Archive for March 2013


In 1970, a book written by Robert Sherrill was published with the title, “Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music.” More than anything else, Robert Sherrill had few things complimentary about justice in the American military system. As a matter of fact, he excoriated what is called the justice system in the American military.

That book was written forty years ago, but I believe that it is still in my library. Mr. Sherrill is completely accurate when he tangles with the justice system in the American military. In my own military experience, I can not ever recall an enlisted man being declared not guilty in a court martial case. The reason for a court martial is simply to determine the length of the sentence. So while I agree with Mr. Sherrill in his excoriation of the American military justice system, I do take exception to the title which says that American military music is as bad as the justice system. I don’t believe that such a conclusion is warranted.

There are five military songs known to me having to do with the American Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. I will attempt to rank them, starting at the bottom. My service had to do with the United States Army and its Air Corps at the beginning. Later that was changed to the Air Force and in 1947 under the Presidency of Harry Truman it was changed to the US Air Force and the Army no longer had anything to do with the Air Force.

Let’s start at the bottom. The lyrics of the song about the Air Force go as follows:

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder,
Flying high, into the sun.
Here they come, zooming to meet our thunder,
At ‘em boys, give her the gun.
Down we dive spouting our flames from under,
Off with one hell of a roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame.
Nothing will stop the US Air Force!

This is a ridiculous song. Let’s take the last sentence to demonstrate what I have in mind. The song says, “Nothing will stop the US Air Force.” What about Japanese Zero fighters or the German fighters called the Messerschmitt 109? And how about the anti-aircraft artillery found in both armies? All of them can stop the Air Force. It first came into being during the patriotic fervor after the Pearl Harbor attacks. As far as I know, it is still the official song of the Air Force. In the rank order of military songs, the Air Force anthem deserves to be ranked at the very bottom. It should be pointed out that my service in the military was in this same Air Force.

Now we turn to the somewhat better song having to do with the United States Marines. The lyrics are:

From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli,
We will fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean,
We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.

The Marine song is stirring and it makes a lot more sense than the Air Force song. Accordingly, I find it a fairly decent piece of music.

Now we move on to the United States Navy. The song that is associated with the Navy is called “Anchors Away.” The lyrics are:

Anchors away, my boys, anchors away.
Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day.
Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more.
Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

I cannot say much about the college joys. This sounds more like a song to be sung at a college football game. Nonetheless, it is probably a good bit better than the Air Force song.

Now we turn to the Army. This song has to do with the field artillery.

Over hill, over dale,
As we hit the dusty trail,
And the caissons go rolling along.
In and out, hear them shout,
Counter march and right about,
And the caissons go rolling along.

And the second verse is:

Then it’s hi! hi! hee!
In the field artillery,
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
For where e’er you go,
You will always know
That the caissons keep rolling along.

As I progress through the lyrics of these songs, I believe that I am tending to agree with Mr. Sherrill’s assessment. In any case, the caissons are simply chests into which the artillery shells are placed to be towed to the place where they will be fired. In the olden days, horses would be used to pull the caissons to the place of firing.

Now in the case of the next line about shouting out the numbers loud and strong, that sentence would not pass the test that my eighth grade teacher, Miss Maxwell, would have used. She was a bear on proper grammar. She would have said that the words ought to be, “Shout out the message loudly and strongly.” But the fact is that Miss Maxwell was never in the field artillery unit of the American Army.

Finally we come to the hymn associated with the United States Navy. The popular name for the hymn is “Eternal Father.” Its lyrics are:

Eternal father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the ocean wide and deep
Its own appointed limits keep.
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!

In later years, the Navy acquired an air force and a new verse was added, ending in “For those in peril in the air.” In terms of military music, the Navy hymn is a runaway winner.

Its history is of some interest. The original words to “Eternal Father” were written by the Reverend William Whiting of the Church of England. He resided on the English coast near the sea and had once survived a serious storm in the Mediterranean. In the beginning, it started out as an old hymn; in 1861 music was added. As things now stand, “Eternal Father” is greatly favored by the Royal Navy of the British Commonwealth and since has become part of the French naval tradition.

And so you see, my view of that hymn seems to be shared by the English and the French as well as the Americans. The three of us do not find commonality on many other questions, but on this hymn there seems to be a degree of unanimity.

While persons of my belief might disagree with the theology, the lyrics, of the song, my sole thought is in its musicality. To hear the Navy hymn sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or by the Sea Chanters or any other male group is a moving experience for those of us who love music. I deeply regret that Fred Waring is not alive to add his Pennsylvanians to record the Navy hymn.

Well, that is my story about military music. A good part of the music is reasonably dubious. But in my estimation, it is all saved by the grace of “Eternal Father.”

But in the final analysis, American military music has a message. Some of it good, and some of sophomoric. To know that I have saved Sherrill’s book about military justice and military music says something about me. If that book were written today, 40 years later, I wonder how in the world anyone in our military could add a musical verse or two about the glories of fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. That would make American military music abysmal. Significantly, no American song writers have undertaken the task of celebrating our adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. That says something.

But when push comes to shove, American military justice is probably as bad as it was when Sherrill wrote his book in 1970. As for music, I can always remember that the caissons keep rolling along and in an emergency you can whip out a verse or two of “Eternal Father.”

Eternal father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the ocean wide and deep
Its own appointed limits keep.
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!

I think that those are majestic words and they tend to save the reputation of American military music.


December 24, 2010

Essay 520


Kevin’s commentary: Did you know the second biggest air force in the world behind the United States Air Force is the United States Navy? I guess that’s what we get for spending more on our military than the next several countries put together.

Here’s the full version of “Wild Blue Yonder,” the Air Force song. It’s… yeah, it kinda sucks.

It should come as no surprise that Pop likes the Navy hymn best of all because he is, generally speaking, a fan of that style music. We actually listened to a Welsh hymn together on his 90th birthday, if memory serves.


After Tony Hayward finished his grueling testimony before a House committee, he flew back to England, most likely in a private jet that BP owns.  Some time on Friday or Saturday, Hayward was told that he had been replaced on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by a Mississippi State graduate who formerly was his underling.  His new duties in London are obscure to say the least, and I suspect that in time Mr. Hayward will leave BP with the excuse that he wants to spend more time with his family.  In point of fact, BP may well have washed its hands of Mr. Hayward.

But please waste no tears on Mr. Hayward.  On the Saturday following his testimony, Mr. Hayward attended a yacht race.  One of the yachts in the race was a 52-footer which belonged to no one else but Tony Hayward.

