Tag Archives: musings

Your Letter of the Twelfth Inst

Seemingly all written exchanges – by email or Twitter or other electronic device – have eradicated the art of Victorian letter writing.  To that end, I re-post my attempt with apologies to all Victorian letter writers.

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Great Balderdash, Falls-on-Potomac

November 22, 1871

My Dearest Friend:

In re your letter of the twelfth inst, I am shocked to realize that a great misfortune has occurred wherein my last post has somehow conveyed to you unnecessary hardship in its reading, the poorly administered cause of which is entirely my fault.  Believe me when I say that such an unfortunate and distressful outcome is the last emotion I wish to express and even now as I write these words causes me great distress to think that there has been a misunderstanding whose result may break that mutual bond so lengthily constructed and for which I have the most sincere and foursquare concern.

No scurrilous knave, unspeakable cur, enterprising rogue or devious scoundrel could have erected such a formidable barrier to our friendship as has occurred by a simple whim, a mere fancy, a jot so insignificant as to be inconveniently overlooked and misplaced within my last missive and by whose existence has the modest incivility of this slight action been overshadowed with the enormous barbarity of my inadvertent words, the resulting outcome of which has placed our relationship in such precarious jeopardy and confers upon it a deed most foul.

I do hope that the undertakers for the incomparable and advantageous design of the speedy and safe conveyance of letters and packets (under a pound weight) to all parts of the cities, high roads, streets and suburbs thereof will have ordered their messengers, who collect such letters at any of the places aforesaid, to promptly discharge their duties and rapidly transport my reply of deepest regret to you. 1

Lest I be remiss, let me redress my words.  When I stated that you have the capacity for drawing liquid out with your mouth, I was only admiring your demonstrative skills to pull on something irresistibly, like the pull of the Sun on the planets or the Moon on the tides.  When I wrote of you in a way that implied irritation or annoyance, I dare say I only meant to call attention to your unerring ability to discomfort others by your incomparable talent in presenting indisputable and irrefutable facts in excruciating detail.  And, of course, my reference to your origins was not to cast aspersions on your genealogy but was by way of comparison a measure of your originality and uniqueness.

If, after all my aforementioned efforts to postulate my remonstrance and articulate my deepest remorse, you remain steadfast in your resentment and cannot be mellowed by the earnestness of my words nor by the long-standing nature of our relationship, I must then, with all due respect, retract my apology and repeat my original contention that you still suck, you insufferable bastard!

These words notwithstanding, I have in this, as always, the honor to be, very respectfully, your most humble and very ob’t. serv’t.,

 

1 From William Dockwra’s 18th century advertisement in the Mercurius Civicus as presented in JaneAustensWorld.

Girl’s Bicycle

The true test of an English major is knowing the difference between a “girl’s used bicycle” and a “used girl’s bicycle.”

 

Girls bicycle1

or

  girls bicycle2.jpg

Citizenship Test

Citizenship Test

citizenship1

 

With a national election upcoming in the United States, I have been wondering how much the average American knows about the rights of U.S. citizenship. Naturalized citizens are required to pass a citizenship test (see link ) but those of us born as American citizens have no such requirement.  I think it is time that ALL Americans, if they want to be called Americans, stand up and take a test to prove that they are indeed true-blue one hundred percent U.S. citizens.

Ergo (meaning more pompous than therefore), I offer the Curmudgeon-at-Large True-Blue United States Citizenship Test.


 

  1. What are the last words of the national anthem?
  • a) Of Thee I Sing
  • b) God Save the Queen
  • c) And the Home of the Brave
  • d) Play Ball

2.What is the first question asked by a defense attorney to his client?

  • a) Are you guilty?
  • b) Are you innocent?
  • c) How much money have you got?
  • d) Want some crack?

3. What is the proper drink for the Fourth of July?

  • a) Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • b) Bourbon
  • c) Cosmopolitan
  • d) All of the above

4. Where was President Barak Obama born?

  • a) Illinois
  • b) Hawaii
  • c) Kansas
  • d) Kenya

5. Where was Donald Trump born?

  • a) New York
  • b) Florida
  • c) In a galaxy far, far away
  • d) He wasn’t born; he was hatched.

6. Which person below is NOT true-blue one hundred percent American?

a)     Citizenship2.jpg                      b) citizenship3

c)       citizenship4             d)  citizenship5

7. What do you do when go into a voting booth?

  • a) Vote for the candidates of your choice
  • b) Vote for the candidates you were paid to vote for
  • c) Look for hidden cameras
  • d) Relieve yourself

8. In the event no candidate for President of the United States receives the required number of electoral votes, who chooses the next president?

