Rickyisms and Language
What Ricky LaFleur of Trailer Park Boys teaches us about language
Ricky LaFleur is a fictional character from the Canadian comedy show Trailer Park Boys. The show is a “mockumentary,” or fake documentary, about the white lower class of Nova Scotia.
The red-headed "Ricky” is known for his outbursts and arrogant character.
While the audience may laugh at his antics, the character provides wisdom about language, alternatives to logic, and how we can never trust the text.
For the first example, there is an episode where Ricky is in jail, and explains to the director his confidence and intelligence. The clip can be viewed here.
“The thing with me is that I am smart, and I'm ‘self smarted,’ basically by myself, basically from nature and smokin drugs and doing different things, I've… self-learned from myself. And that's the whole difference, I guess, is that I don't need the books or the school and any type things. I just get everything on my own, and because of that I'm alive right now. I mean if I read more books or tried to go on to college and differences like that, I'd be dead right now, because people say books and college are for you to make you smarter, but that can also be for to be to get you dead, which is what could happen to me. My brain doesn't use enough oxygen because I don't have, the whole thing filled with the different stuff, and if it was full, and it’s only partly full, that is why I’m alive right now.
The guards say “Read this book, try to get smarter!” I'm like, alright I'll pretend to read it, I'm not gonna really read it, cuz then my brain will be more full, and if I have another heart attack, I’m gonna die.”
We laugh that Ricky uses his own “Rickyisms” to explain his actions through poor word choices and logic. Ricky believes he is “self-smarted,” or intelligent in his own right, through his own experiences, which justifies that he should never read books because it is a painful process for him. The surrogate is through nature and drugs, which he believes are just as good as consuming books. The painful mental struggle with learning, and surviving college, means that Ricky would be dead, and he is much safer existing in his reality, which he is grateful for. Ricky is willing to pretend to read a book, just to satisfy a guard in fear that he could die.
We all laugh at this incoherent stupidity. However, what is Ricky saying about epistemology? Ricky is confident with his empirical upbringing. It wasn’t so much that he was having fun in the process of learning, but he was confident with his knowledge of the world, or, of his solipsism.
Ricky doesn't want to learn if he is struggling or in pain, but rather, wants to feel good about his environment, understanding, and language.
Consider other Rickyisms that are found throughout the show. Often Ricky will mispronounce words, get metaphors wrong, and express himself with the highest confidence. A video compilation of such Rickyisms can be viewed here at this link.
Look at some of the examples of Ricky’s language:
“I don’t know how to express myself sometimes to be… properly different.”
“Number one, I don’t want to go to jail. Number two, or whatever number we are on afterward.”
“You know, he’s gettin all frostrated.”
“You can go to college and get your P-F-D or whatever it’s called, I don’t care.”
“Remember, what comes around is all around.”
“Looks like a tropical earthquake blew through here or something.”
“Why are you using big school words, when you can use normal people words and I can understand what you are talking about?”
“It’s all in supply and command.”
“Also I have to work through denial and error.”
“It’s a Catch 23 situation.”
“It’s not a ladybug, it’s a canterpiller.”
“Make like a tree and fuck off.”
“Make my words, I’m gonna get my grade 10.”
“It was my mother’s mating name.”
“Why do you look like Indianapolis Jones?”
“There these things upstairs in his brain compartment that are not working for him. He’s got these pikecological shit going on.”
“It doesn't take rock appliances to do it. Gorilla see, Gorilla do.
“Do you have a search warranty?”
“Do you own space? No. Naysa does!”
“I toad a so!”
“Fire is golfing everywhere!”
“Rakeins! That’s what those furry little bitches are!”
“Survival of the fitness, boys!”
Ricky is trying to project his own language through mimicry and sound. Frustration is now “frostrated,” caterpillar is “canterpiller,” the psychological is “pikecological,” and so on. Even though cultural sayings and popular culture references, he mixes them up. Catch-22 is “Catch 23,” and Indiana Jones is “Indianapolis Jones.” And Ricky constructs new verbs for the words he can’t remember.
We may laugh and ridicule Ricky’s stupidity, but taking a closer look, we also understand how language is constructed and put into application.
