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You can't get the wood, you know

English translation: Well...

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20:11 May 24, 2005
English to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary - Poetry & Literature
English term or phrase: You can't get the wood, you know
It's a catchphrase from "The Goon Show". I found this explanation

Henry Crun, aged idiot inventor and beau of Minnie Bannister. Both characters first appeared in the episode "London's Last Tram" based on the Kingsway tramway subway. His famous catchphrase, ***"You can't get the wood, you know"***, was a satirical reference to British postwar austerity.

but I still fail to understand its further meaning and why it became so famous (probably the most famous catchphrase of the whole show). That is, I don't get the reference to British postwar austerity. Thanks in advance.
Lorenzo Lilli
Local time: 22:20
English translation:Well...
Explanation:
after WW2 there was a shortage of many everyday items in the UK, and rationing continued for some years after the war (sweets didn't come off ration until 1953, for example). There was a general attitude of "make do and mend", getting by without luxuries, "putting up" with things - even new items were often poor quality and simple (post-war furniture for example was called "Utility " furniture). Thus, whenever you wanted something repairing, such as a household appliance, a bike, a car etc - and not many people had cars! - you would often be told, "Sorry, I can't mend it - you can't get the parts, you know".

So this phrase a) echoes what people would have been used to hearing every day and b) makes the situation more ridiculous by taking a material which you would think would be plentiful (i.e. it's not "you can't get the steel/cement/spare parts" etc, but wood - and it also fits well into the context of the episode. When most people had coal fires you often used to hear people joke, "Don't put so much wood on the fire - it doesn't grow on trees, you know!" - a jokey play on the phrase "money doesn't grow on trees", i.e. you have to work for it, not just pick it up).
[When my children were young, they used to love an American children's book called "Treehorn's Treasure", in which money actually does grow on trees!).

Even today, you often hear people say "You can't get the staff, you know", as a jokey reference to somebody's inefficiency - could be your spouse, neighbour, workmate etc - in a "folk memory" of this type of phrase. THe Goons were fond of imitating "jobsworths:, petty officials and unhelpful tradesmen, so this phrase suited the tenor of the show.

HTH!
Selected response from:

John Bowden
Local time: 21:20
Grading comment
Thank you all!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +6Well...John Bowden
4You can't get what's already missing
Nick Lingris
4references for Ruth's "Both phrases (wood/staff) also have a sexual innuendo, "
airmailrpl
3there's a shortage of wood
Mirella Soffio


  

Answers


18 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
you can't get the wood, you know
You can't get what's already missing


Explanation:
[From The Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases] ...His catchphrase is often used to bring an end to these seemingly pointless discussions, and is a handy saying to indicate an old timer's acceptance of whatever is lacking or missing.
That's all for now, Duca. See if I can dig up anything else.

Nick Lingris
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:20
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in GreekGreek
PRO pts in category: 44
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29 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
you can't get the wood, you know
there's a shortage of wood


Explanation:
“You can't get the wood, you know”: Said by Henry Crun when asked just about anything. Also the subtitle of one of the commercial releases. This, of course, refers to the shortages of materials during and after the Second World War (``there's a shortage of shortages'' - altro tormentone dello stesso personaggio...)

In un episodio qualcuno vuole spedire neve in Africa - e Crun continua a ripetere che non si trova più legna (per costruire le casse che dovrebbero ipoteticamente contenere la neve) - solo che poi continua a ripeterlo in decine di contesti diversi.
Nel link trovi lo script dell'episodio.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 31 mins (2005-05-24 20:42:59 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

nello script, guarda tra pagina 7 e pagina 8.



    Reference: http://www.hexmaster.com/goonscripts/s05e25.pdf
Mirella Soffio
Italy
Local time: 22:20
Native speaker of: Native in ItalianItalian
PRO pts in category: 4
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +6
Well...


