(Okay, Sherman, we’re setting the WayBack Machine for 2007…)
This isn’t about Jade Goody. (Well, only peripherally.)
The New York Times says:
So, finally, it was over and it ended, of course, in tears. By an overwhelming majority, the viewers voted to expel Jade and keep Shilpa.
The inevitable comments are starting to come out of the British newspapers regarding the Big Brother bullying-and-racism flap. A few of the articles are making puns on Jade’s last name, including a very specific one: Is it too late to be Goody Two-Shoes?, etc. And something about that brought my head up. What’s with these references to the name of the main character in a children’s book two hundred fifty years old… a book in which even the identity of the writer is in doubt, and which (I would be willing to lay down at least a ten-Euro note) almost nobody who uses the phrase has ever read?
It seems lots and lots of English-speaking people know the phrase, even after the source has been almost completely forgotten in (at least) popular culture. What kind of book remains so long alive in the language — if only in title — while no one knows much of anything about it? Why this strange etiolated fame? …I’m as familiar with the phrase as anyone else, but had never given a moment’s thought to the source. After seeing these news stories, though, suddenly I got curious and went hunting.