Saturday, November 12, 2022

Looking for trouble

From a short post I wrote yesterday: “I don’t go looking for trouble. It finds me.” I was aiming to sound noirish, and I must have had Raymond Chandler Trouble Is My Business (1950) in the back of my mind. Geo-B thought I was referencing Harry Potter, which surprised me. I’ve read no more than a page of the first Potter novel. But here’s the passage, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), the third Harry Potter novel:

“I don’t go looking for trouble,” said Harry, nettled. “Trouble usually finds me.”
Last night, we were watching an episode of Seinfeld, “The Switch” (first aired January 5, 1995). Kramer’s mother Babs (Sheree North) meets up with Newman (Michael Knight):
Hi, Newman.

Hi, Babs.

What are you doin’?

Just mindin’ my own business.

You can’t get into trouble that way.

What makes you think I’m lookin’ for trouble?

From what I hear, you postmen don’t have to look too far.

[Fiendish laughter.] Well, you know, sometimes it just has a way of finding me.
Here’s the scene.

Older sources suggests that such phrasing has long been in the air. From Computers in Libraries (1990):
I don’t go looking for these things, honest I don’t. As the editor of Database Searcher has been known to say, “Trouble finds me. I don’t go looking for it.”
From the magazine Soldiers (August 1984):
“I don't look for trouble. Trouble looks for me when I make my walking checks during the trip.”
From Erwin Haskell Schell’s Technique of Administration: Administrative Proficiency in Business (1951):
I want to find trouble before trouble finds me.
And from Mark Guy Pearse’s Christ’s Cure for Care (1902) in which an old mother offers wise counsel:
“Don’t you trouble trouble
Till trouble troubles you.
Don’t you look for trouble:
Let trouble look for you.”
And if we were still in the world of noir, a voicover might now take over:
I remembered a poem my sainted mother used to recite: “Don’t you look for trouble: / Let trouble look for you.” Well, ma, it’d found me — but good.
[Thanks, Elaine, for finding the 1951 and 1902 sources. And thanks, Joe, for identifying Babs as Kramer’s mother, not his sister.]

comments: 4

Chris said...

One more, from Richard Thompson's "Poor Ditching Boy": "I was looking for trouble to tangle my line / But trouble came looking for me."

ksh said...

And if we were still in the world of noir, a voicover might now take over:

"That reminded me, how did she get herself involved with that slimy weasel Rococo and how do I make my voice this?"

Joe DiBiase said...

Michael, Babs is Kramer's mother, not his sister. Which makes her dalliance with Newman all the more cringe-worthy.

Michael Leddy said...

“Trouble came looking” sounds like another noir title, doesn’t it, Chris?

Kevin, I had to look up the weasel, and now I get it.

Thanks, for the correction, Joe. It never would have occurred to me that she was his mother. Aiieee!