“Happy, Pappy?”

An ambiguous question to use on those who fancy themselves to be this big, bold character out of some story, and you’re just wondering Is this a comedy I’m watching? Or a tragedy, or a cartoon…?

George recalled this line to Jerry with serious distaste after breaking up with a woman who asked him this question. A tastefully silly Jerry then asked the same question of a woman he’d just gotten back together with.

Silly or serious? The listener won’t know where you’re coming from as you try, using this line, to determine where they’re at. First there’s happy, a word that denotes “positive,” “contented,” etc., yet is also one of that group of words ending in “-appy” that sounds a little insulting: sappy, nappy, crappy. (Even snappy has a critical ring: “Make it snappy!”) The next time you hear a “Look at him, he’s so happy,” note how what seems like a compliment can lend a hapless, almost idiotic quality to the person being described.

Then there’s Pappy, which brings to mind daddies and grampies and poppies and grandies…and the cartoon character Popeye, whose father was Pappy. Which also sounds nice until you realize that Pappy’s first name was Poopdeck.

Will they think they just got slapped–or crapped–on the shoulder, when you Happy Pappy them? Who knows. Who cares! Because, either way, the resulting conversation is sure to be animated.

From “The Engagement”
Episode 1, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 1:06 (George) and 3:40 (Jerry)

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