Thursday, September 22, 2022

It’s funny, the things you remember

I don't mean funny ha-ha, I mean funny peculiar.

I remember that before Bob Keeshan played Captain Kangaroo on TV he was the original Clarabell the Clown on Howdy Doody.

I remember that when I played clarinet in the Mansfield (Texas) High School band back in the 1950s, Marshall Tyson played alto saxophone, Dianne Phillips played tenor saxophone, and Bruce Hornell played baritone saxophone. John Galloway, Jerry Willis, and Jerry Harmon played trumpet and the latter Jerry's twin brother Terry played tuba. Kenneth Green played snare drum. There were a lot of other people in the band but I don't remember them or what they played.

I remember when there were nine planets in our solar system.

I remember that when Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles and became the Princess of Wales she bobbled the order of his names during their exchange of vows, saying "I take thee, Charles Arthur Philip George" instead of what she ought to have said, "I take thee, Charles Philip Arthur George" and I remember wondering whether the marriage was therefore not valid.

I remember watching the Democratic National Convention on our black-and-white television set in the summer of 1956 when newly-chosen candidate for the presidency Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois let the delegates decide who his Vice Presidential running mate would be. They chose Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee over someone I had never heard of, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

I remember that Adlai Stevenson, when asked how he felt after losing to Dwight D. Eisenhower, cited Abraham Lincoln's remark after losing an election, that it reminded him of the little boy who stubbed his toe in the dark and said he was too old to cry but it hurt too much to laugh. I cannot remember whether he said this in 1952 or 1956 but he lost to Eisenhower both times.

I remember seeing Olga Korbut and Mary Lou Retton and Nadia Comaneci win gold medals in gymnastics at various Summer Olympic Games.

I remember Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's spectacular ice dancing to the music of Maurice Ravel's Bolero in the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. They wore lavender.

I remember attending two musical productions at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in the mid-1950s. In one, Victor Herbert's operetta Naughty Marietta, I remember Patrice Munsel singing "Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life, At Last I've Found You". In the other, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific, I remember Kay Armen as Bloody Mary singing both "Happy Talk" and "Bali Ha'i". I have no memory at all of who portrayed Ensign Nellie Forbush or French expatriate Emile De Becque but undoubtedly they sang "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair" and "Some Enchanted Evening", respectively.

My most vivid memory from the world of sports is a tie between (a) Atlanta Braves TV announcer Skip Caray yelling "Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!" in 1992 after Sid Bream slid into home base in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the National League Championship Series and (b) University of Georgia announcer Larry Munson yelling "Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!" in 1980 after the 93-yard winning touchdown play near the end of the fourth quarter in the Georgia-Florida game that year.

Here is a knock-knock joke for you.

Who's there?
Sam and Janet.
Sam and Janet who?
(singing) Sam and Janet evening you may see a stranger, you may see a stranger across a crowded room.

I'm guessing you will remember this knock-knock joke.

Monday, September 19, 2022


As you may or may not know, I am somewhat of an Anglophile. I decided to watch today's funeral -- if you have to ask whose you must have just arrived here from another galaxy -- but not on one of the American television networks. Instead, wanting to experience what the people in the U.K. were experiencing, I decided to watch the day's proceedings on BBC television.

I'm glad I did. It was solemn, dignified, and riveting. Even better, I avoided commercial breaks, bantering hosts, royalty-fawning, and, as Americans are wont to make, inane comments about Harry and Meghan.

My Anglophilia didn't just come out of the blue. One of my maternal great-grandfathers, Solomon Aarons, was born in London in 1847 and came to America before the Civil War, I mean the War Between the States, I mean the War of Northern Aggression, I mean the Late Unpleasantness. I'm joking. As it happens, Solomon lived in Philadelphia and served as a drummer boy in the Union Army, the winning side.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

In the last little while I have composed half a dozen blogposts and discarded them all. Nothing satisfied.

I spent two days in hospital last week, during which time two kidney stones were surgically removed from my right side. The larger of them measured 7mm (approximately 1/4 inch). No one wants to read about that. No one wants an organ recital unless your name is Diane Bish (British, E. Power Biggs).

Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know this.

I was hoping Prince Charles would choose to become King George VII, but no one ever listens to me.

A blogger friend, Rachel Phillips of Norfolk in the U.K., is in the midst of her first trip to Albania. Today, on Day 4, her post included a photograph of a statue in Vlorë and she also mentioned visiting the excavations and museum at Apollonia. My father-in-law was from Vlorë, which he called Vlonë, and my mother-in-law was from Fier, only 5km (3 miles) from Apollonia.

