Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Listen to this article

Mr. Verb's Mr. Verb (variously characterised as mysterious, enigmatic, and ever-vigilant) ended a recent post about the line "Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for intermission. Please intermiss" with the apt observation that intermish would have been too odd and intermit too bookish, but that intermiss was "like Goldilocks' third bear said: 'just right'."

I think my first encounter with the Goldilocks trope was quite recent, and at the time I found it rather arresting. It seems that I wasn't alone. Recently it has been been spreading like a bad BBC science story. Just to make sure this isn't a recency illusion, I did a quick search of Canadian news sources.

The oldest instance I could find was: "The food fits the Goldilocks formula: not too good, not too bad, just right" in The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: Aug 25, 1979. pg. P.7 by Adele Freedman, who used it a number of times in the late 70s and early 80s.

The trail then goes cold until the late 80s when we find: ''I call it the Goldilocks approach _ not too big, not too small, but just right." in The Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa, Ont.: Dec 6, 1988. pg. D.16 by Tony Atherton. From then on, there are a few hits a year, but more and more of these are in titles, such as "Goldilocks jury finds sentence is just right"; [Final Edition] The Gazette. Montreal, Que.: Feb 11, 1989. p. A.7.

Most recently, there have been multiple uses per month, one example being "Goldilocks scenario proves right tonic for stocks" John Heinzl. The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: Feb 1, 2007. p. B.15. And a Google news search for [Goldilocks "just right" -"three bears"] turns up multiple hits per week.

Perhaps Paul Davies' book, The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?, which came out in 2006, is one major vector for the recent popularity of this trope. Or not.

The thing that makes the Goldilocks fad, amusing though it is, rather ineffective is that
the allusion itself doesn't appear to be very Goldilocks; it's too opaque to dispense with its accompanying "just right".

1 comment:

Mr. Verb said...

Funny ... I had just heard this trope recently in an email from a colleague (someone who has a nice touch with English) and it more or less kept rolling around in my brain. Had no clue that I was particpating in a fad.

And yeah, it can easily be awkward to use.