FAST-US-7 (TRENAK15) United States Popular Culture (Hopkins)
Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere
Seven editions of Dick and Jane textbooks were published by Scott, Foresman and Company from 1930 to 1965. Dick and Jane was an elementary schoolbook in reading and health for more than 85 million Americans from the 1930s through the 1960s. The stories featured the happy lives of Mother, Father, Dick, Jane, baby Sally, family pets Spot and Puff, and Sally's teddy bear, Tim.
Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, Puff and Tim in action. Note the simple,
repetitive syntax of the language
Millions of Americans first learned to read with Dick and Jane using the "whole word reading system." The dialogue was simple and repetitive. Only a few words were on each page; pictures conveyed the story. The language was effective; everyone who read the stories remembered sentences like "Look Jane, Look! Look at Spot! See Spot run. See Spot go. Go Spot, Go!" (see also the Wikipedia overview). Consequently, allusions to this stylized language are common, either directly as in the Vidlit Yiddish With Dick and Jane and this New York Times fitness article (PDF) or indirectly as in the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon below:
Calvin's satire of pretentious academic jargon is keyed to the
simplicity and innocence of Dick and Jane
Naturally, there are also other allusions to Dick and Jane beyond the style of the language (cf. the film title Fun With Dick and Jane, originally from 1977 with George Segal and Jane Fonda, redone in 2006 with Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni). Dick and Jane may serve as metaphors for schoolchildren in general, as in Tina M. Prow's article on The Perils of Dick and Jane, or boys and girls symbolically, as in Carla Williams' Reading Deeper: The Legacy of Dick and Jane in the World of Clarissa Sligh. Web searches will also reveal more than one porno site which exploits the "name recognition" of Dick and Jane. However, allusions to Dick and Jane generally refer to the innocent youth and simple language portrayed in the elementary reading textbooks used by millions of American schoolchildren.