What Does “He's Meditating On Whether A Flea Has A Belly Button" Mean?
Er klert tsi a floy hot a pupik.
There are several equally colorful expressions in this vein and whenever multiple incarnations of a single sentiment exist, one is apt to ask the question, “Why?” Well, I’d like to propose two hypotheses, one flattering and one not-so-flattering.
We’ll start with the former. Jews are an industrious bunch. We like to put our time and our minds to good use. Knowing this, it’s safe to assume that a pet-peeve of the Jewish people might be those who fail to do likewise.
On the other not-so-becoming hand (the one that was mangled in a turnip masher), there exists a less flattering possibility. There’s a chance—just a chance—that this expression and its many cohorts were inspired by a problem in-house: the inherent propensity for Jewish minds to, shall we say, dwell on the less-than-practical. I am by no means criticizing our neuroses! When applied productively, our overactive minds certainly can and have been put to great use. And that’s my point exactly! If it weren’t for the artfully anxious likes of Woody Allen, Larry David, and Lewis Black, the world of comedy would be reduced to an overabundance of redneck jokes and a grown man with his hand up a puppet’s tuchus. But imagine if Freud had spent his days fretting about the frivolous. Or if Einstein’s eccentricities edged out his efficacy! Where would we be today without the coltish but constructive consciousness of those Jews?
In the end, I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Expressions like these were coined out of an awareness that Jewish mind and muscle (figuratively speaking, of course) are great powers that, like Peter Parker postulates, come with great responsibility. The Jewish mind is a terrible thing to waste ... especially on awfully asinine and amateurishly awkward alliteration.
Bernie and Art watch as John Betts, the new guy in sales, rearranges his office for the fifth time…
Bernie: “I hear he ordered three kinds of business cards because he couldn’t decide on a font.”
Art: “Mindy told me he spent most of last week sharpening pencils and agonizing over which parking space to claim. Meanwhile, I haven’t seen him pick up the phone once other than to record and re-record his outgoing message a half dozen times! I give him another week, tops. Look at him! He’s just sitting there! What could he possibly be doing?!”
Bernie: ”He's meditating on whether a flea has a belly button. What else?”
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