While the yacht race was going on, Mr. Hayward was contemplating his future.  We don’t know the outcome of those musings nor do we know exactly where his yacht finished in the race.  I gather that his yacht is named “Bob,” which is neither here nor there.  The point is, that while the oil was still gushing from the BP pipe in Louisiana, Mr. Hayward was enjoying himself at a yacht race.  At this point, I hope that no one will question why the British upper class is disliked and/or hated.  The people in Louisiana are drowning in BP oil. But does Hayward, the CEO of BP, give a damn?  The answer is, probably not.

Now that we are done with Hayward, the next target is Representative Joe Barton of Texas.  You may remember him as the one who, during the hearing this week, accused Obama of conducting a Chicago style shake down operation on BP and having BP contribute a $20 billion “slush fund.”  The people in Texas cannot be relied upon to deal with the likes of Joe Barton.  I hope that for the rest of his life, Joe Barton is regarded as a clown for his remarks about the shake down and the slush fund.  Barton is a consummate fool.

Well, this is another story about clowns.  I end this essay by saying about the clowns, “Don’t bother; they’re here.”


June 22 2010

Essay 469


Kevin’s commentary: In the end, I suppose Hayward got his life back, so I guess he wins. His job, at this point, he can probably continue to do without.


In recent weeks Al Gore, the former vice-president, and his wife Tipper announced that they are going to be separated after 40 years of marriage.  This has set the news hawks and news hens to digging for details as to why the Gores are ending their marriage after such a long time.  I will have absolutely nothing – I repeat nothing – to add to this debate.  My advice to all of us is to “butt out.”  It is none of the public’s business and I am sure that the Gores would appreciate having their privacy respected.

I have a vested interest in the advice to “butt out.”  In my own case, my marriage ended after 37 years.  That marriage was contracted in 1945 so after 65 years I am still at a loss to tell you exactly what happened.  Not only am I at a loss to tell you what happened, I am not in search of questions or second guessing.  The matter is dead.  My former wife is deceased and it is a subject on which I will never write in these essays.

I know that in my own case, when it was clear that Eileen and I were going to be divorced, there were many questions as to why this was going to take place.  I never answered any of those questions.  It was treated by myself as a private matter and that was it.  The lady who tended the counter at the Schait’s Laundry went so far as to ask me what had happened to my marriage.  I told her something to the effect that if I ever figured that out, I might tell her about it, but most likely, I would not tell her.

So if I may offer a piece of advice to the news media in this country or the press of the English where sting operations are the order of the day, I would again say, “Please butt out.”  This is not a happy time for Al Gore and Tipper.  Any inquiries would only deepen their sorrow.

For myself, if I were asked, I would say that the Gores have my greatest sympathy.  I understand what they are going through and I hope that in the end their separation is for the best.  Please in the interim, everyone in this country and in the English-speaking press abroad should kindly “butt out” and leave it to the Gores to settle their own affairs.  The end of a marriage is not a happy occasion.  Inquiries as to why all of this happened would only lead to greater sorrow for Al and Tipper Gore.  As someone who knows a little bit about this situation, I would say that we should let the Gores settle their own affairs.  And in the meantime, everyone should “butt out.”



June 8, 2010

Essay 461


The only thing the media loves more than the personal lives of politicians and celebrities is death, preferably on a large scale. Though I find myself agreeing with Pop here — that the media should probably stay out of it — I also think that I have a bit of a double standard, because I love hearing about things like Sanford’s Argentine lover. So, if we agree that we should keep our noses out of these sorts of divorces, does that mean cutting ourselves off from the circus that is the party of Family Values and the trainwreck that is their personal lives?


P.S. I cannot think of “tipper” without thinking of “Mrs. Tipper,” my uncle’s absurdly spoiled, recently-deceased canine. I am forced to conclude that Tipper is a better dog name than person name. That is all.



The title to this essay is a very practical one. The “abiding” part has to do with some thoughts that have remained in my brain for the better part of 80 years. The “conclusion” part has to do with these statements which allow no room for debate. And, finally, you will be surprised to know that the title of this essay springs from my thoughts about an old Protestant hymn called “Abide with me.” The first verse of that old hymn contains these lines:

Abide with me.
Fast falls the even tide,
The darkness deepens.
Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail
And comforts flee,
Help of the helpless,
Oh, abide with me.

I am not quite sure if the authors of that old hymn view it as the opening lines of an iconoclast’s essay. But the fault lies not with me but with the authors of that hymn. They are the ones who put the abiding conclusions firmly in place in my brain for the past 80 years. Now, having introduced you to a hymn of the Protestant faith, I think that we can proceed with abiding conclusions.

There are six in number. The first abiding conclusion comes from Walter Nollmann, who happens to be our son-in-law. Walter is properly wed to my elder daughter, a fact to which I can attest because I attended their wedding.

For the many years that the New York Jets, a football team, have been in existence, Walter has followed their fortunes assiduously. I am not that much of a football fan because of the brutality involved in the game. But in any event, it seems to me that over many years, the New York Jets have had a tendency to lose their games in the last few minutes. Sometimes the loss involves stupid penalties and other times it involves not being on top of clock management. But be that as it may, Walter Nollmann has made the following abiding conclusion to which I subscribe. Walter has said that, “In the end, you know that the New York Jets are always going to break your heart.” There is no argument about his conclusion. A fact is a fact. And so the fans of the New York Jets always proceed into games knowing that sooner or later the Jets will break your heart.

Now we proceed to an abiding conclusion from a gentleman for whom I have the highest respect. That would be Wayne Johnson.

Wayne is a plumber extraordinaire who has some observations about life, particularly here and in New York. Wayne attended a trade school where he learned the art of plumbing, which he practices with great artistry.

Upon learning of my blindness four and a half years ago, Wayne accepted a cup of coffee from Judy, my wife, and sat down in a living room chair. Early in the conversation, Wayne said to me, “I see you have had a bit of a setback.” From that point the conversation flowed freely and I explained to him what glaucoma amounted to. It was a great relief to discuss blindness openly with a person whom I greatly respect. Compare that to the experience of a treasured friend who had had a mastectomy. She has reported that in some of her conversations with people she has known a long time, they make great efforts to avoid the use of the word “cancer.” An identical avoidance occurs when the subject is blindness. In Wayne’s case, he said that he had observed that I had “a bit of a setback” and that I was doing everything possible to overcome it. As I said, that was four and a half years ago and my memory of that discussion vividly remains with me. It is for that reason that I have included it in my abiding conclusion essay.

