Good Grief! Quintessential Words Of “Peanuts”

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Sometimes, our memory takes a word or phrase and attaches it to a voice or a moment in time. You’ll always hear that lullaby in your Grandpa’s voice, or think of your friend when someone says “well, THAT’S awesome” in a certain way.

Charles Schulz, creator of the classic cartoon strip “Peanuts,” gave us visuals and catchphrases that still resonate in pop culture consciousness. How many of these words will immediately get you thinking of Charlie Brown and the gang?

Security Blanket

Most people are familiar with the idea of a security blanket, which is a blanket (or similar item) is carried around by a young child to provide reassurance and a feeling of security. Amazingly, Schulz himself may have been the one to coin and popularize the term. He didn’t specifically say it had to be blue, but that might be the first thing you picture.

Rats!

Whose voice mutters this phrase in your mind? Can you see a speech bubble pop up above the cartoon head? This is Charlie Brown’s signature method of expressing disappointment in the world of Peanuts. Remember when the gang chewed him out for bringing back that scrawny Christmas tree? That was a classic “Rats!” moment.

Blockhead

Blockhead is Lucy’s number one insult for good ol’ Charlie Brown. Here’s another example of a word you probably didn’t hear much of until Peanuts, and yet blockhead, which means a stupid, doltish person or a dunce, has been around since 1540.

Joe Cool

Schulz introduced Snoopy’s alter-ego, named Joe Cool in May of 1971. Joe Cool was a college student who was often seen hanging out at the student union, watching the world go by (going to class just wasn’t his thing). This nickname found its way to 49ers star quarterback Joe Montana—so do you think of the NFL, or a cartoon pup?

Good Grief

Good grief is the go-to expression of frustration in the world of Peanuts. We know that grief is a “cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow,” so how can that be good, Charlie? If Marcie was on the case, the 33rd definition could be cited: “fairly large or great.”

A large distress. If you miss kicking a football for the 100th time or crash your kite into a maniacal kite-eating tree, this phrase makes total sense.

Beethoven

Well obviously, Schulz didn’t make up Ludwig Van Beethoven, one of the most prolific composers in music history. But after Peanuts character Schroeder professed his undying devotion to the classical master, Beethoven’s work enjoyed resurgent popularity with modern audiences. If you’ve ever listened to a classical piece that you can’t quite place, but know that you’ve heard it before, you might need to thank Schroeder and his not-so-toy-sounding piano.

Fussbudget

Lucy Van Pelt is affectionately known as a fussbudget—a fussy or needlessly fault-finding person. Schulz once said, “Lucy comes from that part of me that’s capable of saying mean and sarcastic things, which is not a good trait to have, so Lucy gives me a good outlet.” Fussbudget is an Americanism dating back to the turn of last century, but it might be helpful to just put a picture of Lucy on the definition page.

Sopwith Camel

In his (and his creator’s) imagination, Snoopy’s doghouse also doubled as a Sopwith Camel, since the dog fancied himself as a World War I Flying Ace. Had you ever heard of this plane prior to Schulz sending it back into the skies? Probably not. This was a real plane, a single-seat biplane fighter, and the Sopwith Aviation Company named it for the hump-shaped protective covering that went over its machine guns—very effective against the Red Baron.

Great Pumpkin

It’s funny how one simple word can change the meaning of the ordinary, everyday pumpkin. Yet that’s what Schulz did, sticking the descriptor at the front to create a mythical new creature, one who soars through the skies and seeks out the most sincere pumpkin patch every Halloween.

Some point to an implied religious metaphor in Schulz’s use of the word sincere—earnestly free of deceit, hypocrisy, or falseness. Linus is certainly all of those things. Sally might disagree with that definition, though: her long night in the pumpkin patch netted zero Great Pumpkin results.