Thursday, 24 November 2011

Easy to say, but hard to spell

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.

The names of four US places - Cincinnati, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Tucson - are so hard to spell that thousands of people living in them can't spell them correctly.

In the spirit of the close alliance of Australia and the US illustrated by President Barack Obama's recent visit, I've composed a few rhymes to help with the spelling of those names.

By the way, how many boys in the US are named Barack? I've never heard of any in Australian although one of my great-grandchildren is named Theodore (Teddy) a name that traces back to US President Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, 26th US president, unknowingly gave the teddy bear his name, One day in 1902, while helping settle a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana, he took part in a bear hunt in Mississippi. Finding a wounded young bear, he ordered its mercy killing.

The Washington Post ran an editorial cartoon by the political cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman that illustrated the event. Called "Drawing the Line in Mississippi", it depicted both state line dispute and the bear hunt.

At first Berryman drew the bear as a fierce animal, as the bear had just killed a hunting dog. Later, he redrew the bear to make it a cuddly cub. The cartoon and the story it told became popular and within a year, the cartoon bear became a toy for children, which was called the teddy bear.

Let's deal with those four hard-to-spell places one at a time. I've composed a few simple rhymes to help with the spelling.

Cincinnati, Ohio, once described as The Queen City, is sometimes called Porkopolis – possibly because thousands of its citizens can't spell its name correctly. Google lists thousands of Web pages which misspell the name as Cincinatti, Cincinati, Cincinnatti, Cinncinati, Cinncinnati, Cinncinatti, Cinncinnatti, or even Sinsinati or Sinsinatti.

Travel writer Bill Bryson in his book "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" recalled: "I even got a job on the strength of it once when, in a moment of youthful audacity, I asserted to a managing editor of the London Times that I would be the only person on his staff who could reliably spell Cincinnati. (And it was so)."

By 1854, Cincinnati had become one of the largest cities in the US. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called it the Queen City. But at the same time, the city was also known as a pork-packing center and was unkindly called Porkopolis, as it is to this day.

To remember how to spell the city's name, memorize this little rhyme:

Cincinnati is a word
Hard to spell but easy heard.
It need not cause you irritation,
Just drop the ON from CIN CIN NATION.

The Ns and Ts are simply done
When written down as 1-2-1.

Thousands of people around the world have trouble spelling Massachusetts. "I can't spell it without using that song" some say, while Google has thousands of references to misspellings of the name as Massachussetts or Massachussets.

It's not a new problem. More than 150 years ago, popular author Horatio Alger wrote in "Cousin John" (first published 1856): "Ida ... was next asked to spell Massachusetts, which the squire allowed to pass unquestioned, probably because he did not feel quite certain about it himself."

The solution? Memorize one of these couplets:

"Massachusetts is tricky," the teacher confesses,
"Just remember to spell it with two tees and four esses."
The simple answer to this little riddle:
Two esses, two tees, with one ess in the middle.

Faced with the next-to-impossible problem of spelling Mississippi, millions of people around the English-speaking world fall back on that venerable children's rhyme:
M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I
Crooked letter-crooked letter-I

Others recite:
Mrs M, Mrs I, Mrs Double S I,
Mrs Double S I, Mrs Double P I.

Nearly three centuries ago, a 1718 French map in the Library of Virginia is entitled Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi. Maybe that was the correct spelling in those days.

To spell the State's name correctly, remember these lines:
Four simple words will get you by:
What you'll never MISS IS SIP PI.

Tucson, in arid Arizona, not only has trouble spelling its name, but its citizens can't even agree on how to pronounce it – it's either too-SAHN or TOO-sahn, says its official website.

In the Wild West's early days, Tucson citizens had trouble spelling the town's name. Today, despite better education, thousands of Americans face similar difficulties. Google lists many thousand pages misspelling the name as Tuscon (as in Italy's Tuscany).

How can you learn to spell Tucson? Perhaps you could memorize one of these rhymes:
Remember well, to save confusion
C before S when spelling TUCSON.
Or this one:
When spelling Tucson you must get
C before S as in the alphabet.