Now let us turn to Tom Eadone, who for many years operated a limousine service based in Chatham, New Jersey. Tom was a native of Newark, New Jersey and he distrusted politicians of all stripes. His distrust was well-placed because there are not many politicians blessed with honesty who come from the Newark background. On one occasion, Tom offered this abiding conclusion. Mr. Eadone said, “I never trust a politician who spent more on his campaign than the job would pay him.”

As you can see, those words of caution have long been with us. Regularly politicians up to and including the federal level spend more on their campaigns than the jobs that they seek would ever think about paying them. Michael Bloomberg, who spent an inordinate amount of money to be elected mayor of New York City for his third term, would be the prime candidate for violating Tom Eadone’s rule. But Tom’s cautious thought is a thorough abiding conclusion. Never trust a politician who spends more on his campaign than the job will pay.

The next abiding conclusion comes from my favorite hardware store owner, who goes by the name of Lefty Vincendese. Lefty has survived the landing of 1944 at Omaha Beach. As happens to most of us, as age bears down upon our shoulders, two or three severe ailments have tended to slow Lefty down. He is more than 80 years of age, so that is fully understandable. In recent years, Crohn’s Disease has descended upon Lefty. I gather that Crohn’s Disease is a painful ailment. On one occasion, Judy, my wife, asked Lefty how he was feeling. Lefty responded by saying, “I will never feel good again.”

There seems to be an affinity between not feeling well and aging. If Crohn’s Disease is thrown into the mix, it is entirely understandable why Lefty would say that he does not look forward to feeling good again during his remaining years. The point is that Lefty was not seeking anybody’s pity. He was merely stating a fact that should have been apparent to all of us. After Lefty made that remark, I concluded that it had to be involved in our abiding conclusions. It is one of the greatest.

Now let us go on to a personal involvement of mine. In 1942, when I enlisted in the American Army, there was a six-week period of training in Las Vegas, New Mexico where dust pervaded the drill field as well as the barracks and the mess halls. There was a corporal there who was put in charge of training my platoon. Somewhere along the line, he wanted us to march in an oblique fashion. That means marching at a 45˚ angle as opposed to left flank, which is 90˚, or right flank or straight forward.

Clearly, the corporal was having trouble with what he wanted us to do and at one point I spoke up. I said to the corporal, “I think I can help you.” Instantly the corporal said, “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking. You get paid for doing whatever you are told to do.” That event took place 68 years ago or thereabouts, and I have not forgotten it. Presumably if I had stayed in the American Army I might now be a staff sergeant or perhaps even a colonel. But I elected to leave the Army at the first opportunity. But I have always remembered the thought that “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking.” So it is inevitable that it be included in our abiding conclusions.

The final thought has to do with Dell van Buren Barbee. In a previous essay, I explained that Dell was the car washer in one of the filling stations in which I worked. Dell had two or three years of schooling in a Mississippi school house for black people. I suspect that it was not of the Harvard level. But Dell could make his points reasonably clear. On a cold winter’s day when rain obliterated the Missouri landscape, Dell offered these unsolicited thoughts to me about relations between the sexes. I will clean this up as best I can; I believe you will get his meaning. Dell van Buren Barbee said, “If God invented something better than, he kept it for hisself.” I made no attempt to correct Dell’s grammar because I was overwhelmed by the logic of his remark.

So there are the six instances of abiding conclusions. Many of them have appeared in earlier essays but have never been brought together in this context. I am going to offer these abiding conclusions to my grandsons, which will give them a firm footing as they proceed in life. On the other hand, they may have little value at all. I cannot escape the conclusion that the words “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking” are of inestimable value. If we had clear thinking like that coming from our politicians, we might have avoided the near meltdown of our financial institutions. But then again, perhaps nothing could be done about the recession or depression that is upon us.

This essay started with a Protestant hymn, which is a magnificent piece of music. It can be sung as a solo; it lends itself to duets as well as trios

and quartets, as well as to choirs. And I can only repeat those lines about all of us growing older, saying “Help of the helpless, abide with me.” If there is anything that the deities can work on, it might be to stop the aging process. But I am here to tell you that it ain’t going to happen any time soon.


January 27, 2010

Essay 433

Kevin’s commentary:

This is easily one of my favorite essays that I’ve posted in several weeks.

More on football brutality here.

Regarding politicians and payments, I am not sure it would be possible to find many who fit the criterion of the campaign costing less than the job. The highest office in the land is paid $400,000 a year, whereas the cost of a presidential campaigns runs into the dozens if not hundreds of millions. Now, if that rule only applies to out-of-pocket fundraising, perhaps a few more would fall into the net prescribed but it would still eliminate a sizable chunk. Romney, for instance, would only make $1.6 million as president for four years, whereas he personally contributed around $35 million to his own campaign.

In China that situation is even more interesting; officially, government salaries are very low, yet they are the most sought-after jobs in the country. People will buy a job that “pays” $2,500 a month for a million dollars, because it comes with the power to take bribes and generally be a corrupt asshole and make lots of cash.. A majority of the government in that country is run in this way.

More on  “you don’t get paid for thinking” here and here.


From January 1936 until January of 1940, it was my duty to attend the Clayton High School in pursuit of a diploma.  At that time, Georgia Walker was the director of vocal music.  George Best was the director of instrumental music.  For the four years that I attended Clayton High School, one of the mainstays of the repertoire of our choruses was “Men of Harlech.”  Georgia Walker seemed to like that song and, looking back at it, it may have been because she was of Welsh origin.  In any case, it is a rousing march, the villains being the English who, at that time, were identified as Saxons.  They were so identified because the English language is based upon Saxon roots. 

So Miss Walker had us singing:
Men of Harlech, honor calls us
No proud Saxon dare befall us.
On we march, what e’r befall us,
We shall live or die.

In the last two months, you may have seen what the song was referring to when it spoke of “a proud Saxon.”  I am referring, of course, to the oil spill sponsored by the British Petroleum Corporation (BP), whose chief executive officer is Anthony Hayward.  Early in the crisis, Tony Hayward, as he now likes to call himself, said the following: “I’d like my life back.”  This was a stupid remark to have made in light of the fact that eleven men lost their lives as a result of the shoddiness and cost-cutting efforts of the British Petroleum Corporation.  Now, however, there is a media blitz by BP, using television and print advertising to try to counteract what Hayward has said.  To his credit,Haywardhas acknowledged the goofiness of his remark and is now spending millions of dollars to try to counteract the reaction to it.

