Slogans, catchphrases, lines from movies and TV shows have appeared on everything from mugs to magnets to T-shirts since the mid 20th century. Tropes like Where's the beef?, I hate Mondays and Keep on truckin' have been emblazoned on all sorts of merchandise. Just go into a Cracker Barrel and you'll find inspirational and humorous words on signs and tchotchkes that your grandparents have festooned throughout their abode.
The best vintage-phrase finds are like shooting stars or four-leaf clovers. They come along rarely and unexpectedly. Once, at Sunshine Thrift in Tampa, I found a 1970s-era shirt emblazoned with corny bubble letters that read, "The hell with housework, I'm going to bingo!" Truly one of a kind in the best and worst ways.
As subcultures have become more fragmented, slogans have given way to more niche-oriented quotes and catchphrases that serve as a secret handshake for millennials and fan-geeks.
A must-visit, words-oriented outlet in Tampa Bay right now is Fandomonium Designs, a roving retailer based in Tampa. Founded in 2011 by crafty entrepreneurial couple Wendy and Sean Timmons, this little biz specializes in custom-designed aluminum cuffs with all sorts of words and references, from DFTBA (Don't forget to be awesome, the catchphrase of online celeb brothers John and Hank Green) to the sweetly romantic "As you wish" from The Princess Bride.
The bracelets aren't ubiquitous — yet — so they make the ideal personalized gift to elicit both laughs and hugs from your most beloved pop culture fiends. You can find Fandomonium at Clearwater's Pierce Street Market most Saturday mornings or the Downtown St. Pete Indie Market the first Saturday afternoon of the month. Visit facebook.com/fandomonuimdesigns to see where Wendy and Sean are setting up shop next.
At flea markets, you have to dig past the gun-toting and beer-lover ephemera that hold reign. Meander through the funnel-cake-scented aisles of the Oldsmar Flea Market to Vintage TNT, which specializes in antiques, collectibles, toys and more. While visiting the fabulously cluttered shop, I found beige, sand-filled statues from the 1970s — you know, the ones with teardrop-eyed cartoon characters that look like the Precious Moments tots' behaviorally challenged cousins ($12).
In another section of the flea market, Caribbean Kat's Trading Co., owned by Kat and Chip Hoffman, sells the perfect garden flag for people who hate garden flags — a flowery painted Grumpy Cat banner with the words "Not Welcome" ($10.50).
For a perfect mix of current and nostalgic zeitgeist, consult local artist Chad Mize. Both his Chizzy brand and Chad Mize Designs offer some cool hybrids of contemporary and vintage-inspired commercial art. One of his most amusing designs depicts a hybrid butterfly creature that combines a Peter Max-like winged creature with Mrs. Roper from Three's Company with just one word hovering above: "Life" ($68).
Mize's Chizzy tees sport some of the most distinctive, locally crafted slogans around— such as his famous "World Tour" shirts that bear the names of international cities along with St. Pete; the "Gay Pride cat gonna lick you and make you gay" shirt ($22) and, if you're a Bernie Sanders supporter as he is, an ingenious Bernie graphic that combines Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street ($20 tee currently sold out; buttons available for $25).
If you don't find the message you're looking for locally, check out cafepress.com. I once thought it would be funny to come up with a shirt that reads, "Please don't squeeze the Shaman," a play on words of a memorable Charmin toilet paper commercial. Guess what? It was already available on cafepress.com.