Time to Rhyme

2 07 2010

Until today I knew two things about Ogden Nash:

  1. When the daily crossword puzzle calls for a poet, there is at least a 50 percent chance he is the solution.  I guess that’s because N, A, S, and H are all nice, common letters.
  2. He wrote a delightful ditty that I can’t seem to forget.  “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.”  It’s unfortunate that I can’t remember my zip code but can’t forget that particular poem. Thus is life.

But at the library this morning in the New Books section I discovered The Best of Ogden Nash, edited by Linell Nash Smith (his daughter.) (Published by Ivan R. Dee)  I was enchanted.  A sample:


God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why. (p. 175)


Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it and found it good,
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today. (p. 175)


The trouble with a kitten is
Eventually it becomes a
CAT. (p. 171)


I find among the poems of Schiller
No mention of the caterpillar,
Nor can I find one anywhere
In Petrarch or in Baudelaire,
So here I sit in extra session
To give my personal impression.
The caterpillar, as it’s called,
Is often hairy, seldom bald;
It looks as if it never shaves;
When as it walks, it walks in waves;
And from the cradle to the chrysalis
It’s utterly speechless, songless, whistleless. (p. 183)


The manatee is harmless
And conspicuously charmless.
Luckily the manatee
Is quite devoid of vanity. (p. 185)


The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn’t been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don’t anther. (p. 170)


The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk. (p. 163)


The one-l lama,
He’s a priest.
The two-l llama,
He’s a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn’t any
Three-l llama. (p. 163)


The pig, if I am not mistaken,
Supplies us sausage, ham and bacon.
Let others say his heart is big–
I call it stupid of the pig. (p. 164)


The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state the dog is full of love.
I’ve also proved, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest. (p. 189)


The rhino is a homely beast,
For human eyes he’s not a feast.
Farewell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,
I’ll stare at something less prepoceros. (p. 164)


A mighty creature is the germ,
Through smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ. (p. 210)


One trouble with a cough,
It never quite comes off.
Just when you think you’re through coughing
There’s another cough in the offing. (p. 224)


I’ve never seen an abominable snowman,
I’m hoping not to see one,
I’m also hoping, if I do,
That it will be a wee one. (p. 240)

He wrote lots of other stuff, much of it longer and some of a more serious nature, but it is these charming bits of verse that I find so captivating.


Mother Knows Best

29 03 2010

The arrival of spring has reminded me of three times my mother showed great insight into the world around her:

  1. Be careful where you plant mint or it will take over your yard. This announcement came when I moved into this house eleven years ago and  she brought me some mint sprigs in a bit of dirt.  I put it in a raised bed and sure enough, in a year or so it had spread to every corner of that bed.  I didn’t find many uses for the herb, so I eradicated it before it had a chance to spread further.
  2. Father may know best about some things, but regarding plants and politics, you can't beat my mom.

    A peony is very hard to transplant. We inherited one with the house, but it was in a spot we rarely see, so my husband has always talked about moving it.  Until last year, I was always able to dissuade him.  But as part of a big shake up last fall that involved a butterfly bush, an azalea, a hydrangea and the peony, he finally had his way.  And this spring we can’t find any sign that the pretty peony ever existed.

  3. John Edwards is not to be trusted. Actually, she made this pronouncement with considerably more vitriol when Edwards was John Kerry’s running mate. From a political standpoint, her attitude was not surprising, but as she’s been a North Carolinian for some fifty years I was a little taken aback that she would have such negative feelings about someone from her own state.  Six years later, it’s pretty obvious she was absolutely right.

Erma, Meet Lisa

22 03 2010

When I was growing up, Erma Bombeck was a hero in my house.  She was a humor writer, and my mother loved her, and I loved her too.

I wouldn’t suggest that anybody should be up there on that pedestal with  Erma, but I read a book this weekend by Lisa Scottoline called Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog.

There are similarities…and differences.

Erma was a stay-at-home, suburban housewife, married, with three kids.  She wrote a syndicated column which ran in hundreds of newspapers.

Lisa is a successful fiction writer, a single mom, divorced twice.  She writes a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lisa is kind of an edgy Erma, updated for the twenty-first century.

Some quotes from the book:

  • Everybody has their pornography, and mine is the real estate ads. p. 13
  • Spanx…Girdles…my lower body had been transformed into a cylinder.  I no longer had hips where hips are supposed to be, or saddlebags where God intended.  I was the cardboard in the roll of toilet paper. p. 7
  • I work at home, and the UPS man doesn’t care if I wear the same T-shirt and shorts all week.  So does he.  p. 37
  • There is an inverse relationship between dieting and eating…The more people in your house on a diet, the more often they will eat.  p. 57
  • Franca would be my first phone call after I murdered someone.  She wouldn’t even ask why I did it.  She would know I had an excellent reason.  She’d just  drive over with a shovel and a Hefty bag.  p. 163

And finally:

It started harmlessly enough, back in the eighties.  If you went to a salad bar, you had to make your own salad.  And at the gas station, you had to pump your own gas.

Then it went crazy.

