Family Feud is a game show that has been around since 1976. According to wikipedia, the format consists of "two families compete against each other in a contest to name the most popular responses to a survey question posed to 100 people." (Yes, I had to look up the rules to Family Feud and yes, this post gets more pathetic from there.) The host of game show uses the phrase, "Survey says.." when revealing the results of the, you guessed it, survey. This is all basic stuff. Everybody grew up watching Family Feud and everyone under the stars and stripes knows that, "Survey says", is an integral part of the American pop culture lexicon.
Everybody but me.
I blame my mother. In her world, American pop culture died along with Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Hammerstein. I grew up singing music from South Pacific and while other kids watched Saturday morning cartoons I was dancing to Judy Garlands greatest hits. (I know what you are thinking, and no, I am not sure how I didn't grow up to be a fabulously gay man, either.) So there I was, a singing, dancing, head in the clouds, frizzy head girl. Both nature and nurture had conspired against me. I never stood a chance.
I remember the first time I heard someone use Family Feud's catch phrase. I was about five and listening in on a grown up conversation. I drifted in and out of the words until I was struck by the unfamiliar. "Survey says...", the man said. My ears snapped to attention. What did that mean? I had never heard those words. They sounded French! And in my VERY ODD five year old brain the common game show phrase was transformed. I figured it was spelled, servei seis (that is totally how the French spell things, right?), and I knew the meaning must be so lovely there was simply no acceptable translation into boorish English. It must be, I thought with relish, like tete-a-tete or fiance. The delusion lasted for years. And while I eventually learned the meaning behind phrases like, tete-a-tete, and used them in my everyday life (I know what you are thinking, and no, I didn't have very many friends.) I never did learn the meaning behind, servei seis. I wanted to ask someone, but it seemed that I was the only one in the WORLD that didn't know what it meant. I felt silly. And while I didn't think of it often, it was always in the back of my mind. I finally asked one, Riley Stewart Bingham, during our first year of marriage. The conversation went something like this...
Me: Hey baby. I know this is so silly. But what does servei seis mean?
Riley: Survey says? (At this point he is looking at me like I might be rather, ummm, dim.) "Survey says", is what someone says when they are going to tell you what the survey, well, says.
Me: Riley, you don't have to make fun of me for not knowing. What does it mean? Servei seis can't just mean servei seis!
Riley, who now looks genuinely concerned: What? What are you saying? When you take a survey amongst a group of people, generally another group of people will want to know what the survey said! Survey says!
Me, feeling like a total idiot whose whole life has been based on a lie: Oh. I thought it was French....
The mocking that followed this statement has been unsurpassed even to this day. I deserved it.
There is a lesson in this. Or rather, I will feel better about myself if I can find one. So here it is: Often, the concepts that intimidate us because of their foreign, high mindedness are nothing more complicated than 1970's game show catch phrases. There is not one thing in this world that is above any one of us.
Not even servei seis.