People often say it's a small world, but today it seems smaller than usual.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Benched, Grilled, Pressure-Washed (illustrated)

[Editor's note. I apologize in advance for some of the photographs in this post. They are not very good photographs -- I press the button and the result is anyone's guess -- but they are essential to the post. Perhaps I should also be apologizing for the sheer number of photographs in this post. Some bloggers post many more, but there are far more than I usually include. I must have been on a roll. --RWP]

A friend of ours, Rosemary L., lived to be 94 years old. During the last 20 years of her life (the period when we knew her) she perplexed and amused her friends by celebrating her birthday every year throughout the entire month of February at multiple restaurants. So it struck me as downright Rosemaryesque when, through no fault of Mrs. Rhymeswithplague's own, her birthday celebration lasted for a whole week this year.

On the Saturday before her birthday, our older son and his wife, along with their daughter who was home for the weekend from summer session at the university, drove over from their town and took us out to eat at a local restaurant. We enjoyed it immensely; we left the place with our tummies full and a take-home box containing a piece of cheesecake. Back at our house, our son pulled a big box out of the back of his vehicle and began assembling something. It turned out to be a bench for our entrance! He had heard his mother mention a while back that she would really like us to get one. Here is the finished product along with Mrs. RWP:

A few seconds later I joined her on our new bench:

But don't look at us or the bench. Instead, notice the concrete. It will be important later in this post.

The next day, on the Sunday before Mrs. RWP's birthday, we were invited to our other son and daughter-in-law's home for a delicious home-cooked, gourmet meal.

Three days later, on Wednesday, Mrs. RWP's actual birthday, she and I went out for another birthday dinner at our favorite fake-Australian place where we enjoyed coconut shrimp, pumpernickel bread, Toowoomba salmon, and baked sweet potato. Once again we had cheesecake for dessert. This was now the third celebration. I gave Mrs. RWP a bouquet of flowers but didn't take a photograph. Our daughter and son-in-law in Alabama also had flowers delivered to our house on Wednesday afternoon:

On Saturday morning, three days after Mrs. RWP's birthday, our daughter called to tell us to eat an early, light lunch because she and our son-in-law were coming to cook dinner for us "for Mom's birthday." True to their word, they showed up with all the food and even the grill on which our son-in-law did the cooking. Unbeknownst to us, they had also invited our two sons and their wives as a further surprise. We kept adding places at the table as each couple joined the group. Much laughter took place, and a great time was had by all that day with eight of us at the dining table. As an additional surprise, the grill was left at our house as a gift to us:

So Mrs. RWP's birthday celebration turned out to be eight days long. Just like Hanukkah.

Once again, don't look at the grill. Look at the concrete.

What do you see?

I saw dirty concrete at our front entrance by the bench and I see dirty concrete on our patio by the grill. Dirty concrete, at least around here, means only one thing: it's time to do pressure washing!

So a couple of days later I hired a man to come and pressure wash our driveway (including the entrance way) and our patio. I don't have a "before" picture of the driveway but here is an "after" picture that includes the tip of my finger:

and here is an "after" picture of the patio:

We have lived in this house for 19 years and this is only the second time we have had our concrete areas pressure-wshed. Some of our neighbors do it much more frequently. Some have it done every year.

There's a word that applies to such people.


Friday, August 19, 2022

I’m from Big D, my, oh yes

...Big D, little a, double l, a, s.

Except that I'm not. I'm from Mansfield, a former wide spot in the road that now has 75,000 residents and is actually closer to Fort Worth in the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex than to Dallas. By the way, Fort Worth is not pronounced FORT WORTH by locals. Locals say FOTE-worth (with the accent on the first syllable, which has no discernible R) instead.

Here are some more oddities one encounters in the pronunciation of place names:

Many people who grew up in Missouri call it Missoura, many people who grew up around Cincinnati call it Cincinnata, and many people who grew up in Florida say Miama, not Miami.

It's true.

People in other parts of the U.S. may say kah-loh-RAH-doh and nuh-VAH-duh but people who live in Colorado and Nevada say kah-loh-RAD-oh and nuh-VAD-duh.

Mrs. RWP (the lovely Ellie) and I lived in Boca Raton, Florida, for several years and the place is pronounced bo-ka ra-TONE, not bo-ka ra-TAHN, no matter how many times you may have heard it pronounced the second way.

The residents of the town of San Jacinto in Riverside County, California, pronounce it the Spanish way, san-hah-CHEEN-toh, but the place near Houston, Texas, where Texans remembered the Alamo and defeated Mexican General Santa Anna's army in 1836 is called sanja-SIN-ta.

