OFF THE GRID

Caution! Do Not Read the Words ‘Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy’

Aug 1, 09 | 8:58 AM   byLewis Grossberger
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Mark Twain once wrote a story in which the narrator reads a nonsense rhyme in the newspaper and the lines get lodged in his head. Or as Twain put it: “They took instant and entire possession of me.“

Conductor, when you receive a fare,

Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,

A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,

A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,

Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

Chorus:

Punch, brothers! Punch with care!

Punch in the presence of the passenjare!

The poor devil finally realizes the only way to exorcise the maddening doggerel is to inflict it on someone else. It works. He’s free. The new victim stumbles off to his fresh hell of compulsion, horror and despair.

In that same generous spirit, I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss a phrase that’s bedeviling me.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

I’d been hearing it lately in a Geico radio ad. And I wondered, Is that a reference to some popular catchphrase I don’t know? A song? An old TV show? The punchline of a dirty joke?

Then I went to a movie, the British political satire In the Loop. And there it was again. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Now the Brits were doing it. I was captured.

What does it mean? Where does it come from? Why is it so annoying? What is its strange power over me? The three people I saw the movie with knew nothing. Nobody I knew knew. I recalled the Twain story and thought, Maybe if I find out where the damn thing started, it will stop bothering me.

At times like this a man can only turn to The Great Oracle, that knower of all things probably not worth knowing, the Internet.

I Googled. I Binged. I Wikied. I requested aid from the friendly faces of Facebook. I consulted online dictionaries and Ask Yahoo. I took a long nap and ate a hamburger, not that that has much to do with it.

Much of the resulting information was distinctly unhelpful, although a few of the joke answers were amusing. “I’m 100% certain it was the Reverend Jesse Jackson,“ one Facebooker commented.

Two people reported having heard the phrase in other movies: One in the Mike Myers comedy Austin Powers in Goldmember, the other in the teen vampire thing, Twilight.

One person thought the phrase was “Jeezy peezy lemon squeezy.“ Another thought it was “easy squeezy lemon peezy.“ Yet a third volunteered having run across “easy peasy japanesy.“

I came across a recipe for Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy All-In-One Lemon Drizzle Cake.

Someone on Facebook and someone on MySpace (or maybe the same person) are using it the phrase as their names. This is how they wish the world to know them.

One respondent on a discussion board ventured, “i don’t think it came from a movie or anything i think it was back in the old days maybe just one of those things some1 said and every picked it up like a rumor or something.”

This comprehensively researched entry was labeled: “Best Answer: Chosen by Voters.”

At least there isn’t much online mystery over the meaning of the term. The consensus is you use it when you wish to indicate that some activity is…easy.

Having finally completed my inquiries, I concluded that “easy peasy lemon squeezy” did in fact come from “back in the old days,” though not exactly the medieval period. More like the 1960s or 1970s. And, I further posit, from Britain.

(I’m not saying I’m dead certain about this. I’m simply advancing my theory, much like the great Darwin, and should a responsible expert step forward and correct or add to the theory, I shall be grateful and try not to look annoyed.)

There did exist in that time and in that place a dishwashing detergent named SQEZY. I confirmed this on a UK website called advertisingarchive.com, which exhibits three display ads for the product. The big selling point was that SQEZY was easy to apply because it came in a plastic squeeze bottle so all you had to do was turn it upside down and squeeze. Wow, what a concept.

The two slogans used in these ads were “Washing-up? It’s easy with Sqezy!” and “Quick as a wink away from the sink.” Though there was no “easy peasy” in evidence, one might surmise that the phrase came along later and also that a lemony version of the product was introduced at some point. Indeed, a poster named Miss Shoes had written on an online bulletin board:

I always thought it was used in the lemon squeezy detergent ads in the UK in the 1970s. As I recall, a little girl complains to her aunt that the dishes are greasy. Her mother admonishes her and then produces the Lemon Squeezy. The results are of course astoundingly successful and the girl says “easy peasy lemon squeezy”. But then maybe I am dreaming!

A number of people online testify that “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” along with various amendments and embellishments, was once a common UK schoolyard chant. Thus we might conjecture that the impressionable youth of Great Britain picked up the ad slogan from magazines or TV and ran with it, ensuring its survival into the present era.

My fervent hope is that now that I’ve solved the riddle (maybe) I never again will have to think about easy peasy lemon squeezy. Who knows? Perhaps it will even disappear from the face of the Earth.

More, as well as less, of Lewis Grossberger's writing can be found at True/Slant.

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