Hayward is no fool.  He has a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh.  They don’t give doctorates away at Edinburgh by sending in box tops.  Whether he is a Scot or not remains to be seen.  But at any rate, when he made his prior remark, he was a proud Saxon.  The television commercial made by Tony Hayward is a shining example of the English language at its best.  I do not mean this with any degree of sarcasm whatsoever.  Tony Hayward speaks superb English.  For his vocabulary, if not his subject, he has my admiration.

In his commercial, Hayward uses, among other things, two words that I have been campaigning about for many years wherein the American version of English is askew.  The two words that are of significance here are “been” and “again.” Hayward pronounces the first word as “bean” which rhymes with the cocoa bean or the coffee bean.  That is the way the word is spelled and I fully approve of that spelling and pronunciation.  In the American version of the English language, we pronounce that word as “bin.”  If I may say so, upon pain of being accused of lack of patriotism, I might say that the English version as enunciated by Tony Hayward is a hell of a lot better than the American version.

The second word that Tony Hayward uses in his commercial is the word “again.”  He pronounces that word as “a gain” whereas in the American lexicon we refer to that “agen.”  The word is clearly spelled a-g-a-i-n and why we butcher its pronunciation or bastardize it with the term of agen is beyond me.

In any event, the President of the United States is all over Hayward for wasting money on television commercials which could be used to pay for the clean-up of the oil spill.  I have some sympathy for Hayward, difficult as it is to believe that the son of Irish immigrants would feel this way.  I know that he is under tremendous pressure and that he would give anything to take back his remark, “I’d like my life back.”  But in the final analysis there is some benefit to all of these proceedings because it has contributed to this little essay.  Remember if somebody pronounces been as bean they are not being uppity.  That is the way the word is spelled.  The same applies to “again,” if they pronounce the second part of that word as “gain” instead of “gen,” I hope that you will not look askew at them.

While we are on the English language, I have one other thought that has troubled me for quite a while.  The word has to do with answer.  If I understand it, it is a-n-s-w-e-r.  What I would like to know is what in the world the “w” is doing in that spelling.  We never use it and it would be much better to spell that word phonetically and forget the “w.” 

So I think I told you all you need to know; I think I told you all there is for me to say about the English language at this moment.  I will point out however that the march of “Men of Harlech” refers to a castle in Harlech that was defended by the Welsh in the fifteenth or sixteenth century.  The Welch are Celtic as are the Irish and the Scots and some people who reside in western Europe called Bretons.  There has never been any love lost between the Celts and the Saxons of theBritish Empire.  In the end, the English forces overwhelmed the Welsh forces defending the castle at Harlech.  And now it is difficult to find a Welsh choir who will sing “Men of Harlech.”   A year or two ago, when I located the correspondent for the Risca Choir of Risca, Wales and asked him why the choir never sang “Men of Harlech,” he answered by saying, “No comment.”  I guess that the Welsh are a docile race unlike the Irish or the Scots.  But there it is.

Well, this has been an omnibus little essay in which I wanted to make my points about the words of “been,” “again,” and “answer.”  Now that this has been dictated and recorded, I feel a great sense of internal release from my having done so.  But if you have an opportunity to hear a male choir sing “Men of Harlech,” don’t miss that opportunity.  It is a rousing Celtic song and as a Celt myself, I am always aroused by it.  I will always remember that line, “No proud Saxon e’r befall us; We shall live or die.”  I assume that Georgia Walker has now departed this vale of tears.  If she were alive, I would be particularly pleased to let her know that one of her students in the 1936 – 1940 time period remembers that song and can repeat its words.  I believe that she would be very pleased.  And that she would tell Tony Hayward, that proud Saxon, to go to hell.



June 8, 2010

Essay 459


Kevin’s commentary:

I started to look up “Men of Harlech” briefly before remembering that I had already tried that. Apparently this is an issue that has been troubling old Pop for quite some time now.

Regarding the rest of the essay, I am not sure that “been” or “again” will ever catch on in the proper English dialect… but answer is a different story. I’ve been using that word all my life and never stopped to think about how silly it is. “Anser” does just fine.

The BP mess, incidentally, is still a mess and that company’s reputation is still reeling somewhat. Tony was smart enough to resign eventually.


For reasons unknown to me, I have been a voracious reader from the time Miss Brantley rescued me from the girls’ room.  I have told the story before but perhaps it bears repeating.  On my first day in school in the Forsythe School in Clayton, Missouri, I felt the need to relieve myself and walked into an open space which turned out to be the girls’ room.  In a flash, Miss Brantley, the first grade teacher saw me and led me to the boys’ room.  She told me that she understood my situation and that within a few weeks I would learn how to read.  Thus that mistake would never be repeated again.  And so I conclude that my voracious reading habits are attributable to Miss Brantley, a lovely white-haired woman.

There is one more story having to do with my reading habits.  When I was a prisoner of the German Army near Rimini, Italy in World War II, I found a German language paper on the floor and started to read it.  When I ran across a phrase, early in my reading, I asked a guard to explain it to me.  In effect, he told me that he was lost in the German language because he was a Rumanian, Rumaniabeing allied with Germany.  So you see, my attempt to explain my reading habits goes far back.

In 2005, I entered the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia for a trabeculectomy on my one remaining eye.  As it turned out, there was a hemorrhage and in spite of all of the efforts of the Wills people, starting with my surgeon, L. Jay Katz, M.D., there was nothing that could be done over the next few months to restore any sight to my eye.  Soon I will celebrate the anniversary of the sightlessness that glaucoma has brought to me for the past five years.

Glaucoma stopped my father from reading his Bible every evening because at that time, in the 1940s, there were no books that could be turned into audible speech.  But these days there are a good many books that are provided for those who are sightless, with an announcer reading the book to me.  My daughter and her husband, Maureen and Walter Nollmann have even recently bought me a Kindle which does all sorts of tricks.  So in effect I am not left with nothing to read.  Far from it.  As a matter of fact, it is at this point that I wish to give you a book report of my recent reading that may interest you.

In the past year and a half, there was a presidential election in this country which had hotly contested primary and general elections.  The fact that we had such a situation has much to do with my book report.  My report involves the following books.


The first book is by Richard Wolffe, who is an NBC commentator.  Wolffe was born in Birmingham, England and is a very literate fellow.  His book is called “Renegade” and it is about the Barack Obama campaign for the presidency.


The second one is “Battle for America.”  The authors are Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson, veteran Washington reporters.  It has much to do with the campaign for the presidency of the US last year.


The third book is “The Audacity to Win.”  The author is David Plouffe, who was the campaign manager for Barack Obama.  It involves the primary battle between Obama and Mrs. Clinton.  I found Plouffe’s book very interesting reading.