Or even, as a last resort:
Let's put an end to all this confusion.
We can't tell the difference 'tween Tuscan and Tucson.
The best way to end typographical stress
Is to remember to put the C before S.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Pictorial Journalism Aint What It Used To Be!

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney. Australia.<>

Way back in 1937, when I was a teenage cadet/cub reporter on The Press in Christchurch, New Zealand, I was sometimes called on to hold a metal tray of flash powder high in the air for the newspaper's sole photographer. That was my introduction to pictorial journalism.

Twenty years later and 1200 miles to the west, I was for a brief period pictorial editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph. I had to assign news jobs to six or seven photographers, select their best pictures, plan a layout for a page or pages, and write the captions.

Cameras in those days were cumbersome Speed Graphics, many times larger than today's dinky digital devices. The photographer adjusted the focus and took a single snap shot. Exactly when to take it required great skill and experience. Today anyone can point a camera in the right direction, and fire off a dozen shots in less than a second.

Those Telegraph cameramen were some of the best - perhaps THE best - in Australia. One of them, Ern McQuillan, now in his eighties, is still taking great pictures as a commercial photographer. In 1998 he was awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) for his services to journalism,  particularly in the field of media photography. 

Simon Elliott, former Deputy Director, National Portrait Gallery, interviews Ern McQuillan.

Mike McQuillan writes about his Dad:

Saturday, 12 November 2011

These words DO have rhymes!

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia. <>

Frustrated poets sometimes claim that no words rhyme with purple, silver, orange and month. Rubbish! There ARE words that rhyme with them. Let's deal with them one at a time.

Hurple and curple rhyme with purple. Hurple is a scottish word, meaning to hobble, or walk with a limp, and curple is a strap under the girth of a horse's saddle to stop the saddle shifting forward.

Burple was a drink mix packed in an expandable accordion-like plastic container. Kids could poke a hole in the cap to convert the container into a squirt gun

Discussing his family name, Trevar Chilver says "The Oxford English Dictionary lists chilver as an Old English noun meaning a ewe lamb, often referred to as a 'chilver lamb'."

There's a Chilver Street in the London (UK) borough of Greenwich. So a poet could write:
Jewellers sell gold and silver,
In the street that bears the name of Chilver.

The Urban Dictionary says that in the fashion world gilver is a color that is a mix of metallic gold and silver; pilver is a noun meaning the feeling one has after staying awake far too late doing nothing productive and knowing all the while that one is doing nothing productive, and a quilver is a mob of angry squirrels that may or may not be a part of a larger plot to take over the world. Pilver and Quilver are surnames.

Elizabeth Millicent (Sally) Chilver (b. 1914) a London Daily News journalist 1945-47, became a distinguished political scientist and anthropologist. The British Library of Political and Economic Science says she studied "the anthropology of the Cameroon grasslands... covering subjects including matrilineal society, witchcraft, magic and divination, with notes on the authors by Chilver; working notes on the Kingdom of Bum in the north-west province of Cameroon."

That's right: the Kingdom of Bum. We thought that must be a spoof. Not so. Take a look at the Kingdom of Bum, and Fonfuka and Lagabum websites. Fascinating!

In his amusing book "Adventures of a Verbivore" US language expert and best-selling author Richard Lederer wrote:
"It's not true that no words rhyme with orange... There was a man -- I'm not kidding -- named Henry Honeychurch Gorringe. He was a naval commander who in the mid-nineteenth century oversaw the transport of Cleopatra's Needle to New York's Central Park. Pouncing on this event, the poet Arthur Guiterman wrote:
In Sparkhill buried lies a man of mark
Who brought the Obelisk to Central Park,
Redoubtable Commander H. H. Gorringe,
Whose name supplies the long-sought rhyme for orange.

And a hill in South Wales is called "The Blorange"

How about oneth (pronounced wunth)?  Discussing Dodie Smith's book The Hundred and One Dalmatians, a reviewer wrote: "This is the original novel, published in 1956, from which the movie adaptations were made--poorly... How many people know who the actual 101th dalmatian was?"