Versailles may be pronounced vair-SIGH in France, but the town in Kentucky spelled the same way is ver-SALES. I kid you not.

Lima in Peru may be LEE-muh but the Lima in Ohio is pronounced LYE-muh. Similarly (or, rather, dissimilarly), Egypt's Cairo may be KYE-roh but the towns in Illinois and Georgia are both called KARE-oh, like the syrup.

We must not forget the twin curiosities of Nacogdoches, Texas, (NAK-uh-DOH-chiz) and Natchitoches, Louisiana (NAK-uh-tish).

When I tell you stuff like this I have the distinct feeling that I may have told it to you before. If I have repeated myself, chalk it up to the fact that I'm old and my memory isn't what it used to be

Don't get me started on England, which has Gloucestershire (GLAW-stir-shir), Leicestershire (LESS-ter-shir), Worcestershire (WUSS-ter-shir), St. John's Wood (SIN-jinz wood), and the Thames (TEMZ), none of which the English find the least bit odd.

In closing, when I tell you stuff like this I have the distinct feeling that I may have told it to you before. If I have repeated myself, chalk it up to the fact that I'm old and my memory isn't what it used to be.

Did I mention that I'm from Big D?

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A most surprising fact, given the last few posts

English is the most widely-spoken language in the world.

According to the United Nations, there are nearly 8,000,000,000 people in the world today. They speak a total of 7,151 languages according to Ethnologue. These languages could not sound more different from one another. When God confounded the people's language at the Tower of Babel (a Judaeo-Christian story from the book of Genesis), He did a really good job of it. For example, a certain vegetable referred to in American English as eggplant is called aubergine in French and melixhan in Albanian. When people in Germany say Froeliche Weinacht, and people in Sweden say God Jul, and people in Australia say Merry Christmas, they all mean the same thing. I don't know about you but I find this fascinating.

Geographical proximity doesn't seem to matter eirher. People in New Zealand express gratitude by saying thank you, in Japan by saying arigato (ah-ree-GAH-toh), and in China by saying xèxèi ni (sheh-sheh nee).

Here are the 12 most-widely-spoken languages in the world according to Berlitz:

  1. English (1,132 million speakers)
  2. Mandarin Chinese (1,117 million speakers)
  3. Hindi (615 million speakers)
  4. Spanish (534 million speakers)
  5. French (280 million speakers)
  6. Arabic (274 million speakers)
  7. Bengali (265 million speakers)
  8. Russian (258 million speakers)
  9. Portuguese (234 million speakers)
  10. Indonesian (199 million speakers)
  11. Urdu (170 million speakers)
  12. German (132 million speakers)
If you simply can't live without knowing what the 13th most-widely-spoken language in the world is, it's Japanese (128 million speakers).

Besides those 13, many other languages have millions of speakers as well. Ethnologue has documented 7,138 other languages currently spoken on this planet. Some have only a few speakers and are nearly extinct.

Can you feature a world at some future time when English or Chinese would be nearly extinct? It is mind-boggling to contemplate.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

A fine kettle of ghoti

Reader Tasker Dunham in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England and I exchanged a few words about ghoti in the previous post's comment section. I would like now to say that I was incorrect in telling him that it was George Bernard Shaw who brought it to the world's attention. Further reading on my part has revealed that ghoti pre-dated Mr. Shaw's career by a few decades, not that it matters in the least but I do try to keep my errors on a short leash as well as few and far between.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the word 'ghoti' is merely an alternate spelling of the word 'fish'. Yes, it is, and I'll prove it. Say the 'gh' sound from enough, the 'o' from women, and the 'ti' fron nation, put them all together, and voila!, you have fish!

Next subject.

Have you ever noticed how many different ways in English the syllable 'ough' can be pronounced? By my count, there are eight:

  • uff (enough rough, tough, slough)
  • ooh (through)
  • oh (though, dough)
  • ow (bough, plough, drought)
  • aw (thought, bought, ought, wrought)
  • awf (cough)
  • ock (lough)
  • up (hiccough)

As I may have said somewhere recently, it's a wonder anyone who speaks English can spell anything correctly. Let me add a corollary to that. It's a wonder anyone who reads English can pronounce anything correctly.

It is, indeed, a fine kettle of ghoti.

<b> It’s funny, the things you remember</b>

I don't mean funny ha-ha, I mean funny peculiar. I remember that before Bob Keeshan played Captain Kangaroo on TV he was the orig...