Posted by Jay Livingston
Ever since I read Andrew Gelman’s list of words to avoid, I’ve been more conscious of the simple “of course.” I still use it, but more sparingly and cautiously. (Gelman’s list, here, includes obviously, clearly, interestingly, note that, and their variants like “it is interesting to note that.”)
But then there’s the ironic “of course,” the one that points to some gem that is far from obvious. Done correctly, the casually tossed in “of course” makes us admire the author for spotting this sparkling insight. Maybe it makes us feel a bit inadequate for not seeing it ourselves, especially since the author is saying, “Aw shucks, anybody would have seen that.”
Adam Gopnik’s essay on Bob Hope in a recent New Yorker shows you how it’s done:
|The real parallel to Hope—the great American comedian whose career most closely resembles his—is, of course, Bugs Bunny.|
Even if you’re old enough to remember the “Road” movies with Bing Crosby and the Oscars, the USO tours and the decades of TV appearances, you would not have come up with the Bugs-Bob parallel. Gopnik goes on to explain.
|Like Hope, he arrived in Hollywood in the late thirties and became a huge star with the war. Like Hope, he was usually paired with a more inward character who loves to sing (Daffy Duck is Bugs’s Bing [Crosby], though blustery rather than cool), and, like Hope, his appeal rises entirely from the limitless brashness and self-confidence with which he approaches even the most threatening circumstances. Together, they are the highest expression of the smart-aleck sensibility in American laughter. Their fame in wartime may have something to do with the way that, as A. J. Liebling documents, the American Army itself was essentially an urban creature dispatched to deserts and jungles: Bugs, with his Bronx-Brooklyn accent, has somehow been sent out there in the countryside, among the hunters, as Hope ends up in the sands of Morocco with no weapon but street-corner sass.|
Once Gopnik clears away the rough, we see the previously unnoticed diamond. Hope, Bugs – of course.
But I wanna tell ya’, the entire essay is worth reading, both for Gopnik’s aperçus and Hope’s funnier lines.