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Elusive allusions

By Debra Dobbins

When middle-school students did not know the answer to a question I posed today, I was relieved. That’s unusual for a teacher, even a retired teacher such as I, but let me explain.

Here’s the question: What’s the name of the horse appearing at the top of today’s paper?

Hint: An allusion to the name appears in the copy to the right of the picture. It reads, “An auction triggers Bob’s concerns this week.” (Curious about the auction? Check out Over the Top on gjsentinel.com.)

To refresh your memory, an allusion is a reference to a book, film, poem, event, a work of art or something else that has found a niche in the general knowledge of our culture.

Don’t feel bad if you get the answer wrong. If you know it, you are either older than dirt or you have been watching way too many reruns.

Early this morning I glanced at the photo of the horse and then read the corresponding copy. Being in the childhood of my old age, as my mother gleefully points out, I instantly knew that the writer of this “tease” used the verb “triggers” to allude to one of the best-known horses in America, a golden palomino named Trigger.

I grew up enthralled with the TV adventures of Trigger and his master, Roy Rogers, one of America’s iconic cowboy heroes. Roy Rogers is as familiar to me as Ben Cartwright, the Lone Ranger and Rowdy Yates. (That statement should remove all doubts that I am indeed older than dirt.)

Chances are that the delightful students I met today in Vivian Lybarger’s Extended Learning class would not be familiar with any of these names either.

That’s OK. Even though many cultural allusions stand the test of time, many do not. In the meantime, new allusions are created. These students have allusions all their own, and someday they will ask people younger than themselves if those youngsters “get” the reference.

Their allusions will creep into the media, and in the shockingly near future I’ll be scratching my head over many of them. Will they elude me? I suspect so. In this matter I’ll just have to say “happy trails” to any illusions of being hip. (People still do say that, don’t they?)


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