Too late for herbicide

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kahroba

Senior Member
Persian
Dear all
Please kindly tell me what's meant by "Too late for herbicide" in the following context, taken from "Margo Dowling" in "The Big Money" by Dos Passos; is it an idiom by the way?
Location: in a yacht near Jacksonville and they have to go gack to Jacksonville because a bearing on the oilpump has been burned out.
"And what I want to know is," said Queenie, "where's that caperon you boys were talkin' about?"
"By gum," said Tad, "we forgot Mrs. Vinton... I bet she's been waiting down at the dock all day."
"Too late for herbicide," said Margo and they all laughed except Tad who looked sourer than ever.
Edit: Could "herbicide" mean something like "antidote"? because we have a saying stemmed from our mythology of "Rostam & Sohrab" by Ferdowsi which says "antidote after death" [is of no use].
 
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  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Happy New Year, Karoba. I'll do my best, which will be poor, on this for you.

    1. The chaperon is said, back on the earlier page, the only other time she is mentioned, to be suitable because she's deaf and blind and doesn't speak English. This will mean that a. she won't know what's going on (in the way of sexual activity) and hence won't be able to stop it. b. that she won't be able to report it to anyone English.

    2. Too late means that the chaperon has missed the sexual activity, which has already taken place.

    3. The herbicide puzzles me, because I can't think of anything vegetable, either really or figuratively, which they want to kill.

    The obvious solution is that they want the herbicide as poison to kill the chaperon - not really; this is a joke. But, of course, it's too late because the girls have already had it away with the boys, and it may also be too late in the day to buy herbicide from the chemist's. I think the double meaning here is the essence of the joke, such as it is. People in such circumstances laugh together very easily.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    It appears to have been an advertising slogan of the day. If you look here and scroll down to the September 19th comment by Con Filardi, you will find a reference to billboards with that slogan.
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    It appears to have been an advertising slogan of the day. If you look here and scroll down to the September 19th comment by Con Filardi, you will find a reference to billboards with that slogan.
    Thanks dear NT but I'm afraid I can't open the link you've provided; I tried it many times but always receive "cannot find server". Please check it.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    It opens fine for me. :confused:
    Here is the link in full: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/?p=540

    I'll copy the essential bits here. (He is talking about the Republican presidential candidate John McCain.)

    John’s time was eight years ago or even four years ago when I think he would have been a good president, but Dubya took all that away from him. As the old signs along the highway used to say “too late for Herbicide” (you young folks wouldn’t remember that).
    He seems to take it to mean refer to lost opportunities.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It worked fine for me too, not that that's a comfort. What the information means is that the expression was a catch-phrase of the times as a result of the advertisement. I'm confident the 'too late' is referring to the fact that they've already had sex and so the chaperon will be too late to stop it. The laughter is partly provoked by this tacit admission of the fact that they've had sexual relations, and that she knows the other two have had them as well.
     
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