Lama and sheep greetings have more than a little in common

March 06, 1997|By Laura Lippman

Memo to President Clinton: Forget the commission on cloning. What you really need is one on punning.

Send in the clones. Send in the clone puns. In less than two weeks, Dolly, that DNA marvel of a sheep, has been the subject of more "Hello, Dolly" puns than the Dalai Lama has managed to accumulate in 20 years.

According to a search of the major newspapers database maintained by Nexis, "Hello, Dolly" has appeared in print at least 50 times since Feb. 24. (And that didn't include the headline on Page 1 of yesterday's Washington Post, "Hello Dolly, Goodbye to One Man's Quiet Life.")

"Hello, Dolly" is so ubiquitous it has appeared in columns by both Ellen Goodman and George F. Will. Great, they finally agree on something and it's a banal cliche.

It has been used as a headline from Toronto to Singapore, from Jerusalem to Glasgow. And, yes, the usage appeared in The Sun as well. Too bad titles can't be copyrighted; songwriter Jerry Herman would be getting a quick infusion of cash right now.

By contrast, the Dalai Lama's 49 "Hello, Dalai" references took much longer to collect. Its first documented appearance was in the Post on Nov. 7, 1977, a headline for a piece written by Robert H. Williams. ("Yep, the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader who now lives in India, reportedly has asked to visit America.")

That thigh-slapper was later popularized by a media personality who also seems to have been cloned of late: Howard Stern, now appearing everywhere to promote his film, "Private Parts." He once sent "Stuttering" John Melendez to ask the Dalai Lama just how often he heard the greeting.

There is no record of the Dalai Lama's reply, but he was probably thinking: "I'd really like to punch this guy in the mouth if I hadn't devoted my life to non-violence."

There. We hope everyone's feeling good and sheepish about now.

Pub Date: 3/06/97

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