I think Rodney Dangerfield cemented the hilarity of a kangaroo when he exclaimed “that kangaroo just stole my ball!” in the multiple Oscar award winning flick Caddyshack. It’s funny because it was a ridiculous animatronic gopher that stole his ball and also because Rodney Dangerfield is like a boardwalk drawn caricature come to life. I also watched the movie a thousand times in college, laughing at it surrounded by like minded (and possibly inebriated) scholars.
Fast forward to the present in which I am now a very responsible adult raising 3 upstanding children in the ways of Victorian etiquette and the kangaroo theme persists. Whenever the question of “What should we name the <cat, dog, scarecrow, frog outside the window>?” comes up, my default response is Captain Kangaroo. I’ve never actually seen the TV show of the same name but it doesn’t matter. It’s just hilarious to think of referring to myself as Captain Kangaroo. Do I have bizarre L-shaped legs and wear a yachting cap? Am I an actual Captain of something important but think I’m a kangaroo?
Then in today’s Wall Street Journal, the resident wordsmith – Ben Zimmer – dove into the etymology of yet another great variation of the word, a Kangaroo Court. My immediate thought is of a courtroom where the judge is a kangaroo with a Colonial British wig on, ludicrous. But one possible origin story is that in the neighborhood of Kangaroo, Mississippi back in the 1800’s a gambler was tarred, feathered and dragged into the literal Kangaroo court to face his sins. It’s almost too much. I mean, I wish I lived in this town so I could tell people I’m a Kangaroo. Not to mention the fact that tarring and feathering is a real thing. The lunacy of it!
And apparently our illustrious President twitted that any testifying by other illustrious political types regarding his illustrious Presidency would be worthless as it would happen in a Kangaroo Court.
Now, I think it’s safe to say that these days America, in general, is one huge Kangaroo Court. I mean it’s a really not too much of a stretch to see our entire government as being a herd of actual wild kangaroos, jumping around, fake wigs and all. But that’s a post for another day. My point is only that kangaroos are funny animals and using the word in strange ways is funnier.