2017-04-06 / Front Page

‘Sorry, Charlie’ reminiscent of 1940s yet steadily fades from modern speech

By JANE ELLYN AARON
news editor

Sorry, Charlie – this particular American lexicon seems to have vanished in present-day vernacular, at least among younger generations, despite the overwhelming wave of new hipsterism that’s spreading across the globe. Oddly enough, this unique saying was introduced to the American 60s by way of a commercial campaign thanks to StarKist Tuna, which should make it a prime candidate for slang usage amongst today’s alternative youth.

Even more peculiar, however, is that April 6 is the annually designat­ed “Sorry Charlie Day,” which sets to encourage anyone who has faced rejection, whether it came from a potential employer, paramour, or anywhere else, that it is now the time to “self-reflect” on those rejec­tions, grow from the experience, and celebrate that they’ve come out on the other end a stronger, more confident individual.

StarKist Tuna’s mascot, Charlie the Tuna – an original hipster, it would seem – is iconically known for donning a beret and dark shades, as he spit out colloquialisms remi­niscent of the rat pack era, and when he made his commercial debut in 1961 all he wanted to do was make it big with the emerging company.

However, finding continual rejec­tion with each commercial release for the StarKist campaign, Char­lie never seemed to become too distraught over never making the cut as a “StarKist tuna,” he would simply pick himself back up after the the words “Sorry, Charlie!” were waved in front of his face and sign off with an equally iconic “Tell ’em Charlie sent ya,” to other hopefuls.

Clearly, if a genus of the mackerel family knows how to learn from rejection, surely mankind can do the same.

Charlie was the creation of Tom Rogers of the Leo Burnett Agency, and rumor has it that the fish was based on Rogers’ friend, musician Henry Nemo. Nemo, who was celebrated in the days of jazzy big bands, is often considered the “cre­ator of jive,” which fits in well with the loose-lipped slangs Charlie used to sell StarKist’s tuna.

Nemo was born around the turn of the century, and was known as not only a musician, but as a songwriter and actor, who also garnered himself the reputation of “hipster.”

He is known for working with industry greats such as Duke El­lington, Frank Sinatra, and Artie Shaw. Later in his career, he had his own 19-piece jazz band, and he showcased some of his infamous “jive talk” in the 1947 movie “The Neem.”

It would appear that Charlie’s debut in ’61 had enough ties to the 1940s hipster movement to successfully plant his unspoken catchphrase “Sorry, Charlie,” into American speech.

Perhaps a rollover of the gen­eration that adopted this particular type of laid-back lifestyle, infused with jazz music, off-beat clothing choices, odd-ball slangs, and other non-traditional standards of life, was enough to claim “Sorry, Char­lie” as a popular lexicon.

While the saying may have been preferential to others like “bum­mer!” or “tough luck, kid” at the height of its popularity, today it’s being used less and less. Regardless of how the phrase managed to work its way into common-day speech, it clearly found its way into the his­tory books on pop culture.

Now, as far as April 6 is con­cerned, perhaps we can all take note of Charlie’s attitude and try, try again, despite those past rejections, because while we might not be someone’s prime tuna now, there’s always room to grow into that “StarKist” quality. Least of all, we can rest easy knowing that we live in a world where a Sorry Charlie Day exists in the first place.

Return to top