Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Yoohoo, Mr. Whiteman…

In 1930, Hal Roach studios released the Laurel & Hardy classic short “Below Zero”.  It is a delightful film, one of many of the famous comedic duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  It was filmed in an “age of innocence” (my words) when compared to today’s decadence, opulence, and depravity.

There is a scene in the film which has long bothered me.  You see, Stan & Ollie portray a “down on their luck” pair who are trying to eek out a survival by playing music on the streets, relying on the generosity of those more well-off than they.   In an early scene, actress Kay Deslys is seen leaning out 2nd floor window where they are playing below and she shouts “Yoohoo! Oh Mr. Whiteman…” and asks them to move on down a couple of blocks.  It’s a delightfully funny scene though not by today’s standards involving sex or gays, but this scene always bothered me because I assumed it to be some sort of “racial slur” of the time – Stan & Ollie, both white, portrayed as poor and disadvantaged.  Thus I thought the person leaning out the window was referring to them negatively, my beloved Laurel & Hardy,  by the term “Mr. Whiteman”!   This bothered me for many years!  Truly it did!

Well, my concerns were very misguided!  It turns out that the term “Oh Mr. Whiteman” was not derogatory at all!  You see, Ollie was a dead ringer for a Jazz musician of the 1920’s-1930’s by the name of Paul Whiteman!   The “crack”, made by the actress leaning out the window, was only meant to be understood to the audience of the time – the audience who would see the movie short!   But in my time, I did not understand the use of the phrase "Yoohoo, Mr. Whiteman"!  I needed to know something about the era in which the film was made!  It was my fault it gave me concern!  It was my ignorance of that era which caused me grief!  I was not aware of “Paul Whiteman”, Jazz Musician!

So it hit me.  Today, we read scripture, all of which was written thousands of years ago, yet within it are terms we simply don’t or cannot today understand.   Thus, many conclude falsely many aspects of who God is, who the Messiah is, what was expected of us, and just what it was that the Messiah offered that we did not already have.   And when you realize that the original scriptures were written in the rich language of Hebrew and Aramaic, then translated to Greek, then to English, you can imagine the potential horrific change in meaning of the original scripture!  YHWH must be beside Himself!  Imagine the simple phrase in my beloved 1930 Laurel & Hardy movie “Below Zero” which says “Oh Mr. Whiteman” translated into Greek for a Greek audience!  They’d be looking at themselves, shrugging their shoulders with absolutely no understanding!

Thus the message of this post:  Read scripture, but where it is not clear, don’t assume!  Go study.  Find out what it originally meant.  You will find yourself coming closer to YHWH because you will come to know Him better.  

May you have a terrific Hanukkah of new-found understanding!



  1. I think the Bible becomes commercial now a days in the sense that the purpose of the author is the sell eventhough the translation is twisted and different versions came. I'm greatful (and thankful to Andrew) that the AENT version came around, for me it was very hard to read the first time, since what i've learned is from KJV and NIV, but i thank YHWH that He opened up my understanding. I am not dis-crediting NIV and KJV, i looked at it as an experienced the YHWH want for me, it's like a journey or riding on a train looking at differents scenes then finally arrived at your destination.

    Shalom and thanks for the post Liam. I have never seen any of Paul and Oliver movies but Charlie Chaplin and 3 stoogees :-)

  2. Thank you for your comment. Yes, sadly, the Bible has become "commercialized" with so many versions to appeal to segments of the audience. There are many versions with an "agenda", that this, to "spin" the scriptures into what they want them to mean. I always recommend people take the time to read the "front matter" in their Bible because there they explain why they translated the way they did. You find that many of today's Bibles are simply altered versions of an older, poor translation, changed just enough to comply with copyright law which requires 20% difference from another version. While I understand that your comments do not "discredit" the NIV and KJV for example, one can easily find many verses in the Gospels within these Bibles which clearly negate God's Word found in the Old Testament, which should make people say "Hey, wait a minute - this can't be right", but instead, they assume their Bible is "unerring" and they become misled.

    To know God and the Messiah requires work and study on our part! It truly does.

    (BTW, the famous comedy team is "Laurel & Hardy", not "Paul and Oliver". Oliver Hardy teamed with Stan Laurel. The "Paul Whiteman" I mentioned was a Jazz musician of the same era. He was not a comedy actor. Just thought I'd try to clear that up.)

  3. Note: A person, "Anonymous", has been attempting to comment on this blog and has questioned why his/her comments have not been approved. They were not approved because the comment was not about the message of this blog post, rather, was off-topic. Therefore the comment was considered as having no value added and it was therefore not approved. This is a blog, not an "open forum".

    Nevertheless, here is the latest comment from Anonymous, which will also not be approved:

    "I see that you never published my comment. I was only curious. Do you have a problem with being asked what you found so racist? I've been reading your comments on the ferguson incidents and while I do agree they are handling the situation incorrectly, I am beginning to wonder... on Yoohoo, Mr. Whiteman…"

    No, I do not have a problem with the question. But the primary question in this person's disapproved comment was why I thought the statement "Oh, Mr. Whiteman" was racist - and the answer was within the article. It says: "...this scene always bothered me because I assumed it to be some sort of “racial slur” of the time – Stan & Ollie, both white, portrayed as poor and disadvantaged."

    As to the events at Ferguson, this blog post was not about those events.


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