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Please explain “I Am America (And So Can You!)”

Stephen's Colbert book is titled "I am America, and so can you." I think the phrase "and so can you" is a reference to something, but I'm not sure what that is. In particular, when and where did it become a famous meme?

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marked as duplicate by jwpat7, John Lawler, Mitch, kiamlaluno, Marthaª Mar 6 '12 at 19:24

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I believe that that book is actually the origin of the meme: later uses are references to it. –  ruakh Mar 5 '12 at 23:18
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@ruakh: I think that may be putting the cart before the horse. Obviously the "grammar" of the title is highly suspect, to say the least. But it's part of "The American Dream" to be able to do well in life, and then get even richer selling a book entitled "I did well in life, and so can you" (substitute any relevant words for "did well in life"). So Colbert is really just alluding to that, and at the same time using a grammatically provocative title to help public interest/sales a bit more. –  FumbleFingers Mar 5 '12 at 23:37
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I agree partly with FumbleFungers. The title is a play on the well-known titles of how to achieve something - whether it's get rich quick or learn to play the banjo: "I Ran a Marathon, and So Can You!" In this case, the fact that it actually doesn't make sense is done on purpose because it's all in keeping with his persona as an idiot (a can-do, up-by-your-bootstraps idiot). The original use of "so can you" is not a joke, but this title is intended to be a joke. –  Julia Mar 6 '12 at 0:02
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@FumbleFingers: Well, sure. But by "the meme", I assumed that the OP meant the use of "and so can you" in contexts where it doesn't quite work grammatically. Perhaps that was a bad assumption. –  ruakh Mar 6 '12 at 0:06
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@ruakh: True enough. But I think we should stop calling any of these things "memes". At best, they're "catchphrases/slogans/cliches". –  FumbleFingers Mar 6 '12 at 0:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Here is a favorite of mine, from 1953...

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