Explanation:
after WW2 there was a shortage of many everyday items in the UK, and rationing continued for some years after the war (sweets didn't come off ration until 1953, for example). There was a general attitude of "make do and mend", getting by without luxuries, "putting up" with things - even new items were often poor quality and simple (post-war furniture for example was called "Utility " furniture). Thus, whenever you wanted something repairing, such as a household appliance, a bike, a car etc - and not many people had cars! - you would often be told, "Sorry, I can't mend it - you can't get the parts, you know".

So this phrase a) echoes what people would have been used to hearing every day and b) makes the situation more ridiculous by taking a material which you would think would be plentiful (i.e. it's not "you can't get the steel/cement/spare parts" etc, but wood - and it also fits well into the context of the episode. When most people had coal fires you often used to hear people joke, "Don't put so much wood on the fire - it doesn't grow on trees, you know!" - a jokey play on the phrase "money doesn't grow on trees", i.e. you have to work for it, not just pick it up).
[When my children were young, they used to love an American children's book called "Treehorn's Treasure", in which money actually does grow on trees!).

Even today, you often hear people say "You can't get the staff, you know", as a jokey reference to somebody's inefficiency - could be your spouse, neighbour, workmate etc - in a "folk memory" of this type of phrase. THe Goons were fond of imitating "jobsworths:, petty officials and unhelpful tradesmen, so this phrase suited the tenor of the show.

HTH!

John Bowden
Local time: 21:20
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 28
Grading comment
Thank you all!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Nick Lingris: This is lovely, John. Thank you for sharing it with us.
1 hr
  -> Thanks - my pleasure!

agree  Refugio: Both phrases (wood/staff) also have a sexual innuendo, which perhaps accounts for their enduring popularity. Men were scarce in wartime.
1 hr
  -> They do, but neither is used much in the UK, and certainly not in the early 50s... Remember what Larkin said about when sex was invented? (Between the Lady Chatterley trial and the Beatles' first LP" :-)

agree  Lesley Clayton
8 hrs
  -> Thanks!

agree  Armorel Young: well put
10 hrs
  -> Thanks - you had to be there!

agree  Anna Moorby DipTrans: What time is it Eccles?! :o)
11 hrs
  -> I don't know - I've fallen in the water!

agree  xxxAlfa Trans
16 hrs
  -> Thanks!
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13 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
you can't get the wood, you know
references for Ruth's "Both phrases (wood/staff) also have a sexual innuendo, "


Explanation:
SARUMAN - EMULE PORTAL - EDONKEY - Downloads -
... lol! Their male talent is having wood problems, so our hero decides to volunteer. After a very, very funny jab at very bad set up porn, he fails to get wood. ...
www.saruman.com.br/modules.php?name=Edonkey& d_op=viewdownload&cid=16&min=60&orderby=dateD.

Fast Seduction 101 Player Guide Board - broomstick
... Now, I strive to get wood when a girl dances with me. Oh, some are turned off by wood, but those are the minority and not a very desirable minority. ...
www.fastseduction.com/cgi-bin/ ib/topic.cgi?forum=33&topic=4

Comments on 16367 | MetaFilter
... Her nipples get wood! And there’sa chain reaction–I get wood! I get wood! great climax to the article. :) posted by afx114 at 3:29 PM PST on April 15 ...
www.metafilter.com/mefi/16367

Porn City News: How To Become A Porn Star
... For men there’s always the risk of “stage fright”, which in porn means that you don’t get wood the way you need to get wood, keep wood… “be the wood”. ...
www.porncitynews.com/howtobeapornstar/male/male.htm

The Italian and The Unicorn (Part 2) by Gaither Stewart
... Yet he was embarrassed when they said of him, 'he can always get wood. ...They said you could get rich in films if you could get wood anytime, ...
www.theroseandthornezine.com/ Fiction/42italianandunicorn2.html -

airmailrpl
Brazil
Local time: 17:20
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in PortuguesePortuguese
PRO pts in category: 64
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