S.O.S! The Return of the Square!

“Remember one thing: Wrong is wrong even if everyone else says it’s right – and right is right even if everyone else says it’s wrong,” Ward once said to the Beav and I never forgot it.

I’ve spent most of my life feeling like a stodgy old lady. “Little House on the Prairie” was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid, tied with “The Brady Bunch” and “Leave it to Beaver.” I really appreciate many (but not all) of the “square” sentiments in this little early 1960s booklet, The Return of the Square: The Fight for Independence, since I still often feel so “irrelevant” and old-fashioned. It’s the text of a speech by “Madison Avenue’s favorite phrase-maker,” an original Mad Man, Charles H Brower.

I think this is a great summation of the origins of square:

The only time a novelist uses a long word these days is when he adds in “i-n-g.” So I am going to start on six-letter words.

The word is “square”– S..Q..U..A..R..E.

Back in Mark Twain’s day, it was one of the finest words in our language, among the top ten on any lexicographer’s hit parade. You gave a man a square deal if you were honest. And you gave him a square meal when he was hungry. You stood foursquare for the right, as you saw it, and square against everything else. When you got out of debt, you were square with the world. And that was when you could look your fellow man square in the eye. Then a lot of strange characters got a hold of this honest, wholesome word, bent it all out of shape and gave it back to our children. “


About those beatniks:

Always tearing down these days. Never building up. Always knocking. Belittling. Down-grading. A sneer rather than a grin. A mocking laugh rather than a belly laugh. Poking fun at other people rather than ourselves.

Not so funny:

Laughter today is stored in Hollywood in cans, just as the gold was once stored at Fort Knox. It is taken out as needed and pasted onto TV films. Laugh tracks tip us off to when things are funny. But I want to laugh when I am amused. And I want to decide what I think is funny. And this, I suppose, will mark me as a square.

This sounds discouraging:

For the forces of conformity are still strong. Too many of us are still sitting it out instead of sweating it out. Too many of us haven’t got the guts to stand up straight and dare to be square. 

The solution?

S.O.S.: The Society of Squares!

It doesn’t even exist but it could. Not a left-wing organization. Not a right-wing organization. Just an organization with wings!

We might have to go underground for awhile to avoid being trampled to death by the coast-to-coast rat-packs of cynical saboteurs and the canned wit commandos whose devotion is to destroy.

We might even have a secret handshake consisting of mainly grabbing the other guy’s hand as though you meant it and looking him in the eye.

We would be for participation and against sitting life out…for simplicity and against sophistication…for laughter and against sniggering…for America and against her enemies…for the direct and against the devious…for the honest way and against the short cut…for a well-done job and against the goof-off…for education and against the pretense of learning…for building and against tearing down…

The war for independence has still to be fought!

6 thoughts on “S.O.S! The Return of the Square!

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