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How much is that doggy in the window?

I am blessed with the acquaintance of many peculiar and eccentric friends. One of these, Thomas Jones, is distinguished both by the conventionality of his name and the unconventionality of his interests. Once of an evening, after a fine dinner, whilst sharing a well aged bottle of port, he related an instance of one of his hobbies.

He was he said, a collector of lost verses to well known songs. Quite often, he said, one verse of a song would be well known whereas the rest would be obscure or even lost. Surprisingly enough, he said, the lost verses often shed a startling light upon the popular verse and showed it to have quite different connotations from those it was usually presumed to have.

He illustrated this thesis with a popular ditty which I expect most of my readers have heard:

How much is that doggy in the window,
The one with the waggily tail?
How much is that doggy in the window?
I do hope that he is for sale.
It is an affecting little ditty, soaked with soppy sentiment. One pictures the innocent little child and her enchantment with the doggy, reeking with cuteness. One never hears of other verses - the ditty is complete in itself; it says all that it needs to say.

My friend Jones, however, produced the second verse. The first verse pictures for us the innocent greed of childhood - children want things. The second verse tells us why the child so ardently desires the doggy - she (one supposes the child is a girl) is lonely. The second verse gives us the bathos not evident in the first.

I don't have a brother or a sister
They just put my daddy in jail
I sure need a friend who love me
I do hope that doggy's for sale.
We hear the second verse and reflect, how sad. We picture this lonely child sans siblings and friends, whose very family has been broken by misfortune, who desires some innocent companionship in the world, a touch of simple love.

Alas, the world is so seldom what it seems to be. Impressions that we gather, sentiments that we feel, all too often are discovered to be misleading. Closer acquaintance with the facts oft reveal a quite different and even sinister reality from that which we initially assume. So it is here; the third verse reveals that all of our sentimental assumptions are false.

Mommy is on the street hustling
Trying to raise daddy's bail
And I sure get hungry in the evening
I do hope that doggy's for sale.
This is the account that my friend gave to me. It is, I suppose, a lesson to us all, a dramatic illustration of the ugly realities that so often underlie the masks worn in the world. Speaking for myself, however, I believe him to be a shameless prevaricator.


This page was last updated July 8, 1998.
Copyright © 1998 by Richard Harter

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