Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Gauche (Blogophilia 12.5)
It is a French word meaning left. In some circles, like Paris, it still has a bit of cache. The Rive Gauche is known for its offbeat life and cafes. Pretentious people still like to insert foreign phrases into their speech to make people think they are sophisticated.
But Gauche, like its English counterpart, has another meaning. Since left is opposite of right, it has been used as a placebo for words like sinister, evil and awkward. To say something is Gauche is to refer to as ugly and out of fashion. Or maybe even evil. When I was a child, my sisters would always refer to something as gauche, rather than gross or ugly.
In I was in elementary school, I had a subscription to MAD magazine. Like most kids, I read it cover to cover. Unlike most kids, I began trying to emulate the writing styles. I knew each of the “Usual Gang of Idiots” by name and specialty. Don Martin and his offbeat misshapen people. Dave Berg’s Lighter Side, which poked fun at the foibles of suburban life. Antonio Prohias with Spy vs. Spy and all the others. Art and writing diabolically conducted by the team of Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines. And all terribly, terribly Gauche.
But the one artist that stands out more than the others, is Al Jaffee. The breadth and depth of this man’s insanity is something to truly behold. Bill Engvall stole “Here’s your sign” from his “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. The MAD Flag Poster. The list goes on. He wrote offbeat poetry, incredibly insightful prose and put out some of the wackiest art known up to that time. He invented the fold-in.
I would stare for several minutes at the poster in the back of every issue, wondering what the answer to the question would be. Then I would carefully take the corner of the page and gently swing it over, trying not to put a visible crease. And then, I would violently slap the page in place and have a great laugh.
Even today, I still will seek out an issue at the newsstand and when no one is watching, fold the page and spoil the joke for everyone else.
It’s so much fun.