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You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Posted by on Dec 17, 2020 in Christmas songs, Culture, English Language, Music and Song

Image by Ronny Overhate from Pixabay , CCO

Sometimes a song comes along that everyone learns the words to just because the song is so much fun to sing. Even when the song is about the meanest, worst being on the planet.

One of the most enduring tales of Christmas is the book and cartoon film, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. First published in 1957 and adapted for television in 1966 as an animated film narrated by Boris Karloff, this classic, written by Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel, tells the story of the Grinch, a character so awful that he plots to steal every Christmas present from every resident of the nearby town of Whoville. At the center of the story is a song with lyrics by Geisel and music by Albert Hague. In the 1966 cartoon, the song was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft who is also famous for providing the voice to Tony the Tiger in cereal commercials for many years.

Full of metaphors, similes, and clever wordplay, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch is one of the most delightful songs of the Christmas season. I think it’s time to recognize this song for its masterful use of English. It contains maybe the most sustained and perfect combination of hyperbole, alliteration, simile, metaphor, rhyme, imagery, and insults in one brief 225-word song.


You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel
You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch
Your heart’s an empty hole
Your brain is full of spiders, you’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch
I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch
You have termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch
Given a choice between the two of you I’d take the seasick crocodile!

You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch
You’re a nasty-wasty skunk
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch
The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote
“Stink, stank, stunk!”

You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch
You’re the king of sinful sots
Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful
Assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots!

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch
With a nauseous super “naus”!
You’re a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Grinch
You’re a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!

 

Let’s look at some of the song’s lyrics, focusing on those elements of speech that are so magnificently on display.

  • Simile – A simile is a figure of speech in which one thing is compared to another thing, usually using the words like or as: You’re as charming as an eel.
  • Metaphor – A metaphor poetically and often with great imagery says that one thing is just like another thing: Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots.
  • Alliteration – This is the use of the same letter or sound in a sentence or paragraph: You’re as cuddly as a cactus.
  • Hyperbole – Hyperbole is exaggeration, not intended to be taken literally: I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!
  • Repetition – Notice how many times the name Grinch is repeated. There is no room for doubt as to who this song is about.
  • Rhyme – Just look at the last stanza of the song. That’s absolutely brilliant!
  • Insult – The Grinch is mean, a monster, vile, foul, a rotter, and nauseating. And rather spectacularly so, I might add!

And now, let’s hear the song while also marveling at the vocal performance of Mr. Ravenscroft.

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