And on a genealogy site, we found this message, posted on February 29, 2004, from Kevin Oneth: "I am a descendent of Adam Oneth." Another read "
 I am looking to connect with descendants of John and Rebecca Alspaugh Oneth." 

Of course, there are hundreds of stories read by seven-year-olds with missing front teeth, which begin Oneth upon a time.

W.S. Gilbert, a world-class rhymester, claimed in an open letter to The Graphic in 1887:
'It has long been supposed that there is no rhyme to 'month.' There is a rhyme to it--not any lisping version of such words as 'once' 'dunce,' etc., but a legitimate word in everyday use...
'millionth' as the best rhyme to 'month,' and I have the authority of the greatest poets in the English language for treating it as a tri-syllable, if I feel disposed to do so.'

One of our favorite rhymes is:
Shake, shake the ketchup bottle,
First none'll come, and then a lot'll.

No, the famous U.S. humorist Ogden Nash (1902-1971) was NOT the author of that immortal couplet, although many people claim he was. (He DID write Candy / is dandy / But liquor / is quicker.)

One website, noting that August 19 was the anniversary of Nash's birthday, gave this circumstantial but misleading account: "One summer afternoon in 1930, he jotted down a little nonsense poem and sent it to The New Yorker. The magazine bought it, and asked for more. Nash moved to Baltimore and for the next 40 years made his living entirely off of poems like:
You shake and shake the ketchup bottle,
nothing comes, and then a lot'll.

According to Nash's grand-daughter, Frances R. Smith of Baltimore, Maryland (and she should know) what he actually wrote was:
The Catsup Bottle
First a little
Then a lottle

[Catsup is another American word for ketchup. Brits and Aussies call it tomato sauce.]

Then, in 1949, another US humorist, Richard Willard Armour (1906-1989), seems to have gleefully seized on Nash's rhyme, and produced the couplet that many people enjoy reciting to this day.

Armour was a master of the comical one-liner. Here are three of his wisecracks:
o Middle age is the time of life / that a man first notices in his wife.
o It's all right to hold a conversation, but you should let go of it now and then.
o A rumor is one thing that gets thicker instead of thinner as it is spread.

Apart from lot'll, it's not difficult to find a suitable rhyme for bottle. We can think of throttle, wattle, dottle (a plug of tobacco remaining in a pipe after a smoke), glottal and mottle.

Ogden Nash found a rhyme for parsley by slightly changing the spelling of ghastly. He wrote Parsley / is gharstly.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Natty Bumppo - What a Great Name!

From ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia. <>

Back in the early 1970s there were two young lawyers named John Dean. One of them, John Wesley Dean III, became deeply involved in events leading up to the Watergate burglaries and the subsequent Watergate scandal cover up. The FBI called him "master manipulator of the cover up"

So when the second John Dean was setting up shop as an attorney in Brownsville, Kentucky. he decided to adopt a new name, to avoid being mistaken for the Watergate criminal. He chose the memorable and resounding name Nathaniel John Balthazar Bumppo, and has revelled in that name ever since.

The original  Natty Bumppo, aka Hawkeye, was a character in James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. A child of white parents, he grew up with Native Americans, becoming a fearless warrior who hunted only what he needed to survive, living by the rule, "One shot, one kill." 

The second Natty Bumppo was born in 1940.  As a young man, he was a reporter on (in turn) the Terre Haute Star; Associated Press, Indianapolis Star, Detroit News, Indianapolis Star, Chicago Sun-Times, San Francisco Examiner and Detroit Free Press,

He worked as a bartender at the Golden Horse Shoe saloon in Oakland, California, in 1968, as a Candygram delivery man for Western Union, San Francisco, on Valentine's Day, 1969.

He became a mail order minister of the Universal Life Church (bonded to perform marriages) in 1974.

Natty says he's been married five times but divorced only four. He wrote a hilarious article 'Why I'd Rather Be Natty Bumppo than John Dean (Wouldn't Everybody?),' published by Esquire magazine in June 1975.