Ricky wants to say he thinks differently but does not have the intelligence level to express himself in that way. He is not aware of logic or sequence, but aware of simple pleasures and casual communication. He knows something bad is happening, but has to make up surrogate words, or words he knows by association, as an explanation.
Call it illiteracy, but Ricky’s intelligence still shines through his sheer ability to interact with his environment. Ricky wants to be left alone in nature and consume the things that make him happy.
Language isn’t so much about clarity, but a hidden truth about how people construct their environment, inside their mind. Back to Ricky’s solipsism, we understand his words are about sounding similar to the objective words around us. The acronym of NASA is pronounced “Naysa” for Ricky, because that’s what it looks like by intuition, without rules or awareness. Rickey believes Racoons are “Rakeins.” A “Rakein” is not the same raccoon we understand and objectively see. To Ricky’s mind, he might see them as “beaky-nosed cats.” That implies the Racoon has an ideologically different signifier, unlike our own, based upon a consensus reality. How are beaky-nosed cats different from the Racoons we often associate in our mind, at this present time? Ricky sees “the Rakeins” as cuddly creatures, as we see “the Racoons” as garbage pests. We can laugh and recorrect Ricky, but that ridicule won’t change the ideological assumption that Racoons for Ricky are beaky-nosed creatures. It is through popular culture, and the influence of lower-class culture, that transforms and shapes Ricky’s understanding of the world.
We must pick apart the ideological origins of words and the historical etymology of Ricky’s logic, pronunciation, and word choice. How has popular culture influenced him? Why does he associate Indiana Jones with Indianapolis? Why is fire “golfing?” What is a “search warranty” compared to Ricky’s other understanding of warranties? Why is it “supply and command” than “supply and demand?” Can we connect the word “demand” to a different logical outcome of Ricky’s understanding of the word? Why is it a “mating name” than a maiden name? Why does Ricky think that people “mate” when they change their name?
We can take the text and reveal the inner meaning behind it, through understanding the euphemisms and the cultural anthropology around Ricky’s language. Maybe we have to use “normal people” words to communicate and write down a world philosophy that Ricky wants to share with us but has poorly developed communication skills. When considering the discipline and art of cultural anthropology, we investigate the culture and deconstruct the language to observe a hidden truth.
Ricky, with enough intelligence and awareness, could be trying to explain something to us we don’t understand. However, we can also be doubting the author himself, and confront the poor language he is conveying. Enough outside criticism could help Ricky, as we are countering his ethics and translation. In other words, while we may find it hilarious Ricky is so dumb and illiterate, we still deconstruct his language and find a greater truth about his culture, thought process, and abstractions about the world.
This entire time, Ricky is referring to Racoons, and we didn’t even know it. He threw at us a story about “Rakeins.” Yet with enough clues and hints, this wasn’t the case.
Language is tricky because often we trust the author too much, and never reclaim our sanity as the reader. We think words mean what they look like and how they are conveyed. We trust the author without ever considering doubt. How do we know he is actually “throwing the knives,” (or writing the story with awareness), when we, ourselves, are not doubting that? Ricky is nothing more than an imaginary character portrayed by actor, Robb Wells. Wells is playing a trick on us and wants us to believe he is in control of every action Ricky is doing.
But maybe Robb Wells is Ricky! Therefore, we should doubt Wells, because Wells is Ricky. With that assumption, think of similar people, in similar socioeconomic standings like in Trailer Park Boys, that which the character Ricky is based. Ricky is a role model or a representation of the lower-income classes of Canada. Perhaps he is someone who is suffering from PTSD, verbal abuse, and a reflection of the depraved state of those who are exploited. Rickyism is an ideological language about abuse, and about those who are stubborn, impulsive, and downright evil. No longer it is a joke about stupidity, but a serious topic addressing abusive families in lower-income white areas.
To fully understand someone, we must speak and think like them too. Afterwards, we can then doubt the author, and pry bigger questions about what is going on. Ricky could have said he “learned on his own,” but told him instead he was “self-smarted.”
Is the change in rhetoric any different from the intelligence level of the author, or the author’s reliability?
Only then do we have bigger questions for shady answers.