I love reading the history behind common phrases. Here’s one that has a Hoosier origin. You might think I made this up (and you’d be correct).
Despite the popular belief that the saying “It takes two to tango” is of Hispanic origin, I heard it originated in what is now Carmel at the turn of the century –1900, that is. Hoosier Ralph Yackerman loved to dance, but ever since his fifth wife ran away with a feed salesman, he hated women … and men, for that matter. So, dancing was virtually eliminated from his social calendar. Although many would have considered it a substantial drawback, Yackerman practiced dancing in his home day and night, partnerless, but with no less fervor than would be expected of a Hoosier farmer, raised to bring passion and dedication to every endeavor.
One day, to Yackerman’s great delight, he read in the (name of your newspaper) that the local dance hall was having a tango contest. Yackerman was convinced that the addition of a partner was an unnecessary affectation by love-smitten Latinos.
The night of the contest, Yackerman was in rare form, whirling himself around the dance floor, snapping his head, twisting his body, contorting his back, all without a partner.
When the contest concluded, Yackerman was convinced he had prevailed, only to discover that he placed fifth out of six, beating only the Goodbottoms, an overweight couple who had made the three-day journey from Oolitic. The Goodbottoms had never tangoed before and were shocked to learn that the dance was not only very erotic, but was twice as aerobic as they could handle, resulting in a trip to the ER, where the Goodbottoms became the first documented case of a dual cardiac arrest by a married couple.
Yackerman was especially put off by the judge, who scribbled a note that said: “Sorry, Ralph, but it takes two to tango.” This so infuriated the solo hoofer that he showed the note to the local newspaper editor, Sal Muleman, and tried to convince him that he was the victim of some kind of discrimination.
Muleman printed the note in the local paper, and before long the phrase “It takes two to tango” caught on.
Within months, everyone was trying to work the phrase into conversation. At Farley’s Diner you’d hear people say things like, “You know, I think I better have bacon with those eggs. After all, it takes two to tango.” Or at the feed store, you’d hear old timers like Zack Newhouse saying, “I better get manure and peat moss … takes two to tango, ya know.”
So, there you have it. Next time you use the phrase, “It takes two to tango,” think of Ralph Yackerman. Next time you do the tango, think of the Goodbottoms.