Follow-up: things that make the world go ’round

My 6/6 posting “What makes the world go ’round?” looked at the catchphrase, or saying, Love makes the world go ’round, with
comments from the American Dialect Society’s lexicographers John Baker and Peter Reitan tracing the expression, with love as the subject, in several variant forms (including It’s love that makes the world go ’round and ‘Tis love that makes the world go ’round), back to an old song in English (early 19th century at least), and that from an older song in French. Now Peter Reitan has unearthed a late 18th-century playful variation on the formula, in which it’s drink, not love, that makes the world go ’round.

Meanwhile, in the modern world, playful variations have abounded, to the point where it’s reasonable to posit a snowclone X Makes the World, conveying ‘X is very important’.

“The Village Curate” by James Hurdis. Apparently first published in 1788; PR found a copy of the 2nd edition (1790) that had been scanned in in the Hathi Trust program. The relevant pages:


The crucial bit, in a modern typeface:

Join your shrill pipes, ye maids of Billingsgate,
And market dames, and make the chorus full.
‘ O, there is nothing noble to be done
‘ ‘Till we have swallow’d pint on pint. ‘Tis drink,
‘ And only drink, that makes the world go ’round.’

From Wikipedia with the basic facts:

James Hurdis (1763–1801) was an English clergyman and poet.

Born in Bishopstone, East Sussex, Hurdis studied at St Mary Hall, Oxford, and Magdalen College, Oxford, later becoming a Fellow of Magdalen College.

Hurdis was curate for the East Sussex village of Burwash from 1786, and it was there that he wrote The Village Curate, a blank verse poem published anonymously in 1788. In 1793 he was appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

(The rest of the article is an assortment of unrelated snippets about Hurdis and his family, gleaned from official sources.)

Burwash was then, and is now, a very small rural village (population 2,713 in 2011), 15 miles inland from Hastings (yes, that Hastings, the site of the opening battle in 1066 in the Norman conquest of English), on the way between Brighton and London.

The title page from the first American edition (1793) of The Village Curate:


Just as I placed Burwash in georgraphical context above, I’ll now do a little bit to put The Village Curate in historical context. Some significant events in the 1788-93 period:

The French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille in July 1789

(The American Revolution ended in 1783, and then:) George Washington delivered his first State of the Union address in January 1790

Mozart died in December 1791

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed in January 1793, ending the French monarchy

Snowclone days. From my 2/1 posting “The natural history of snowclones”, about these cliché templates and their

two-part histories, a first phase in which a fixed model gains currency, a second in which variations are played on the model, sometimes leading to a second fixing, a crystallization of these playful allusions into a snowclone.

As one of many possible formulations of the idea that love is essential to life, Amor vincit omnia and all that, the particular formulation Love makes the world go ’round  was fixed a long time ago, as a song title and catchphrase — the details of this bit of sociocultural history are still to be worked out, but that’s beyond my competence –and was then available as a model for playful variation. I suspect that Hurdis’s drink version was far from the only one, and that there are other variants to be found in the 19th and early 20th centuries. More recently, they’ve come in an avalanche; the expression has clearly been snowclonified, as X makes the world go ’round, conveying ‘X is very important’ (I’ll use X Makes the World as a short label for the snowclone).

By far the most notable instance of the snowclone is with X = money — especially in the song “Money Makes the World Go Round” in the movie version of Cabaret, as performed by Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey:


Beyond that, there are earnest examples with X = sex (for sites offering advice on sexual matters), giving, caring, team work, running, friendship, etc.; and indulgent examples with X = ice cream, coffee, colour, music, etc.; and sci-tech examples with X = algae (sites about how algae could be deployed in saving the envirnoment), technology, etc.

Plus a couple of oddball, one-off riffs on the formula. The Dead Kennedys song “Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round”. And a meme that combines the Queen song “Fat Bottomed Girls” with cartoon-character visuals:

(#4) The FBG meme with Piglet and Pooh

(#5) The FBG meme with Lucy and Charlie Brown

The song with the conceptual hook in it, from Wikipedia:

“Fat Bottomed Girls” is a song by the British rock band Queen. Written by guitarist Brian May, the track featured on their 1978 album Jazz and later on their compilation album Greatest Hits… [Also] released as a single with “Bicycle Race”

(#6) Official video of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”, which provides the snowclonic lyrics: Fat bottomed girls / You make the rockin’ world go ’round

Not just an instance of the snowclone, but also an instance of fat bottomed girls as part of a sociosexual trope, the sexual desirability of women with large buttocks — exploited to its fullest in American popular culture in another song, “Baby Got Back”. From Wikipedia:

“Baby Got Back” is a 1992 hip hop song written and recorded by American rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot, which appeared on his album Mack Daddy. … At the time of its original release, the song caused controversy with its outspoken and blatantly sexual lyrics about women, as well as specific references to the female buttocks which some people found objectionable


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