The fourth book is “Too Big to Fail.”  The author is Andrew Ross Sorkin.  It is about the banks and Wall Street, and I will tell you in advance that I found it so unbelievable that I almost quit reading it.  Sorkin writes for The New York Times.  This book is about Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and other organizations on Wall Street.


The fifth book is a political book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.  They are also veteran Washington reporters.  The title is “Game Change.”  “Game Change” is about Barack Obama as well as Hillary Clinton and in addition there is great coverage of John Edwards.


The last book is “The Madoff Chronicles” by Brian Ross, a reporter for ABC News.  It is about Madoff and his Ponzi scheme.


Of these six books, three of them come under a question of believability of the authors.  I find it basically impossible to believe that the authors had access to the principles as they repeatedly voiced their innermost thoughts.

The first of these is “Battle for America.”  That is the book by Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson.  The next one is “Too Big to Fail” by Andrew Ross Sorkin.  I have told you in the preceding paragraph that Sorkin claims to have heard infinite details that boggle my mind.  That book was about Wall Street and the financial crisis and I find it almost impossible to believe that Sorkin was so intimate with the principles that he heard all of the stuff that he recorded in his book.  The third book on my scorn list is “Game Change” which is a new book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

The three books cited which are in doubt in my mind have verbatim quotes which could not have been recorded unless the speaker was talking into a recording device.  That is impossible.  It strikes me that in reporting on the campaign for the presidency last year, each author had set out to outdo the previous author in defense of his “insiderness.”  In this case, I find that Richard Wolffe is refreshing because he reports the facts and it is up to the reader to decide to believe them or not.  The worst case was Andrew Ross Sorkin, which caused me to question whether he ought to be on the financial beat for The New York Times.  I simply do not believe that Sorkin had all of the intimacy that he claims with respect to the financial meltdown.

So there you have my little book report which tells you that sensationalism ain’t dead yet.  It also tells you that some books are capable of being believed and others are not.

Of all of the forgoing books, I found Brian Ross’s story about Bernie Madoff the most informative.  If the political writers had used Brian Ross’s respect for the news, then their books would have been better received by readers such as myself.


Now we move on to another observation about the recent books that I have heard.  In a number of the books reported on a little earlier in this report, I am struck by the use of the “f” word.  I was not raised in a convent and I spent the appropriate amount of time in the United States Army.  When it comes to vulgarities, our English cousins are among the best.  But clearly the best soldiers in terms of vulgarities were the Australians.  The people who appear in this book report don’t even come close to using vulgarities appropriately.  Clearly they are in love with the “f” word.  When they run out of something to say, they often employ the “f” word for no apparent reason.

I questioned my daughters and one of their husbands in an effort to determine whether this was common usage in the American speech patterns among younger people.  The two daughters and one husband all assured me that the “f” word is in common usage every day in every way.  Over the years I have found that men who used vulgarities often were colorful folk.  William Cowper Brann, who published newspapers in Texas about a hundred years ago, was a colorful user of vulgarities.  The people quoted by the six authors that I have read recently don’t hold a candle to William Cowper Brann.  So I guess I would say that if you are going to use vulgarities, don’t go out of your way to work them into your speech patterns.

One of the lessons from this essay should be that vulgarities are alive and well and you should be grateful to me for keeping you from reading books that are inauthentic.  It took 82 years for all of this to happen but my belief is that Miss Brantley would be edified by what her erstwhile pupil, who wandered into the girls’ room, has now accomplished.



March 1, 2010

Essay 440


Kevin’s commentary:

We are dipping into 2010. Not because we’re completely done with 2011 and 2012, but because I want to publish a whole mess of essays in the next few days and it’s easiest to do that by starting fresh with a new year.

I really enjoyed the fact that this essay came with a reading list and I wonder if I dig deeper into the archives of Ezra’s Essays that I will find more of them. I know that Pop reads almost constantly and I would very much enjoy more regular updates on what is striking his fancy. Particularly I want to keep an eye on his reading list to see if any fiction sneaks its way into there, so I can say “I told you so” when he enjoys it.

More on Australians, cursing, and the military here and here.

Also, Connor Shepherd speaks very highly of “Game Change.” I’ll need to investigate further.



It is with a heavy heart that I record the passage of Margaret Murphy from this life.  Margaret was 88 years old and lived a complete life span.  Nonetheless, I am grieved to think that there will be no more happy laughter from Margaret Murphy. 

When we worked, we referred to Margaret as Three M and assumed that her middle name was Mary.  If that was a miscalculation, it was never made known to me.

I first became acquainted with Margaret Murphy in the early 1970s.  I think of the 1970s as happening yesterday.  In fact, the 1970s happened more than 40 years ago.  I can allege that time flies and so it does.  The fact is that either Ed Dady or Jim Hurley made arrangements to bring Margaret Murphy into our overseas organization.  During this phase, I was touring every capitol in Europe and some in Asia to sell Teleplan.  Teleplan was simply a device to encourage foreign telephone administrations not to tack on enormous surcharges.  In some cases, the cost of the surcharge was three times the normal cost of the call.

So an arrangement was made called Teleplan for the administration’s overseas to take a much smaller cut of the proceeds, in exchange for which we would advertise the hotels of that nation to the world.  The first two countries to sign on to Teleplan were Ireland and Israel.

Our efforts were met by varying shades of success.  In some instances, there was an agreement such as we reached with Ireland and with Israel.  In other instances, such as Germany, there was an absolute refusal to limit surcharges on telephone calls back to the United States.

I tell you all of this because we swamped the foreign administrations with material in support of Teleplan.  The person in charge of producing that material and putting it together was none other than Margaret Murphy, the Three M Lady.

At that time, I had an older briefcase.  When Margaret Murphy collected the material, she stuffed it very diligently into that briefcase.  It was always my contention that Margaret Murphy was trying to kill me because of the heavy load of material supporting Teleplan that she crammed into that briefcase.  I very much looked forward to the last stop in my tour of European and Asian capitals because I could go home not having to lug that briefcase around.

In all of this, Margaret Murphy was the soul of cheerfulness.  It might be said that Margaret really put her heart into my success in touring the European and Asian capitals.  There were other instances when Margaret performed brilliantly.  But I believe that the Teleplan example is a good case for the way Margaret performed her work.

When Margaret died, she was 88 years old.  In all of her life, she never married.  I deeply regret that because Margaret Murphy would have made someone a wonderful wife.  That is not the way that life turned out for Margaret.

