By Isabel Hardwig
Bad Habits Editor
We at Bad Habits are constantly looking to bring new stories and perspectives to the people of Oberlin College. Recently, I managed to sit down with the guy who invented the phrase “souped up,” (henceforth referred to as “Souped Up Daniel,” or SUD). This is his story.
IH: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. It’s been a huge year for the phrase “souped up,” and I know you must be bombarded with press requests. Would you mind telling me a little about your climb to fame?
SUD: God, yeah, from here it really seems like “souped up” has been around forever. And people think it must have been an immediate smash hit, but there were a couple dark years in there where I thought it would never make it. In the late 80s, it feels like I dropped it into every conversation. And people didn’t like that, because they could tell how hungry I was, how much I wanted it. I think that sheen of desperation to the phrase “souped up” has never really faded away, but now it’s wrapped back around to being sort of charming.
IH: Wow. Do you have any idea when that shift came about?
SUD: Well, for a while I wasn’t really sure what “souped up” was going to be. I knew it had the potential to be something really, really good, but I was a mess in those early years. I used “souped up” for anything, as a noun, verb, whatever. I would tell my wife, “I’ve got to go soup up,” and then I would just stand outside, not really sure what to do. It’s painful to remember that now. It was a different time.
IH: What changed?
SUD: I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, and I was so close to giving up. I just wanted the whole thing to be over. And then this guy comes over, and he saw my custom SUPDUP license plate, right? And he’s like, “what does that mean? Does it mean the car’s really good?” And it was like a fucking bolt of lightning. I could see the whole thing so clearly. And I turned to him, and I said, “Yes. It means the car’s really good.” The whole rest of the day, I felt like I was floating. I knew then that it was going somewhere. That I had the chance to make a difference.
IH: I know there’s been a lot of infighting in the “souped up” community lately, particularly regarding the kind of soup that is being souped up with, and indeed whether the souping-up soup matters at all. Would you like to weigh in on that discussion?
SUD: I mean, I can’t say much. At some point, “souped up” just took on a life of its own, and it didn’t need anything from me anymore. I just think that people in the online forums are really disengaged with split pea as, like, a concept. I don’t know. If more people really thought about split pea, it’s like, who knows what they’d find?
IH: Thank you, that’s very insightful. Do you want to talk a little about where you hope “souped up” will go from here?
SUD: Man, it’s so hard to say. It’s already exceeded my wildest dreams. I guess I would say that I hope “souped up” becomes a beacon to hope for people who don’t really have a lot that’s souped-up in life. There’s kind of a DIY attitude to souping up that I think is something we can all share. You know what I’m saying?
IH: I do. Christ, I really do. And I know we’re looking to the future now, and the future is so bright, but if I could ask one more question about the history . . .
SUD: Go ahead.
IH: If you could meet that kid now–that down-on-his-luck kid who wasn’t sure “souped up” was ever going to work out, who was just chasing the high of using it even once–what would you say to him?
SUD: I would say . . . I would tell him that he should hold onto it as long as possible, to keep trying new things and improving on his old work. To soup up “souped up,” you know? Because people need him. So many people he hasn’t even met yet, who don’t know he exists right now, they need him to keep doing what he’s doing. Sometimes . . . sometimes I miss that part of my life, back when I was just blindly stumbling around, trying to grab the reins of something so much bigger than myself. But then I hear the phrase “souped up” coming from a friend, or a neighbor, or a news anchor, and I know that I’m in the right place. I’m exactly where I need to be.
IH: Thank you so much. It’s been so special to meet you. I hope you know that you’re touching lives everywhere you go.
SUD: Yeah. I know.