Dialogue from Upper Lip

(SAMUEL is strumming a banjolin and singing from a pamphlet of sheet music. It sounds awful.)

SAMUEL: “Things have come to a pretty pass
Our romance is growing flat
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that…
I say tomato and you say –”

(RINEHART enters, sees that SAMUEL is playing, and makes an involuntary, barely detectible sigh.)

SAMUEL: Rinehart, did I detect a barely detectable sigh?

RINEHART: (With an expression of quiet disapprobation) Oh no, sir.

SAMUEL: No me no noes, man, I see your expression of quiet disapprobation, if that’s the word I’m looking for. You don’t like me playing the banjolin, do you? Go on, speak your mind.

RINEHART: Are you quite certain that this particular… instrument is befitting of a young gentleman?

SAMUEL: (Shaking his head) For all your manifold virtues, Rinehart, you simply don't appreciate music.

RINEHART: I have recently found myself becoming somewhat averse to it, sir.

SAMUEL: Well, you will be aversing on the other side of your face when I am a music-hall sensation, and you have to haul my instruments from one fashionable West End venue to the next. It was a genius, Rinehart, a true genius who first thought of marrying the banjo to the mandolin, locking the pair of them in a honeymoon suite with a few bottles of Asti, and selling the results in Harrod’s.

RINEHART: As you say.

SAMUEL: (Singing) “I say tomato and you say tomato
I say potato and you say potato”
(He pronounces both tomatoes, and both potatoes, identically.) Rinehart, what’s this song about?

RINEHART: In as far as I can tell, sir, a series of differences of opinion between two unfortunate lovers.

SAMUEL: But they sound rather well suited. They seem to be made for each other. Both enjoy fine dining, long walks on the beach, and repeating the names of various vegetables. Get Mr (Checks songbook) Gershwin on the telephone and have him explain himself.

RINEHART: I fear the lyricist may be unavailable.

SAMUEL: Oh well. I suppose a lot of great art doesn’t make sense.

RINEHART: To you, sir.

SAMUEL: (Sings) “I say tomato and you say tomato…”

RINEHART: “Tomayto”, sir.

SAMUEL: No, Rinehart, pretty sure it’s tomato. My father used to grow them, or have the gardener grow them, or buy them or something.

RINEHART: The diphthongic pronunciation is current in parts of America, sir. The narrator and his inamorata each refer to the fruit by a distinct appellation, underlining their fundamental incompatibility.

SAMUEL: Oh. So their love is doomed, eh?

RINEHART: I am afraid so, sir.

SAMUEL: Then the moral or adage is, “Don’t mess around with girls who don’t know the received pronunciations of fresh produce – it’ll end in tears.” That about right?