“You Put Your Left Hand In . . .”

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What song/dance did you think of immediately when you read the title of the post? It’s considered a novelty/fad dance because of its popularity for a time at wedding receptions and large gatherings of kids. (If you still aren’t sure what that song is, I’ll whisper it to you in the comments if you ask.) I didn’t notice anyone suggesting it at any wedding reception I’ve attended in the last few years. The “Chicken Dance” is still hanging in there as a wedding reception staple.

img_4151Connie Willis’s 1996 science fiction novel, Bellwether, is all about fads and trends. Dr. Sandra Foster, the main character, is a sociologist who studies them. Like this one:

dance marathon (1923—33) Endurance fad in which the object was to dance the longest to earn money. Couples pinched and kicked each other to stay awake, and when that failed, took turns sleeping on their partner’s shoulder for as long as 150 days. (Willis 105)

And yes, Barbie herself (pictured above) has endured past her early fad-dom. (If that’s even a word, which I suspect it isn’t.)

This is not a review of Bellwether, by the way, though I loved the book. (Which I guess is kind of a mini-review.) I’m more interested in the central concept of the book: the bellwether. (Maybe now you’re thinking of the Bellwether character in Zootopia.)

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Assistant Mayor Bellwether

According to Merriam-Webster.com, a bellwether is

one that takes the lead or initiative : leader; also : an indicator of trends

States can be bellwethers too. You can check out Wikipedia (click here) for more information on the bellwether’s antecedents. Willis’s book addresses the notion of the bellwether in a very creative way.

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I’ll be bahhh-ck. (A sheep’s impression of Ah-nold Schwarzenegger)

We can’t always predict what will become a fad, thanks to the fickle nature of humans. Even if we’re contemptuous of the fads others follow (especially if they seem dangerous or dumb), if we’re being honest, we’ll probably admit to having followed a few fads at some point in our lives.

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Blue hair on a dude is not uncommon nowadays.
Is this a passing trend? Who knows?

Bellwethers set the trends, sometimes inadvertently. Think of the artists who are simply being true to themselves, but who wind up starting fads, thanks to the adoration of fans.

Maybe we don’t think of ourselves as trendsetting bellwethers. But sometimes, for good or ill, we are bellwethers in the lives of someone impressionable. I can’t help thinking of some children I’ve babysat, who use some of the same exclamations I’ve used. “Oh good grief!” a three-year-old said in frustration, using the same inflection I used. This taught me to keep a careful watch on what I say around him.

What fads or trends have you noticed lately that you like or wish would go away? Do you know who started them? Have you ever started a fad? What was the result?

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Willis, Connie. Bellwether. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.

Assistant Mayor Bellwether image from thefandomnet.tumblr. Bellwether sheep found at Goodreads.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Barbie and Kris dolls by Mattel for the movie Barbie Video Game Hero.

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47 thoughts on ““You Put Your Left Hand In . . .”

  1. I have some exemples to illustrate your wirds , Linda . About the unisex uniform wearing by old or young women and men , the jeans . Where this does come from,. In the rtown of Nimes in France a resistant fabric was made for the sails of the boat . Then This has been exported to the USA via the Italian harbor of Genes . A man named Lewis had the idee to use the fabric to make trousers for the hard worlers such the seekers of gold in the West . Those trousers has been called jean,ns from the name of the harbour Genes ?( Jean =Gene ) . Lewis was a Bellxether! 🙂
    Secongd exemple . abot the T-shirt . Whe the first American soldiers came in France in 1917 during the WWI ( 1974-1948 ) , they often were sick because of the cold temperature and the hard conditions of life in the trenches . They noticed the fRENCH SILDIERS WORE ON THEIR SJIN AN UNSE

  2. ….. I continue :
    They noticed the French soldiers wore on the skin of the thorax a underwear made in cotton . This brought a kind of isolation . The American soldiers adopted this underwear and later this become a clothe that almost of the people ( excepted me are wearing like a shirt ); aND the shape in T of this underwear become a clothe with the name T-shirt!! So the bellwether was the French army or someone in the french army o¨Please I type this speedily and I see a lots of mistakes ,sorry
    Love ❤
    Michel

    • Thank you for that, Michel. I loved learning about where jeans came from. Now I’d like to write a post about that and the T-shirt. You are right. The bellwethers were those who started the trends!

      I’m glad Janine does not need surgery! Praying for her recovery!

  3. I’ve never heard that referred to as the “Chicken Dance,” L. Marie. We always called it the Hokey Pokey. Perhaps it was a Virginia thing. One fad I wish would fade is the droopy drawers. I really don’t care to see what kind of underwear you’re wearing.

  4. I haven’t paid much attention to modern trends and fads. One thing I can think of is the TV show fandoms that will erupt on social media whenever something happens. You get to this point with friends where you can’t talk about anything because they only want to talk about that show. I guess various words and phrases (Still confused by ‘bye, Felicia’) are fads too. This always seems to be a level of insult for some reason.

    I wonder if fads don’t last as long as they used to. Back when I was growing up we had snap bracelets, pogs, surfer lingo, Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, bending baseball caps, and others that lasted for a few years. Current fads seem to have shorter lifespans like months or a year at most.

    • Yes, the conversations about TV shows can be annoying sometimes. Especially when the lead-off comment reveals a spoiler. The assumption is made that everyone is watching the show.

      Yes, the fads today seem short lived. Talk about your fifteen minutes of fame. . . .

