Monday, October 16, 2017

Too Marvellous for Words

October 16 has been declared Dictionary Day, as it was on this date in 1758 that Noah Webster, America's first lexicographer, was born. Little Noah's first word was "pabulum," which, he went on to say to his astonished parents, "is a noun, related to the Latin panis, or bread, and defined as a solution of nutrients in a state suitable for absorption."

Webster's Dictionary, his masterwork, runs from aardvark ("a large burrowing nocturnal animal of sub-Saharan Africa") to zymosan ("an insoluble largely polysaccharide fraction of yeast cell walls").

There are, of course, many words now in use which were unknown to Noah, from cybernetics to sous vide, and for these, there is a guide called "Word Menu"--although, with the language changing and expanding so rapidly, it may be time for a new edition.

And then there are things that simply cannot be expressed. As Johnny Mercer wrote:

"You're just too much, and just too very very
To ever be in Webster's Dictionary."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

And on this day...

Our political analyst was supposed to write a thoughtful essay today on the American scene in the Age of Trump, but he has locked himself in a dark room with a gallon of Jack Daniel's.

And Slap Maxwell, reviewing a game in which the Hamilton Tiger-Cats pushed the Calgary Stampeders to the edge, was set to do a piece on miscues when the game's on the line (cf. Pete Carroll in the Super Bowl, Dave Dickenson in the Grey Cup), but Slap has been called away to a Hula Hoop Revival Contest.

And so, back here at master control, we resort to pilfering from "A Book of Days for the Literary Year," and find these items for October 14:

On this day in 1822, at the wedding breakfast for Victor Hugo ("Les Miserables") and his bride, Adele Foucher, Eugene, Hugo's elder brother, went violently mad. Must have been even more disconcerting that the best man's toast.

On this day in 1919, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker and Robert Sherwood, forbidden by their employer, "Vanity Fair," to discuss their salaries, walked around the magazine's offices wearing signs around their necks saying how much (or little) they were being paid.

And on this day in 1888, Katherine Mansfield--who abandoned her husband on their wedding night because she hated the pink bedspread--was born in Wellington, New Zealand. Mansfield, writer of memorable short stories, said, "I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was, too. But better to write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all." Reassuring words for writers everywhere.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Turkey Trot

Steve McGobble, legendary leader of the Great Turkey Escape, has succeeded again. Appearing in various guises (e.g., a choreographer training a chorus line for the Broadway production "Turkey Trot") McGobble has saved untold numbers of turkeys from the Thanksgiving board.

Most recently, this feathered Scarlet Pimpernel presented himself at the farm of McGurk's Juicy Turks as a professor of ornithology, conducting a study of turkey slang. He departed with a truck full of free turkeys, leaving McGurk tied to his own rotisserie.

As for turkey slang and its usage, McGobble issued this statement: "Please refrain from referring to the Big Orange and his mob in the White House as 'a bunch of turkeys.' This is disrespectful to a species which has done no one harm. You might consider calling them 'a disturbance of dodos' or 'a cacophony of cowbirds.'"

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An Apple for the Teacher

September 5 has been designated Teachers' Day, causing us to remember notable pedagogues of the past.

There was Miss Madge Martin, running wildly 'round and 'round the room, chalk in hand, to define infinity. There was Mr. Easson, the science teacher who ate bugs and chalk and sat on the window ledge so he could smoke during class. Miss E.G. Pye (the initials, students believed, stood for "Eat Good") who convinced us to make salads of lawn clippings for our parents, and taught students to swim, stretched on a plank in the waterless classroom.

Then there were the French teachers: tiny Miss Irwin, who had the class begin each day reciting the Lord's Prayer in French ("Notre pere, qui es aux cieux...") and Murray Robinson, who also coached football, and liked to enter the classroom singing "Darling, je vous aime beaucoup."

A nod, as well, to L.C. Nelson, the feared math instructor, who wore a shiny black suit daily through the fall and winter terms, switching to a wilted grey for spring and summer."Yes, class," he would announce, "Mr. Nelson does own two suits." It was like seeing the first robin.

So a toast to all teachers, especially those with a true gift, chalk dust in their veins. Apple cider would  make an appropriate toast.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Nathaniel Hawthorne Greets the Month

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."

                          Nathaniel Hawthorne, "American Notebooks."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Trump Fields a Team

"Slap Maxwell here, with a PD Sports exclusive: President Donald Trump is launching a new team into the National Football League!"

POTUS: "That's right, Slap. I realized the only answer to these unpatriotic NFL players is to get out there and beat them on the gridiron. We're calling the team the White House Wallopers."

Slap: "Tell us about the team, Mr. President. Some star players on the roster?"

POTUS: "I've drawn entirely from my cabinet. We're prepared to steamroller the league"

Slap: "Tell us your starting lineup."

POTUS: "We've got Wilbur Ross and Sonny Perdue as guards, Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt as tackles, Mike Pence and Steve Mnuchin as tight ends."

Slap: "Quite a line. Who's at centre?"

POTUS: "Jeff Sessions."

Slap: "Jeff Sessions? Tiny Jeff? Why, centres take the most abuse on the line--he's likely to get killed."

POTUS: "So?"

Slap: "How about quarterback? Who's going to be calling the plays?"

POTUS: "Naturally most people expect me to be the key player on the team. Many people have said that if I'd played pro, I would've been the best ever. Namath, Montana, Brady--forget 'em. But I decided I'm more valuable directing strategy, working on offence."

Slap: "You're very good on offence."

POTUS: "I think you'll see us all wearing Super Bowl rings at the end of the season, even though we've lost some of our best players--Mnooch, who was a great speedster, and Steve 'The Monster' Bannon, but we'll still have Sarah Huckabee Sanders in there blocking. And we'll have some surprises. I'm putting Betsy DeVos, Elaine Chao and Ben Carson in the backfield. Who says I'm not for diversity?"

Slap: "Well, Mr. President, it sounds like great entertainment ahead."

POTUS: "Wait 'til you see what else we've got: Sarah "Pom Pom" Palin heading the cheerleaders, Chris "Oreo" Christie as team mascot."

Slap: "What more can we say, except Rah Rah Rah, and Go, Team. Slap Maxwell, for PD Sports."

Friday, September 22, 2017

Don't Ever Invite Him Again

Donald Trump's appearance at the United Nations General Assembly made us think of dinner parties when someone says, "A business friend of mine is in town. Would it be okay if I brought him? He's a little loud, but really a very nice person."

Then the guy turns up and manages to insult everyone there, collectively and individually, dominate the conversation, criticize the food--"What is this stuff? Who eats this kind of thing?"--use the wrong fork, leer at the hostess, and empty the liquor cabinet.

The other guests leave, muttering angrily, vowing never to return if that guy is going to be there.

This, undoubtedly, is how many UN delegates felt as Trump bellowed and waved his hands. We're betting a lot of them turned their headsets to Jonathan Schwartz on WNYC.