Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the meaning of life.

When I was young Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise ” was always on the radio. It was everywhere, it was catchy, and it gave you the impression that there was some deeper meaning in the lyrics, as if in those words a greater truth could be found.

I was in the third grade when I thought that.

Here, in Korea, cell phone shops, butchers shops, just any random place will put the loudest boom box they can buy and put out on the street. That was how “Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang,” by Lee Hyo-Ri was blasted into my skull for a couple of years.

This was blasted into my skull.

At the time, I didn’t think much about the phrase “Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang,” thinking that it was probably slang for a mythical sex act or at least a predatory racial slur. But recently, that phrase turned up in a mix of music that I often listen to from my favorites KEXP. “U-Huh” by Tkay Maidza, (an Aussie)

Not blasted into my skull. Not yet.

So, I decided to use the infinite wisdom of the internet to find out what the phrase is all about. According to Wikipedia, it’s from noisy British race cars from the turn of the last century. And also this:


So, it’s a catchy phrase. It keeps popping up. And again, I’m brought back to that same bizarre feeling I had in the third grade: that in it, must be the meaning of life. Like how Pi pops up in everything. Or 42.

If you do see the movie, check out this interpretation. You might find it illuminating.

Or we just keep using a phrase that has no real meaning. If you do know an alternate meaning, please let me know. I’m curious.

2 comments… add one
  • gordsellar Aug 16, 2015, 4:22 pm

    Ha, that analysis of the CCBB movie is pretty incredible. I know I watched the movie (more than once) as a kid, but don’t remember a thing about it, beyond thinking it was a lot like (i.e. too much like) the Herbie The Love Bug movies. (The first of which came out around the same time.)

    It seems very likely to me that the interpretation would be stridently opposed by everyone involved in CCBB. It also seems likely to me that it’s more valid because of that, in some sense: the whole unstated, unspeakable awareness that X number of kids get plowed to death by cars sort of hangs about the unconscious while the hack screenwriter plows out an entertaining, cute film about kids and cars, for kids obsessed with cars, some of whom will also be plowed to death by cars. Which is less Jungian and more just about latent anxiety. (Which I suppose is closer to Freudian terms of neurotic acting-out or something, but, eh, screw Freud.)

    The Hyori video link is dead, by the way. (I didn’t know she did a CCBB song but perhaps I should be grateful not to have known. I’ll take the video’s failure as a sign that I should back away in order to retain my sanity.)

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