Margaret was a person who gave friendship willingly.  For nearly 60 years, Margaret was a friend of Thelma Dupont, another telephone worker.  As it so happens, Thelma, who had writing skills, died less than six weeks before Margaret, thus the two friends departed almost together.  As they say in racetrack terms, Margaret and Thelma always ran as an entry.  In racetrack terms, the two of them could run in a single race and which one finished higher would be the winner.   In real life, Margaret and Thelma wouldn’t aspire to be first or last, they aspired to be two very good people.

So it was that yesterday I answered a phone call from a Kay Miceli who identified herself as Margaret’s niece.  I hoped that Miss Miceli had not called to tell me that Margaret had died.  That is in fact exactly what happened.   And so it is that I write this tribute to Margaret and to her friend Thelma with a heavy heart.

As I said earlier, it is my belief that American males missed out on two women who would have made wonderful wives.

So now we are left to proceed without the comfort and happiness that Margaret always provided.  According to Margaret’s niece, she was in a coma before her death.  So I suspect that her death was painless.  I genuinely hope so.

And so we close the book on Margaret Mary Murphy and Thelma Dupont, her very close friend.  They were wonderful people and I doubt that we will ever see their likes again.  In saying goodbye to Three M Margaret Murphy and her very close friend of 60 years, Thelma Dupont, I must say that they don’t make them like that anymore.


E.E. Carr

March 22, 2013

Essay 724


Kevin’s commentary: This seems like far and away the worst part of living to 90. I cannot imagine how many friends Pop has had to say goodbye to in this fashion. She seemed like a wonderful woman. Rest in peace .


Whenever I dictate an essay about language, I specifically mean English, which always recalls the words of Sven Lernevall who observed, “The English language is a very rich one.”  

I will try to add three words that will increase its richness.  Two of them are of modern vintage.  The third one goes back to my grandfather’s time.

The first one is called “cyber.”  In almost every case, the word cyber is used in juxtaposition to the word “attack.”  For example, a short while ago the Iranians were trying to upgrade their nuclear fuel.  To do so required the use of computers.  The United States or maybe it was the Israelis used computer attacks to alter the enrichment of fuel which made the Iranian effort worthless.

The definition of cyber is not much help.  It reads, “of or relating to computers or computer networks, like the internet.”  I don’t know if my readers can make much sense out of the words of this definition.  But there it is.  Cyber means of or relating to computers or computer networks, like the internet.  In the final analysis, whether it is used for attacks may lead some to believe that it is of serious consequences.

The second word is “drone.”  According to those who view the future, drones are the aircraft of the future.  One person predicted that there would be thousands of drones at every airport.  I shudder to think how the drones will be controlled to avoid mid-air collisions.  But that is sometime in the future and it should cause us no worry at this moment.   Drones are used to advance the cause of the allies in the various theaters of our endeavors.  We read mostly about attacks by drones that silence  opposing leaders.  I know very little about drones but I know a little something about aircraft.  Apparently a drone can carry a two-thousand pound bomb into space and delivers it with unerring accuracy on its target.  The Pakistanis complained about the use of drones but it is reasonably clear that if they controlled the population that wished to do us some harm, there would be no need for the drone attacks.

So here we have two new words called cyber and drone.  Now it is time for a much older word.  The word is “pert’near,” which means pretty close.  Harry Livermore, my friend for 60 years before his death, was born in Omaha, Nebraska and he frequently used the word “pert’near.”   These days, these words are “pretty near” rather than pert’near.  But as far as I can tell, the word “pert’near” is synonymous with pretty near.  And Harry Livermore is among the angels so he will have no opportunity to explain what he meant when he said pert’near.


Here are my thoughts on adding to the English language.  There is the word cyber, of which there is not a whole lot of understanding.  Secondly, there is the word drone, which we are fairly quick to understand because it relates to unmanned aircraft.  And finally there is the word pert’near.  I am sorry that Harry Livermore is no longer with us because he would approve of my writing an essay that included the word pert’near.

I suspect that I have commented upon a usage of the English language several times in these essays.  As it turns out, for me this is good news as it suggests that the English language is a vibrant one, adding new words to those that exist.  Unfortunately, the word cyber is not easily understood but what the hell, there are a lot of things that this old timer will never understand.  So let us rejoice in the fact that the English language is alive and well and is adding new words at an amazing clip.  The Latin language that the clerics admire is a static one that is lifeless.  As I say, let us rejoice in the fact that the English language that we try to speak is alive and well.

PS: On the subject of drones, it may be interesting to follow the dictionary concept.  The Miriam Webster dictionary says that the definition of a drone is as follows: “A stingless male bee who gathers neither nectar nor pollen.”  That is the definition of drone and I will say that if possible it should be avoided.



March 29, 2013

Essay 743


Kevin’s commentary:  To the best of my knowledge, drones don’t have stingers and they don’t gather nectar or pollen, so I’m going to go ahead and say that they’re close enough.

I’m curious what an ex-airforce fighter thinks of flying machines which could nominally replace his role in a few years, if they haven’t already. Obviously, having a machine in the fight is good because that means you’re not in the fight, but is machines killing people much better than people killing people? And what happens when the enemy gets drones too, so it’s machines versus machines? Combat is evolving and I’m not sure there will ever be something on the scale of WWII again but a war played out in a series of mechanized skirmishes doesn’t seem altogether so unlikely.

Edit: I’m so behind that this essay is published on the March 24th slot, even though it wasn’t written till the 29th! This is a first.


I realize that talking about religion is often considered a third rail in the public discourse in this country.  The following essay is a dispassionate view of the Muslim belief that martyrs, such as those blowing up dozens of their fellow citizens, both Muslims and Christians, will go directly to Paradise.  I am not an expert on heavenly rewards that accrue to Christians and Muslims, but I assume that the Muslim Paradise is a lovely place.  It is made more so by the promise of the Ayatollahs and the imams that martyrs will be rewarded by an entitlement to varying numbers of virgins.  The number of virgins seems to range from 20 in one case to as many as 100 in another case.

I am not a Muslim, so I do not know how to pick the best deal on entering Paradise.  But several questions occur to me.  For example, where is Paradise located?  Is it adjacent to the Christian heaven?  Is it located high up in the sky and, if so, what are we going to do about the lack of oxygen and cold temperatures that occur at high altitudes?  The next question would have to do with whether my bodily remains will be transported to Paradise.  Otherwise, how can I walk around Paradise and enjoy the company of the many virgins who will accompany me?  Until the Ayatollahs find it in their hearts to answer such innocent questions as these, I believe that I will continue to withhold my membership from their mosques.