      • 15 at best. I remember friends thinking I was odd for never watching Sherlock. They got mad when they learned that I watched Elementary too. So I binged Sherlock and . . . I don’t get it. Season/Series 3 wasn’t that great and the newer ones kept boring me. We seem to forget that everyone has their own tastes.

      • I watched Elementary as well. I really liked that show.
        I have noticed how some people will turn on you, unless you watch Sherlock. I also get that look whenever I say I don’t watch The Walking Dead. I have nothing against the show. I just don’t watch it.

      • Game of Thrones and Doctor Who too. God forbid you don’t praise and mourn the loss of Firefly. Then there’s the Marvel vs DC feud that gets nasty at the drop of a dime. People really need to just enjoy the shows and not turn it into an aggressive religion.

      • I’ve never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. Not even five minutes.

        It’s sad that there’s even the notion of Marvel vs. DC. I’ve read Marvel and DC comics. Never thought to question which was better. This is the downside of social media.

      • I’ve seen a few minutes and wasn’t impressed. Probably bad timing cause I always got a rape or death scene.

        I agree with the social media aspect. I think many companies look at the feuding as marketing too. Saw that they’re already going after Wonder Woman because an anonymous source contacted a show that loves Marvel and said it was like BvS.

      • What? That is really sad. Why do people have to attack movies that haven’t even debuted????

        As for GoT, I heard there was a lot of both. Definitely won’t watch.

      • I think people these days take a lot of self-worth from their interests. They need to be fans of the best. Nothing should compare because that could mean what they like has flaws. It’s probably a vocal minority in this boat though.

      • I kind of miss the days when we didn’t always have to “like” things or review products like tea or candy or gifts we bought for other people.

  5. Can we please count Facebook as a fad, and then get over it?? Most of the fads I remember being part of were for clothes or dances – the hideous huge bows on dresses that became fashionable after Sarah Ferguson wore one on her wedding dress when she married Prince Andrew, and everything from the pogo to the dead fly in dancing (though I used to steer clear of the dead fly). We call that one the Hokey Cokey over here, and I think it still gets danced at ‘do’s, but also the chicken dance and the rowing boat song – not easy to do elegantly! And then of course, there were the curly perms…

    • I wish we could, FF! I thought about Facebook immediately. But since I joined it over a decade ago, I get the feeling it’s not going away. 🙂

      Ha ha! Hairstyles are always easy to date. I laugh when I think back on ’80s hairstyles!
      Not a fan of huge bows on dresses either!

    • I always believed myself to be impervious to fads. But then, Facebook and Twitter came along. So guilty as charged. But I’m not following any of the TV series because I had a dispute with the cable company and cancelled my service.

  6. Fun post, Marie. I avoid dancing the Hokey Pokey at weddings . . . as well as the Chicken Dance and Y~M~C~A.

    Fads as a kid: Indian Mocassins, Saddle Shoes, Peace Signs, Hot Pants, Mini Skirts, etc. What the “in kids” wore, we all wanted!

  7. I remember pet rocks and then when kiddos were in school some sort of ‘electronic pet’ thingie that looked like a key chain and alerted its owner of its needs by various rings and graphics. Sound familiar?
    As for party dances: hokey pokey was too hokey for our family, but we all liked that chicken dance and tarantella and havah na’gila. And lots of swing (with salsa varients) and polka. Geesh for us not being a very athletic family, we sure enjoyed our dancing (maybe cuz everyone wasn’t so good at it!)
    But as for adolescent dancing – one of my cousins was into MoTown dancing and taught us other girl cousins to get down and then there was always the jerk HA!

    • 😀 I’m picturing you and your cousins dancing. That’s awesome. We also have that in our family gatherings. 😀
      I had one of those key chain pets. Mine always died.

      • LOL – so did most of the ones around our neighborhood! The weirder thing is: the concept morphed into ‘virtual babies’ during the end of middle school…for a parent that ‘experiment’ was unnerving, haven’t a clue as to how it affected the student population. 😦
        BTW: I’m enjoying my ‘happy dance’ – thanks for joining in!

  8. Lol, I smiled at the title as it took me down memory lane… oooh do the hokey pokey! 🙂

    I’ve learnt a new word, thanks to you. I don’t know whether this is a fad, I think not, but it’s a thing. Bloggers tend to write about New Year Resolutions in their first post of the New Year. I wanted to so depart from that this year. 🙂

  9. Ah . . . all the fads I’ve known, from mini-skirts to bellbottoms, long hair down to my waste which came after the Donna Reed and the flip. Shoulder pads, which I think are coming back (horrors) and I did have a pet rock – and a lava lamp, but, truly, I was gifted the lava lamp by a summer employer who thought I was a permanent employee, but, that was a lie (I’m still doing penance) as I needed a summer job. Anyways, told them I had to leave as I was getting married and they gave me a lava lamp as a wedding gift. haha
    Hokey Pokey, of course, and our daughter Katy actually had it at her wedding (after I said, please, no Chicken Dance).
    Now where did I put my Hula Hoop?

    • Ha ha! True, Penny. Target sells lava lamps now. I was tempted to get one! Maybe I will at some point.

      I refuse to return to shoulder pads! They will not be coming back to my closet!

  10. It’s funny how the fads keep coming back. We should try to invent some new, never-before-seen fads somehow. Believe it or not, I have a hula hoop in my office that came about through an exercise challenge. I haven’t used it in a while though. Bellwether sounds like a good one – I love science fiction and will have to check it out – thank you!

    • Hi, Sheila. I thought about mentioning the hula hoop. But since it can still be found in stores, I didn’t. The hula hoop is great for that!

      Hope you enjoy Bellwether!

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