CHICAGO. Arthur “Possum” Crudup is a big man, even though at 83 he is bent with age. Still, the contrast between his stout frame and the tears rolling down his cheeks yesterday was a telling one that caused passersby to stop and look. “They was always good to me,” he says as a security guard puts a padlock on the gates at the factory where he worked for six decades. “I hate to see it end like this.”
A worker watches as the last naughty metaphor rolls off the assembly line.
The cause of Crudup’s sadness is the closing of the Eironeia Double Entendre Works, a rusting hulk of a plant that at one time employed over 150 men like him, but which is now scheduled for demolition as the company’s business has withered away to nothing.
“Used to be, you wanted to get something dirty into a song, you had to work at it–you know what I’m sayin’?” Crudup asks this reporter pointedly. “Like ‘I wants to stick my pin in your cushion,’ or ‘I want to put my hot dog in your roll, baby.’ Nowadays, the kids just say ‘I wanta bleepin’ bleep you,’” he says with disgust. “Ain’t no poetry in that.”
A double entendre is a word or phrase with two meanings, especially when one interpretation conveys a racy or suggestive connotation. “The demand for double entendres varies inversely with the degree of censorship in a culture,” says Haywood Nostrand, a linguistic economist at the University of Iowa-Keokuk. “When you can say anything you want and get away with it, demand drops to zero.”
Crudup got his start fashioning crudely suggestive lyrics for the Mississippi Sheiks, a guitar and fiddle group specializing in country blues. “We was always coming up with lines like ‘I want to dig your potatoes, baby,’ or ‘I want to plant some rhubarb in your back pasture,’” he recalls wistfully. “Them was good times, always had a pork chop on the table.”
His talent came to the attention of Irv Weinman, the founder of Eironeia who named his fledgling company after the stock character in ancient Greek drama who says one thing but means another. “Mr. Weinman was always good to me,” Crudup recalls. “If I was lonely and needed a woman, he gave me money, and when you got money, you gonna get you a woman.”
“He told you to smoke his sausage?”
Local politicians pointed the finger at each other for the loss of jobs, with downstate Republicans blaming Democrats for a loosening of moral standards that made double entendres irrelevant. “That’s bullshit,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, using an unsubtle metaphor that didn’t require interpretation. “They’re just jealous because they only get single entendres.”