Nowadays, at the food store, you not only bag your own groceries and take them to the car, but you also check yourself out.  You can even bring your own bags.

You can go to a car wash, where you can wash you car yourself.  Or the train station, where you can buy your ticket ourself.  Or the airport, where you can get your own boarding pass.

They still fly the plane.

For now.

And at the fast food restaurants, they give you a paper cup and tell you to get your own soda. p. 157

Bored By the Bard?

25 11 2009

Periodically I run across a grouping of words in the English language that originate from native American tongues, or from Italian or French, etc.

But I’ve been reading a surprisingly lively biography of William Shakespeare by Bill Bryson (called, and here he’s not too lively, Shakespeare: The World as Stage, 2007) and was astonished to see all the phrases he attributes to the Bard of Avon (p. 115):

one fell swoop

vanish into thin air

bag and baggage

play fast and loose

go down the primrose path

be in a pickle

budge an inch

the milk of human kindness

to thine own self be true

salad days

foul play

tower of strength

be cruel to be kind

pomp and circumstance

foregone conclusion

Who knew?

Shakespeare’s plays have been obsessively analyzed, and we know they contain 138,198 commas and 15,785 question marks.  Ears are spoken of 401 times in the plays.  He uses damned 105 times and bloody 226 times.  He left 884,647 words in over 118,406 lines. (p. 19)

But of all that verbiage we have only fourteen words written in his own hand: six copies of his signature and the words “by me” on his will.  He was apparently not too picky about the spelling of his name.  Of the signatures that survive, every one is spelled differently, and none match the spelling we now commonly use. (pp. 8-9)

The Library of Congress has roughly seven thousand works on Shakespeare, which would require twenty years to digest if read at one a day. (p. 21)  Amazingly, there are estimated to be over five thousand books suggesting—or insisting—that the plays of Shakespeare were written by someone other than Shakespeare. (p. 181)

Between all those quirky statistics, Bryson provides an engaging account of the life and times of William Shakespeare, though he’s quick to point out how very much we don’t know.  All in all,  I found reading this biography to be a  pleasurable pastime (much more so than my recollection of reading the plays themselves when I was a mere high school student.)

Not So Deep Thoughts from Deep Space

20 11 2009

Photo from Hubble telescope

An amusing version of the glass half full/half empty outlook on life:

What to do if you find yourself stuck without hope of rescue: Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far.  Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Cyberchondria: Sometimes It’s Real

11 11 2009

“It always starts out innocently enough–for example, with an eye twitch.  …after several hours poring over a range of health-related Web sites, I am utterly convinced that I have multiple sclerosis, at the very least, and quite possibly Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

Washington Post, Health & Science section, Nov 10, 2009, p.1

The bad news?

This gal’s second to worst case scenario is, in fact, my reality.

The good news?

For the second week in a row, the health section has mentioned MS, and as they say in the entertainment business, any attention is good.

Juggling for Dummies

6 11 2009

My husband read aloud a Washington Post article at the breakfast table.  “Juggling…may hold some promise for brain regeneration among those… coping with neurological diseases where the pathways that connect how people think with how they move their bodies begin to break down.”(Nov.3,Sec.E,p.3)

Multiple sclerosis was singled out as a disease for which this finding might be significant.

“So how’s your juggling?” he asked me.

“You mean like when I juggled hosting your parents for Christmas while I was getting over the flu and assembling a trunkload of toys and you had to work all night, arriving back home just as the last present was opened?”

His eyes appeared over the top of the newspaper.

“Or the time I juggled chaperoning the kindergarten field trip to the apple orchard while I was also in charge of the Spanish club Feliz Navidad party, the event at which one of the teachers got konked in the head by an overzealous pinata poking pupil?”

He looked at me with a blank expression.

“Or the time I juggled taking Tyler to the Relay for Life camp out two counties over, picking him up in the middle of the event so he could make it to the confirmation session at the National Cathedral and then returning  him to the sleepover in pouring rain.  The next morning before I went to pick him up I discovered the water heater had broken and flooded the basement so I had to go to church for his confirmation with no hot shower.  I also had to deliver Wes to a Boy Scout Eagle award ceremony where he was to play the trumpet.  You probably don’t remember all the details because you were away at your nephew’s wedding.”

His eyes were starting to glaze over, but I was just warming up.

“Or the time I juggled picking your mom up from the car repair shop while driving a carpool to one of those band parties, and I got lost driving down around Mount Vernon and ended up going the wrong way on a one way street, and you were conveniently out-of-town?”

“Or the time Wesley got his wisdom teeth out and I was trying to get him to stay in the car while I ran in to get his medicine, but he was waking up and I was worried about him trying to stand up and wandering off….”

juggling-bean-balls“No, no, no,” he interrupted.  “You know, juggling, with three balls.”

Well, I never tried that kind of juggling, but judging from my overall athletic prowess, I wouldn’t expect I would be very successful at such an endeavor.

But he read on, “The MRIs showed an increase in white matter among the jugglers, regardless of their skill level.”

So it’s not how good you are, just that you give it a shot.  Well, then, maybe there’s hope.