Ask not what The Viper can do for you: ask what you can do for The Viper. And today, The Viper is asking you to contribute some of late capitalism’s current favorite euphemisms.
One of the songs we’ll be playing at our shows this summer is our old standby, “Das Kapital,” which boils down Karl Marx’s three volumes and 150 years of marxist theory sense into 3 minutes and 24 seconds of vaudeville patter with a structure borrowed (shall we say “liberated”?) from The Music Man‘s “Trouble in River City” song. That’s trouble with capital “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for “Capital.” Here’s what it sounded like:
Well, it’s 10 years since we recorded this song for our Everything for Everyone CD. And some of the bits in the lyrics that were supposed to sound like crazy ranting seem scarily uncrazy now. In fact, we’re going to have a hard time keeping up with reality.
And this is where you come in. I need your help in bringing up to date the middle “trouble, trouble, trouble” part that starts at 1:58 in the recording above. This is where, like Harold Hill, I ask if the audience has noticed that in their son or daughter’s speech, “certain words [are] starting to creep into their conversation, words like…” And then I list some of the current “anglo-saxon monosyllables” of which James Agee (in an appendix to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men) once noted that “a careful man will be watchful of, and by whose use and inflection he may take clear measurement of the nature, and the stature, and the causes, and the timbre, of the enemy.” On the recording above, these were, for summer of 1999: “the new economy,” “labor shortage,” “wage inflation,” and “reformer with results.”
I’ve started a list below for 2009, that might include:
- toxic assets
- too big to fail
Now, it’s time for you to add your favorite words and phrases. Either send these as comments or, even better, type them directly in the wiki page I’ve created for this song at
(you’ll just click the “edit” button you’ll see on the top of the page, then save when you’re done). The death of the reader is the birth of the contributor.