Does it strike anyone as peculiar that martyrs are always male figures?  Even the Catholic Church has admitted female nuns to sainthood.  But from what I have read – and I do not read Arabic – it seems that Paradise is reserved for males.  The only females who have ever been mentioned in my presence have been the virgins.  This would suggest that the male domination here on earth would continue when Paradise has been achieved.

Now a particularly vexing question occurs when a prospective martyr is told that he will receive somewhere between 20 and 100 virgins.  The question has to be, “What in the world is he supposed to do with them?”  Is he supposed to hold hands?  Is he supposed to neck with them?  Is he supposed to make love with them?  According to the Koran or whatever the Muslims read those questions are left unaddressed.  If the virgins are supplied for the sole purpose of gazing at them, it would suggest that most martyrs would consider it a bad deal.  So until we know what a martyr is supposed to do with the virgins, I again will withhold my judgment.

Now it has always been assumed that the virgins who welcome the martyrs to Paradise are young.  But clearly that is absolutely not the case.  I have not done extensive research on this subject, but I assume that there are Muslim virgins in their 50s and 60s and some are even on Social Security.  Who gets to assign the virgins to the martyrs?  Does the martyr get to pick them out?  Let us say that a martyr is attracted to skinny women.  If such a virgin were assigned to a martyr who preferred fat virgins, could he reject her?  The same would apply to hefty women who might be bigger than the martyr himself.  So the point here is that in assigning virgins to the martyr, it does not follow that all of them will be young women, or thin women or fat women.

Now let us consider some practical matters about the virgins and martyrs.  If on the average there are 50 virgins supplied to the martyrs, the question is, who is supposed to keep peace among them.  Jealousies inevitably arise between women and their male counterparts as well. But I suppose that before long the martyr will soon become disgusted by the catfights that take place among his assigned virgins.  And what are we going to do with taking turns?  One of the sources of irritation would have to be that if the martyr, for example, showed some preference for one virgin over another.  Supposing he liked to hold hands or even neck with his virgin, this might become a scandal among the other virgins in the harem.

There is one thought that intrudes here.  Are we always to assume that every virgin is a Muslim?  Suppose a Christian or Jewish woman were included in the virgins assigned to the martyr.  Do you believe that if the martyr made love to such a virgin he would be committing a grave sin?  I do not know the answers to such ponderous questions as this, but it seems to me that the arrangement in Paradise is a lot like it is on this earth.  Here women are expected to provide meals and, I suppose, sexual service to the observant Muslims.  But in Paradise it would seem that much the same deal would apply with the exception that most of the residents of Paradise seem to be male martyrs.  Do you suspect that there may be some homosexuality taking place?  I can’t answer that question, but as a non-believer I try not to get mixed up in religious affairs.

Now another question comes into view.  When the martyr straps his suicide belt of explosives around his chest, and when he reaches the prescribed target, he will blow himself to smithereens.  I know a little bit about explosives and I can tell you that anyone in the vicinity of a large  explosive will be lost forever.  There is no better way to describe what happens than to say, being blown to smithereens.  If the martyr cannot enjoy the earthly existence as a man with two legs and two arms etc., and he is blown to smithereens, what is there left in Paradise for the virgins to claim as their own?  Beyond that, if it is contended that it is not the body that assumes residence in Paradise, one must assume that when the explosives go off in the belt worn by the martyr and destroy his body, he must also suffer the loss of his soul or whatever the Muslims call the inner self.

I am not ready for martyrdom either as a Muslim or as a member of any other religion.  Until all of these questions are answered, I would prefer for the imams and Ayatollahs who espouse sermons on Fridays in their mosques to retire until they have answers to my questions.

And what are we going to do about a virgin who tells the heroic martyr, “Not tonight, dear.”  Does that give him license to call on another virgin?  Or should the martyr sulk?  As a libertarian I continue to be troubled by the discrimination toward female martyrs of the Muslim sect.  What is their reward?  Do you think that in all of the Muslim lands, there are male virgins that can be collected in Paradise for distribution to female martyrs?  And, finally, I know that there are contentions that homosexuality does not exist in Muslim countries.  Don’t you believe it!

That brings up the question, “What is the reward for a gay or a lesbian martyr?”  Would the lesbians have some priority in picking virgins?  These are troubling questions for a non-Muslim infidel to master.  There is one other question having to do with celibacy.  If a celibate male ascended to Paradise, he would be assigned 50 to 75 virgins.  Would he be run out of Paradise because he rejected the use of the virgins?

Before this essay finishes, I would like to ask preachers of Muslim thought, “What rational man believes that complete virginity is the ultimate achievement in life?”  I am aware of the celibacy rules that pertain in some religions but I still shake my head at the thought that any rational man would assume that virginity is the sole ultimate achievement of mankind.

I am dictating this on a cold Thursday, which of course is the day before the Muslim Sabbath.  Tomorrow I will not attend religious services at my nearby mosque even if there were a nearby mosque.  That should not be considered a slight to the Muslims because I do not attend services on the Christian Sabbath.  May I assure all of my readers that I have no intention of becoming a martyr even though the prospects are enticing.

But until the imams and Ayatollahs answer my questions, I will withhold my adherence to their beliefs and I will try to stick around this earth to see whether or not Hosni Mubarak finally discerns that the Egyptian people no longer want his services.



February 10, 2011

Essay 533


Kevin’s commentary: you know, I actually took 2 or 3 classes at Northwestern that touched on this, because middle eastern studies fell into the scope of my major. So I can shed some light! The Qur’an talks a couple times about these “companions” that are promised in addition to the spouses you get. Said companions are supposed to have really pretty eyes and be “ideal,” but that’s pretty much all you get. The companions are gender neutral; women can make it to paradise just like men.

Now, once you get into Hadith, that’s when things start to get pretty messed up. Hadith, for the uninformed, are things that we’re pretty sure that the prophet Muhammad probably said something similar to, at some point.

You might think that it would be crazy to count on the godly reliability of literally any fucking thing that any person who knew Muhammad alleges that the guy said — not to a crowd, not in a temple, just a thing that he at one point told someone. But it’s okay! For the last fourteen hundred or so years there’s been a group of people who have wasted their lives attempting to trace the reliability of thousands and thousands of claims about hadith, much of which were recorded centuries after the death of the prophet. What this means is that if you were rich, or your cousin was related to Aisha, you could say shit like “in the market the other day, I asked Muhammad about the afterlife and he promised me that I would get to bone 70 translucent angel virgin chicks” and boom you have scripture. There are 4000 of these accepted hadith and they’re mostly comical.

