Aye, we was a rag-tag bunch, us. A bunch a loose ends like torn an tattered fabric, odds an sods, this one from here, that one from there. We was mop chauffeurs, playin tag with our rags like a bunch a bobtail nags. Oh, “tag, rag, and bobtail” – yep, that was an old way of referrin to motley lots like we was. Guys in the sixteen-hundreds an on to the eighteen-hundreds used that phrase, or just “tag-rag.” “Rag-tag,” you know, it dint come round till the seventeen-hundreds. Seems like even then they couldn’t keep their tags an rags straight. Hell, I’d bet my money on the bobtail anyways, just long as someone put bells on it, and somebody bet on the bay, otherwise we get upsot.
But what was I sayin. Well, you know, you come into this world brand new like a bit a clothin in a store with the tag all on it. Now, you think I’m sayin price tag here, but that’s a newer thing we mean with “tag.” First off a tag was one a them bits like you get from slashin the hem a somethin. Sorta like them sheets with phone numbers on it, seen this stray cat, call me, wanna buy this car, call me, want guitar lessons, call me. An so from that it was any loose bit a fabric hangin offa somethin, maybe if you tug on a rug you get a little loose end. Sorta like a skin tag, you know, them little things you got hangin maybe off the back a yer neck or somethin. And that’s the way it is: even the newest garment is comin inta the world with a tag here or there on it. An people too. We all got loose ends from the start. Tag: you’re it.
Loose ends, that’s what we all was. Jimmy, he was a tight end once, like a football player I mean. But then that’s over. You start nice and crisp, like the “t” on “tag,” an then over time you jus wear down till yer soft an smooth an don’t put up no resistance, like the “r” on “rag.” So “tag-rag” was how it was, first off, cause it was from the two words, “tag and rag,” an then later someone swapped em. Like somehow you start smooth an then you get crispy. I guess maybe the tag ends on yer clothes get that way if you let em get real dirty, but I think it’s kinda the wrong way for the most part.
So we was rags. Not raggèd like jaggèd, ya know, but just the things that was once nice clothes an then became stuff you use to mop up with. What makes the mess clean. Takes away the sins. The spills an the dirt people brought in with em an all that. But that didn’t make us junk. We still had our use, we was needed, and we had some beauty with us, too. And some hope.
Cuz that’s how it is with “rag-tag,” ya know. What does it show up with? “Ragtag army, ragtag band, ragtag bunch, ragtag group,” an if you see a movie an the guys in it is a ragtag band a somethin, you know they’re not just scraps, they’re scrappy, they got spunk. Sure, they’re the lowest a the low, but funny how it is that the floor rags clean up, eh? The ragtag bands, they’re those loose ends that come together to make somethin happen. It’s like as if all the bits worn off the telomeres in yer DNA came together an made a whole new beautiful an unexpected person.
Hey, ya think I was a janitor my whole life? I useta work in genetics. But nuff about me.
I think a Siobhan. (That’s pronounced “shove on,” so ya know, so you don’t sound dumb or miss the point.) She was like a whole new beautiful person made a them scraps. Oh, yeah, and she had scraps hangin off her, too, she was a real disorganized ball of everything. But you almost didn’t want ta use “rag-tag” with her, cause although she was rags an tags, them words end with that thick sorta “g” sound, like a plug a earwax.
So I liked ta use the French word for “rag” with her. Worked real well for her. It’s such a fine soundin word, an it makes me think a cake an pie as well as fancy of fancy clothes. It’s “chiffon.”
Sorta like Grizabella the glamour cat, come back from her days of glory, covered in rags an tags, an she sings the most beautiful song in the whole show, “Midnight, not a sound from the pavement,” ya know. An then she is reborn. Imperfection ta imperfection, glamour to rags to, I dunno, some kinda apotheosis or somethin. An like “chiffon,” it’s how ya see it.
And Siobhan, she went up to heaven, an left the world a shinier cleaner nicer place than she found it, an Jimmy the tight end caught his pass, and the rest of us jus kinda frittered away, picked up our bags an swag an kinda zig-zagged on away. An now we get cleaned up after too. We passed it on, like tag with a rag. Now you’re it.