Writer’s Workshop: Cheap Fun

Sign says “buy 3, pay 2.” Image by katermikesch from Pixabay

You know what word gets no respect? Cheap. It means "low-cost" or "inexpensive," but "cheap" is borderline derogatory. It also means "thrifty," but in a bad way.

People of Scottish descent are notorious for being thrifty. An irate Scotsman wrote to a local newspaper and said "If you don’t stop talking about how the Scots are so cheap, I’ll stop borrowing your newspaper." My mother-in-law would use the term "Scotch" for people who were miserly; she never knew her son-in-law was 2% Scottish, at least according to Ancestry DNA.

In fairness, I didn’t know, either. I always suspected it, because I like bagpipe music and Scotch whiskey (which, by the way, ain’t cheap). When you send your DNA to one of those places that tests it and figures out where you’re from, they tell you based on what they know at the time, which is essentially "based on the people who have also sent their DNA in." As more people use the service, they get a better idea of what indicates where you’re from and adjust accordingly.

Larry Lujack, a longtime Chicago disk jockey who spent most of his career at either WLS or WCFL, had a regular feature on his show called the "Cheap, Trashy Showbiz Report." The source for most of the show business news was the National Enquirer, where most of the cheap, trashy showbiz reports are. The Enquirer has higher journalistic standards than most newspapers, because they can be sued for libel.

The Enquirer is but one of a whole host of what my mother-in-law generally referred to as "scandal sheets." My favorite was the Weekly World News, which was loaded with bizarre stories of John F. Kennedy actually being alive and fathering alien children. One can only imagine JFK showing up at Caroline’s house and introducing her to her… well, would it be a brother, a sister, or something else? The scandal sheets were what we called "cheap entertainment," as was MAD magazine, which would always print "PRICE 50¢ CHEAP" on the cover. At least, it was 50¢ when I was in high school reading it…

23 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Cheap Fun

  1. I didn’t know that about Scots. I just think of them being big on freedom from watching Braveheart.
    I do remember getting Mad magazines for 50¢ Cheap!


    1. MAD was a great magazine. That was practically a must-read when I was in high school: it helped us make sense of the world, or at least to laugh at it.


  2. I’m snobby about some things, sure, but there are a great many cheap things that please me most — like cheap wine and borrowing books from the library! 🙂


  3. I do like getting what I want at a lower price. Better if it comes with free delivery, too. I used to love Mad magazine. I especially liked how they spoofed popular 70’s TV shows. Classier then a comic book. The funniest reference to those scandal magazines I ever saw was on Men In Black when they used them as “intel” for alien activities on earth. Hilarious.


    1. We go out of our way to make sure that any order we place comes with free shipping.

      I learned a lot from MAD. It was worth the money. It was clear they put a lot of thought into it and didn’t treat kids and teens like dummies.

      I don’t remember Men In Black well enugh to remember that, but it doesn’t surprise me…


  4. Power to the cheap! Just not so much the gossip of alien weirdness. I think my first Mad magazine was 25(where is the cent sign?). But it went up fast. Thank goodness for babysitting money!


      1. &CETS So if I hold shift to get the & I hold it down with the & while typing the rest? I will see if this works when I hit send, I guess. ??


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