Friday, May 02, 2008

Putcha putcha putcha

Roughly 2.5 decades ago, I went on a science fiction binge, and read everything by the top couple-three dozen authors of the 1970s and early '80s. From somewhere in that mess of literature* came one phrase, in a fictitious alien language, which stayed with me (if my memory is not completely making things up due to my recent fever). The alien phrase was "Putcha putcha putcha." It translated to mean "I question your sincerity."

Now, I don't know why it has lain in wait for all these years to bubble to the surface again -- one would think it might rise, like gas from a tar pit, on a regular basis (as regular as, say, election years). All I know is that, ever since I actually started listening to Barack Obama's words, and not just the pretty intonation, that darned phrase has come to mind each time his face appears on the television screen or the computer monitor.

And, it seems I'm no longer alone.

Putcha putcha putcha, Mister Obama.

*I used to think it came from Frank Herbert's ConSentiency universe series (in particular, Whipping Star), but another likely candidate is one of C.J. Cherryh's first Foreigner series, Foreigner, Invader or Inheritor. To anybody who has come across this line recently enough to pick up its source: I'd truly appreciate a sweeping away of the cobwebs.


Octothorp said...

You are quite correct! It was Frank Herbert, and the book was "Whipping Star." I love the phrase, and have used it with my students, much to their befuddlement.

leucanthemum b said...

Many thanks for confirmation. These days, I have too many reasons to question my own memory. :-)

Andrew Hope said...

This phrase is also used a few times in the SF book Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, published in 1981. The phrase is used as part of a post-apocalyptic version of the traditional Punch and Judy show.

leucanthemum b said...

Thanks, Andrew. I'll have to look for that book, now. I haven't read Hoban in a long time.