(Sitenote: As if the scripture was any better… there are these amazing rules for, say, the mild penalties incurred if a man cheats on his wife, but if he cheats on his wife with the wife of the prophet then you’re supposed to die, etcetc. It’s like, if I was a six year old and someone told me that I got to be the boss, these were the types of “rules” I’d make up. Here’s how the rules work, and here’s how they apply to me.  But my point here is that Hadith are even more baseless and absurd than the rest of the religious texts because they’ve obviously been made up by people in the year 700 who needed the ultimate authority on their arguments to rule in their favor.)

So yeah, Hadith. They’re bonkers and conflict a lot because, as I’ve hopefully made clear, they’re even more horseshit than normal religious texts are, mainly because if you have two guys from pure, reliable bloodlines and one of them says “we got promised 50 virgins” and the other one is more creative and he goes “no we get 70 and also they’re angel virgins” then you basically have to roll with it. There’s a whole secondary corps of people who are, even now, wasting their time trying to mediate between this type of conflict. They take it super seriously. Like, still-put-you-to-death-in-2013-based-on-a-thing-that-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-said-that-someone-said-that-someone-said-that-Muhammad’s-brother-in-law’s-buddy’s-previous-dog’s-owner’s-nephew-heard-Muhammad-say serious.


Oh yeah the point of all this is that the Houris are almost entirely described in the Hadith, so you get gems like these, which have been lifted shamelessly from wikipedia:  “Houris will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh.”

Also that “they will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their censers.”

This one’s probably my favorite though: “Houris do not want wives to annoy their husbands, since the houris will also be the wives of the husbands in the afterlife. “Mu’adh bin Jobal (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘A woman does not annoy her husband but his spouse from amongst the maidens with wide eyes intensely white and deeply black will say: Do not annoy him, may Allah ruin you.” He is with you as a passing guest. Very soon, he will part with you and come to us.”

God’s word right there, if I’ve ever seen it.

I wish I could say I were making this up. I could write a whole second rant like this about suicide bombing’s permissibility (not permissible. You’re cool to die a martyr if you get overwhelmed by enemies and you blow yourself up to take some of them with you, but only if your life is 100% forfeit. If you just walk onto a bus of infidels and blow it up, you’re actually NOT in the clear. Who knew?) but it’s bedtime.




Oh PS, “Not tonight, dear” is grounds for divorce


It goes without saying that your Uncle Ezra has no to investigate the subject of the language that Americans speak.  Yet while I lack the academic credentials, as a wordsmith from my essay writing I have an abiding interest in words.  In this case, there are four words that have fallen into disuse that I wish to memorialize without any hope that they will again be in common discourse.

The first word is “yonder.”  My mother and father spoke perfect “country speak” which always included the word yonder.  Yonder could refer to heaven, up there in the clouds.  It could also refer to a far-off place.  But as time has moved on, we find the use of the word “yonder” diminished.  I am sort of attracted to the word “yonder” for sentimental reasons I suppose.  And from time to time as my contribution toward not letting that word die, I will try to work it into my essays.  I will do so in the hope that yonder will survive until I go up yonder in the clouds to enjoy my heavenly rest.

Now we come to another word that has fallen into disuse.  The word is “hush.”  My grandmother frequently included the word “hush” in her vocabulary.  More than anything else, it was used to quiet children who were crying.  It was also used to tell children to be quiet.  And then there is the other term called “hush money.”  When someone witnesses a crime and is bribed to stay quiet and to say nothing, that term is called “hush money.”   The word “hush” has largely disappeared in recent years.  Perhaps the best example comes from the 1935 opera by George Gershwin called “Porgy and Bess.”  One of the major songs from that show is called “Summertime.”  There are two lines which go as follows:

Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good lookin’

So hush little baby, don’t you cry.

Since that show appeared, we find that the word “hush” has most often been used to describe “hush money.”  But if I had my way, and I don’t have my way much to speak of, the word “hush” would be a frequently used word.


Now, let us move on to a word that was used by my father.  He spoke purely “country speak” with some major mispronunciations.  He rarely if ever used curse words.  About the worst things he ever said had to do with the use of the word “bloody.”  If the tappets in his inline engine became noisy, as they frequently did, he would go on about those “bloody tappits.”

Aside from the fact that he bemoaned the tappets making a loud sound, he also used the word “bosh.”  The dictionary definition of bosh traces to Turkish roots some centuries ago.  Actually the definition, according to the dictionary, is as follows: foolish talk or activity : nonsense —often used interjectionally.

For all intents and purposes, my father would have been baffled by the origins of the word.  He merely used that word to describe something that was preposterous.  More than anything else, he would use that word to describe something that was patently awry and was not to be believed.  My earliest recollection of his use of the word “bosh” has to do with his description of what Herbert Hoover had to say following his election in 1928 about the economic conditions in this country.  When Hoover would make a speech telling us that it would be brighter tomorrow, my father, who was out of work for several years during the Depression, would say something like, “What Hoover says is all bosh.”  More than anything else, the modern equivalent would be rendered as “BS.”


The final word that has fallen into disuse is the word “purgative.”  “Purgative” has been replaced by the word “laxative” which has several variations.  I suppose that purgative brings forward memories of purgatory, which has fewer and fewer believers and adherents.  I know that “purgative” is not a pleasant word but what the hell, there are other unpleasant words in the language of the Anglo-Saxons.  But I suspect that the possibility of “purgative” making a comeback is somewhere between nil and zero.

There you have four words that have fallen into disuse.  There is “yonder,” and there is “hush,” and “bosh” and “purgative.”  Modern usage of the Anglo-Saxon language does not appear to contemplate their return.  But be that as it may, I still miss the word “yonder” and I still have some sentiment for the word “hush.”  I see no clear prospects for the word “bosh” to return to the language of the Anglo-Saxons.  But I will always remember that word as being associated with my father and if nothing else than for sentimental reasons, I tend to favor its return to our language.  And finally the word “purgative” has been adequately replaced by the word “laxative.”  With that, I would say that this visit to the language of the Anglo-Saxons is therefore completed.  And so I leave you with the thought that somewhere in the future I may again meet you up yonder in the skies.



April 20, 2011

Essay 544


Kevin’s commentary: More on purgatives here. Other installments of Pop’s thoughts on the language of the Anglo Saxons here, here and here. I wonder how many of these there will end up being. I shudder to think what these lists of related articles are going to start looking like once I get back to, say, 2002 essays.

In any event, I feel like you still hear “yonder” in the South sometimes, and I’m frequently guilty of hushing my friends. Can’t say the same for bosh or bloody, which both sound British to me. Bloody is particularly odd, because I think of Brit-speak and country speak as opposites.