Ever heard expression “on your tod”?

It means to be, or do something, on your own, without help.

As in: “He stood guard all night, on his tod.”

Ever wondered where it came from?

Well all you have to do is look it up in any of the various books on cockney rhyming slang.

There are several in Foyles.

All written by 30-ish middle class university graduates.

All of whom are experts in the derivation of cockney rhyming slang.

So to them, all slang must be rhyming slang.

Rhyming slang is where you leave the second part of the rhyme off.

So, if we go a bit Dick van Dyke for a moment, “apples” means stairs, because the full rhyme is “apples and pears”.

So in seeking the derivation of ‘tod’ they know it must be the first part of the rhyme.

And the second part must rhyme with (on your) “own”.

So they’ll tell you that ‘on your tod’ is believed to refer to a certain Todd Sloan, a man famous in the east end of London for riding around everyday, alone on his horse.

He liked to be alone.

Hence ‘todd sloan’ = alone.

Except that’s bollocks.

These people assume that all slang is derived from rhyming slang because that’s their preconception.

So they make the evidence fit their preconception.

The truth is ‘on your tod’ isn’t rhyming slang at all.

I know, I was there.

It started with Elizabeth Taylor.

She married a Hollywood producer called Mike Todd.

He wanted to make the film “Around The World In Eighty Days” starring David Niven.

It cost an absolute fortune and he couldn’t get any backing.

At the time it was a famous story, how he scraped, and did whatever it took, to finance the film.

Against the odds he got it made, and it was a huge success.

In those days the biggest TV programme was “Sunday Night At The London Palladium”.

The host at this particular time was Norman Vaughan.

He used to do a brief monologue at the beginning of the show.

One Sunday night he was grumbling that he’d had no help that evening.

“I’ve had to do everything on my Mike Todd” he said.

It got a huge laugh.

Because everyone knew what he meant without saying it.

The phrase “on your Mike Todd” caught on.

Soon it got shortened to “on your Todd” and eventually “on your tod”.

And it passed into the language.

Now anyone who wasn’t there at the time, to watch TV on that Sunday night, obviously won’t remember that.

So they’ll recreate it from the tools they’ve got.

And, as they say, if the only tool you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Or as Werner Heisenberg put it:

“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”

It’s the same way with ads as everything else.

We each have a preconception about what works and we can each put up a good argument.

Who wins?

Whoever makes the best argument.

But, as Tim Delaney once said to me, “Yes, but that doesn’t make them right, just because they won the argument.”

That’s why an argument about ads is really kind of futile.

All that wins is the best argument, not necessarily the best ad.

Think of that next time you’re on an awards jury, or with a client, or an account man or planner, or even your creative partner.

Someone might be better at arguing.

They might win the argument.                                         

But they might still come up with the wrong answer