  • a) Congress
  • b) World Wrestling Federation
  • c) Some unknown guy hidden in Cheyenne Mountain, Wyoming
  • d) Highest bidder

9. What are the three branches of government?

  • a) Olive, birch and palm
  • b) Huey, Dewey and Louie
  • c) Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous
  • d) It doesn’t matter, they’re all crooks.

10. Match the statement to the president.

a) I am not a crook. George H.W. Bush
b) I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Richard Nixon
c) Read my lips. Lyndon Johnson
d) Gerald Ford can’t piss and chew gum at the same time. Bill Clinton

11. What are the first words a foreign-speaking naturalized citizen should understand when entering the United States?

  • a) Welcome to America.
  • b) Stay in your lane.
  • c) You have the right to remain silent.
  • d) Attention, Kmart shoppers!

12. How often does the United States Constitution get changed?

  • a) Every four years
  • b)Every two years and four months
  • c) Whenever an amendment is ratified by three-fourths of the states
  • d) When it gets dirty

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To get your results, please place your answers, a self-addressed stamped envelope and $500 in cash (preferably small bills) in a sealed envelope and mail it to:

  • True-Blue United States Citizenship Test
  • 123 Main St.
  • East Jesus, TX 88808

You will receive the answers that you deserve.

Your welcome, America!

More Per Capita

While I am off thinking of more items to grouse and complain about, I realized that you should have something other than The Donald’s statue to contemplate.

Those of you in Canada or Mexico can choose a state comparable to your province.

MorePer Capita

If you can’t improve your health, improve your writing

 

Hypertextbook.com says that an average educated person knows about 20,000 words and uses about 2,000 words in a week. Most sources say that the English language contains between 600,000 to over 1 million words depending upon how you count.  (Thank you, Captain Obvious.)  Not only do most of us use less than 3% of available words, we employ them poorly.  And when I say “we,” I mean “me, myself and I.”

As a charter member of the Failed Writers Society, I recognize my repetitive, trite speech and writing patterns especially when I come across informative reading matter.

A recent article from The New Yorker entitled Alone in the Alps by James Lasdin described the connection between the Via Alpina trail in Europe and its rich culture as follows:

“That sense of multiplicity is still strong. The Rockies may offer wilder wilderness, but you don’t experience the pleasure of sharp cultural variegation as you move from place to place…   It’s there […] in the freshly incomprehensible road signs, which is Slovenia are clotted with consonant clusters, as if vowels were an indulgence.”

This description of a consonant-rich Eastern European language is the best I’ve come across since a Car Talk episode called Vowels to Bosniahttp://www.cartalk.com/content/vowels-bosnia

So what’s the connection between not improving your health and improving your writing? Well, if nothing else, not improving your heath will give you less time to improve your epitaph* when that inevitable day comes.

[*Dr. Language Guy wishes to point out that he word “epitaph” comes from the Latin epitaphium, which, in turn, comes from the Greek epitaphion, meaning “over or at a tomb.”  This is derived as epi (“on” or “over”) + taph(os) (“tomb”).]

Here are some better examples.

In a London cemetery:

Here lies Ann Mann,

Who lived an old maid

But died an old Mann

Dec. 8, 1767

 In a Ribblesford, England cemetery:

The children of Israel wanted bread;

And the Lord sent them manna.

Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,

And the Devil sent him Anna.

In Boot Hill, Tombstone, Arizona:                          

Here lays Butch,

We planted him raw.

He was quick on the trigger,

But slow on the draw.

 Also in Boot Hill:                          

Here lies Lester Moore

Four slugs from a 44

No Les

No more.

 Of a hanged sheep thief, in Lame, Ireland:

Here lies the body

Of Thomas Kemp

Who lived by wool

But died by hemp.*

 * A witticism from Cervantes’ Don Quixote states:  “One does not speak of hemp in the house of the hanged.”

A lawyer’s epitaph in England:

 Sir John Strange

Here lies an honest lawyer,

And that is Strange.

 In Newbury, England (1742):

 Tom Smith is dead, and here he lies,

Nobody laughs and nobody cries;

Where his soul’s gone, or how it fares,

Nobody knows, and nobody cares.

 In a Welland, Ontario cemetery:

Here lies all that remains of old Aunt Charlotte,

Born a virgin, died a harlot.

For sixteen years she kept her virginity,

A marvelous thing for this vicinity.

 

And finally, in Hollywood Forever cemetery:

Improveyourwriting