In his spare time, Natty is an avid euchre player, and has written a book about that once-popular card game. "Euchre is a poor man's bridge," Natty declares. "Bridge is for discerners. Chess is for discerners. Euchre is for drunken slobs who think they know what they are doing."

He also edits an amusing and informative weekly newsletter, Tabloid Headlines. 

POSTSCRIPT. Today's email from Natty:
 In the early 1950s I was not yet even a teen-ager (until June 16, 1953, my 13th birthday); and neither was John W. Dean III until October 14, 1951, his 13th birthday.  He did not become a lawyer until 1965, and I did not become a lawyer until 1973.

I met him, by the way; and that's a rather interesting story in itself.  In June of 2004 (I think it was), the year his book
Worse Than Watergate was published, he was a guest lecturer at the Kentucky Bar Association convention in Covington, Kentucky.  

After his lecture, he autographed copies of his new book.  I got in line.  When I got to the front of the line, I shook his hand and said, "Mr. Dean, I did not buy a copy of your book; I just wanted to meet you.  My name is Natty Bumppo."

"Oh," he said.  "That's a very interesting name."

Friends behind me in the line egged me on.  "Ask him what his name
used to be," they urged him.

When I told him, he said, "Oh!  Didn't I read about you in the newspapers?"

Ha, ha.  Didn't
he read about me in the papers?

Here's a link to the
Esquire article, and here's one to Tabloid Headlines.

Natty Bumppo - YouTube

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ian and Beth's Apple Wedding

From ERIC SHACKLE in Sydney, Australia.<>

Apple people have some qualities that set them apart from other computer nerds. In a tribute to Steve Jobs, Stephen Fry wrote, "I cannot claim he was a friend but over thirty year or so years I bumped into him from time to time and he was always warm, charming, funny and easy to talk to."

My friends Ian Scott-Parker and his wife Beth Lock, both Apple devotees, share those qualities. Last week was their 10th  wedding anniversary.

Beth Lock used to write an amusing monthly column in MyMac Magazine, which said of her: "Beth has been around Macintosh computers since 1990, but still doesn't understand how they work. She admits that new software is a pain to learn and rarely upgrades anything. Beth's hobbies include reading the same internet sites every day and googling her friends to see if they are listed on the internet." 

Ten years ago she wrote a delightful story in MyMac  called I Married a Mac Man, in which she  described how she and Ian first exchanged emails after My Mac Magazine published one of her stories in November 1999.

Oh, there were obstacles, one of which was that he lived 6,000 miles away from me, in England, Beth recalled. But, being a Mac woman who knew the value of a good Mac man, I didn't let such a little thing as distance deter me. After all, this is the age of the internet. The World Wide Web. He was never more than a phone line away. 

We wrote, and wrote, and wrote to one another, long passionate emails full of hopes, wishes, laughter, crying and dreams. We graduated to Instant Messaging, then to telephone calls. Then it wasn't enough. We had to meet.
The naysayers warned me. They questioned me. They even prayed for me. But I got on the plane anyhow and flew to Scotland, to meet my Mac man. He booked a two bedroom self-catering cottage for us at Loch Lomond.

Our agreement was that if one or the other of us didn't smell right to the other, we'd just have a lovely vacation together, and be merrily on our mutual way. He even had the courtesy to write to my father and assure him that his intentions toward me were honorable in every way. Honor, one of the qualities of a true Mac man.

I didn't have to see his hardware to know, it was apparent from the moment we met.

We married two days after we met at the airport in Glasgow, on November 2, 2000. This man didn't haul me off to a preacher, though. No, this is a Mac man. He married me in Hell's Glen overlooking Loch Fyne on that star-filled frosty night...

On the way back to the cottage he stopped at a take out for fish and chips, for our wedding supper. There were no photographers, no witnesses other than God and the stars. 

My wedding ring is a silver 'fede' ring, handcrafted in the borders area. Only a Mac man would plan a wedding like that.

The couple had a "real" wedding, attended by friends and relatives, when they returned to Beth's hometown of Hurricane, Utah, a few days later.