Thursday, April 29, 2010


Dancing near Lacie Deere and her hunny Razor Summers at Hotlanta, both of whom are very up on contemporary lingo, I hear it all the time. But it wasn't until I saw an episode in which House said it with a Scooby-Doo accent that I realized how thoroughly this meme had permeated our means of communication in 21st century America. Where did it come from? And what does it mean?

First of all, it is NOT "rut-roh." Rut-roh means something totally different. Rut-roh implies something truly heinous. In the words of the Urban Dictionary, in the context of hooking-up, rut-roh is "a pre-meditated and fully thought out MISTAKE": for example, a disgusting choice of mate material. If enough rut-roh's come in a series, the perp generally establishes the reputation as a skank or a man-whore.

Where it came from is also not so obvious. Astro was a canine character in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon show, The Jetsons (see Wikipedia), and was designed by Iwao Takamoto. Astro was more advanced than present-day dogs, in that he had a rudimentary grasp of the English language. However, being of Japanese origin and a gR-R-owling dog as well, he placed r's in many places they shouldn't be, or in place of other letters such as "l." For example, "I love you, George" would be "I ruv roo, Reorge." Astro's signature expression was "Ruh-roh!" (or "Ruh-roh, Reorge!"), supposedly the canine variant of "Uh-oh!" (an expression of dismay or perhaps some other emotion). Scooby Doo's signature expression was "Ruh Roh Raggy!" (Uh Oh Shaggy!) - He was also designed by Iwao Takamoto, but later.

So Scooby Doo was the more recent but not the original progenitor of the expression. The widespread usage of ruh-roh is real, however, and it remains mysterious. Scientists and social theorists have not quite figured out just why young adults, boomers, and even older individuals feel the need to utter the phrase at the first hint of a humorous mishap. It's not as if anyone even watches the show Scooby-Doo anymore.

Slang’s primary reason for existence is to establish a sense of community among its speakers. When slang is used, there is a postulated unit of cultural ideas or practices which are transmitted from one mind to another through writing or speech. Those ideas evoke membership in the same “tribe.” Because belonging is so important, slang is used as a powerful manifestation of identity.

So probably, use of the term is symbolic of belonging to an age cohort. And perhaps because parents also watch cartoons, and perhaps because of reruns on the cartoon channel and late night TV, probably more than one. Scooby's name itself was based upon the "doo-be-doo-be-doo" of a Frank Sinatra song ("Strangers in the Night"). So that explains that part too, LOL.

Michele, btw, LUVS to do her gardening in a bikini…

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