You’ve probably heard the line “I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George.” As I just wrote on Facebook, teaching it to my children is one of my great accomplishments as a parent. (Remember, quoting yourself may be tacky, but it makes fact-checking much easier.) I always thought the line came from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Now I’m not so sure.
What follows is a condensed version of my attempt to figure out where “I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George” came from, which led me down a big Internet rabbit hole (pun intended) of cartoons, John Steinbeck, and other stuff.
At first the Internet seemed to be telling me that the cartoon in question was “The Abominable Snow Rabbit”.
In the video above, the line is, “I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him…” Not an exact match, but very close. (Daffy Duck has a great line as well: “I know I’m a louse. But I’m a live louse.”)
Then I stumbled across an intriguing tidbit: “The Abominable Snow Rabbit” is an homage to John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
OK. Sure. Why not?
Really. There are.
Here is “Lonesome Lenny”, a 1946 Tex Avery cartoon, described thusly on IMDB: “Screwy Squirrel is bought in a pet shop to be the companion of a daft dog so strong that he squeezes his playmates to death.” Well all righty then. The dog’s name is Lenny, and he calls his new pal George. (Lennie and George are the main characters in “Of Mice and Men.”)
(Tip of the hat to the folks on this AWN forum page for pointing me towards “Lonesome Lenny”.)
But there is another Tex Avery short, “Of Fox And Hounds”, released in 1940, that is also an “Of Mice and Men” thing. This is where the immortal line “Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?” came from. (I taught that one to my kids as well. I’m an awesome dad.)
(Hat tip to LanguageHat.com. No pun intended that time.)
Research note: Lest anyone think that my sources are limited to Wikipedia and pages I found via The Google, here is a link to The New York Times’ review of the 1939 film version of Steinbeck’s book (starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr.), which states that “Of Mice and Men” has been “endlessly parodied in Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons”. (Personally, I prefer “homage” to “parody” in this case. But let’s not split hairs. Or hares.)
“Of Fox And Hounds” seems to be the first animated homage to “Of Mice and Men.” But, with apologies to Bono, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. None of this tells me the source of “I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George.” Thinking that perhaps the words came from Steinbeck, I did some searching on Google Books, eventually changing my query to the phrase “Tell me about the rabbits George.” That opened a whole new rabbit hole of references.
Lennie, George and rabbits are apparently quite the thing. Who knew?
What did we learn? A lot. Haven’t answered my original question. But that’s OK.
(Thanks to the Facebook friends who inspired this post.)