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Malcolm Cole
Director - Media and Communications

To all our clients and friends – it’s the 21st of December, happy Gravy Day! For those who don’t know the cultural reference, have a quick look at Paul Kelly’s iconic How to Make Gravy.  You only need to listen to the first 40 seconds to catch the date reference, but it’s worth a few minutes to take it all in if you’ve not heard it before. In the 25 years since its release in 1996, the song’s famous dateline has crept into Australian pop culture to such an extent that “Gravy Day” is not only recognised here, but overseas as well. 

The song’s a modern take on the evergreen Christmas theme of reuniting with loved ones at this time of year. (Think of I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Driving Home For Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and no doubt countless others). But as well as retracing the well-worn road of festive season songs, How to Make Gravy has achieved something much rarer – it has captured the imagination of the zeitgeist to such an extent that its very simple premise of a prisoner longing to make gravy for his family now “owns” a date in the busiest part of our calendar.  December 21 – Gravy Day.

It’s not the first pop culture reference to claim a date, of course.  May 4 “belongs” to the Star Wars film franchise.  (“May the fourth be with you!) And throughout film and television history there have been plenty of examples of “golden catch phrases” – those that make the leap from the small screen into the lexicon. They include Clark Gable not giving a damn in Gone With the Wind, Bart Simpson urging “Don’t have a cow man!”, and Lance Corporal Jones (Dad’s Army) declaring of his bayonet and the enemy “They don’t like it up em!”.  Perhaps the simplest catch phrase of all, belonging to the Fonz on Happy Days – Aaaaayyy!

Great catchphrases are not limited to film and TV shows. Some of the most successful advertising campaigns have inveigled their way into our everyday language.  Who can forget the unfortunate Jan who forgot to put her boss’s ad in the Yellow Pages in the 1990s?  “Not happy Jan!”  In fact the Yellow Pages ad geniuses cracked the zeitgeist twice with their catch phrases, thanks to the unhappy man who had a problem with his Goggomobile. (We still don’t know what that was, but we know it wasn’t the Dart.)  Ironically, the Yellow Pages catchphrases have endured even as the phone books themselves have been in terminal decline.

Most recently, eBay has captured public hearts and minds with their Polyester-suited office worker who implores his unimpressed colleague “We should get sushi Carol”. A Google search for that phrase produces 23.4 million results, including tee-shirts, coffee mugs and even a music clip.  Check it out for a laugh here.

There are, of course, plenty of others.  The one thing they have in common is that their authors almost certainly had no idea when they penned those innocuous words (expect perhaps for the then-scandalous phrase in Gone With the Wind) that they would have such a deep impact on language and culture.

Paul Kelly once said of inventing “Gravy Day” that you never know what’s going to happen to a song after you write it.  No doubt the authors of the other golden catch phrases would agree with him.  So is there a moral or a lesson in this story? Maybe it’s that good things come from unexpected sources. As Forest Gump said: “You never know what you’re going to get.”

So happy gravy day to our clients and friends. We hope you have a restful and happy Christmas. And we hope to see in you in 2022. 

In fact, we should get sushi.

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