav movies) and chuckling over it every time. But my Dad is an old dude...so this expression must go WAY back.

I finally found a reference to it through a web search that attributes the phrase to a marching song from WWII, sung by women in the armed forces, with the stanza "If you're nervous in the service, And you don't know what to do / Have a baby, get out of the Navy." I also found a song from the era called To A Wave that may have been the source for that marching nonsense rhyme.

If you're nervous in the service and you don't know what to do,
If you're hurried and you're worried and you're feelin' kind o' blue,
If you're bleary and you're weary and you wish the war was through,
Have a baby on me.

If you're tired of the regimentation,
And you'd like to return to civilization,
I can help you, pretty Wavey,
If you'd like to leave the Navy,
Have a baby on me.

If you're tired of the color that you're wearing every day,
And you'd like to dress in violet or even cruiser grey,
If you'd like to leave the Waves, but you're afraid they'll make you stay,
Have a baby on me.

If you're tired of the work you're allotted,
And you're looking for a discharge...I've got it,
You'll be feeling like a million,
And you'll wind up a civilian,
Have a baby on me.

If you're sick of all the mashers with the braid along the sleeve,
If you gotta act like Garbo just to get a weekend leave,
If you're tired of the Adams who've decided you're their Eve,
Have a baby on me.

Why bother with a two day vacation,
I can get you home for the duration,
You might get a bit distended,
But your troubles would be ended,
Have a baby on me.

Oscar Brand

Yep, comedy gold. Amazingly sexist too, but consider the era. So that was my history lesson for the day.


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