Everything That Happens Will Happen Today,
Because A Tree Is Best Measured When It's Down
0 Another form of constrained writing is “short words.” The constraints are simple: every word must be either a monosyllable or a word of five or fewer letters. So, “ago” and “among” are short words even though each has two syllables, and “squirreled,” at least as we pronounce it in Middletown, qualifies even though it has ten letters.
1 Some of the longest monosyllables in English besides “squirreled” are “broughamed” (traveled by brougham), “schnappsed,” “scroonched,” and “schwartzed” (not to be confused with “swartzed,” meaning “censored by Karen Swartz, the Anarchess of the middletown eye").
2 Smurfs are beloved Belgian-developed cartoon characters whose name in the original French is the monosyllable “schtroumpf.” So if movie cartoonists sweeten grim old fairy tale characters, the characters can complain of having been “schtroumpfed” (or “Disneyfied,” but that’s three syllables).
3 This affects The Colonel because one of his grandfathers was surnamed “Strumpen” and some friends knew him as “Strump.” Supposedly “schtroumpf” is an all-purpose French noun, like our “whatchamacallit.” This makes the Colonel fear that he may be descended from a long line of whatchamacallits.
4 Text in short words, you would think, would be muy easy to to read, but it oft is not. Try this bit: “When, in the course of what men do, one folk must snap the bonds that used to tie them to those to whom they used to be tied, and to stand among the states of the earth as an equal, as the world and its God meant them to do, they must, if they care as they should for what the world thinks, spell out why they think they had to do it.”
5 Of course, another exception must be proper names: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings/ Look on my works, ye strong ones, and just plain give up.” Shortening "Ozymandias" to "Ozzie" would make the whole thing sound silly.
6 Not a contest, just a question: what non-Middletonian said, “Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Gibbon? Another damned fat book, eh, Gibbon?”
7 In the 1963 movie “Hud,” starring Paul Newman, the title character at one point says, “My mama loved me but she died.” (The movie was screened recently in Middletown at Wesleyan.) Roger Miller released a song in 1966 entitled “My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died” and re-released it in the early 1970s as “My Mama Used to Love Me But She Died.” It has been covered more recently (e.g., by Toby Goodshank -- very catchy version). Did Roger got the idea from the movie? The chronology makes it a possibility.
8 Something everybody knows but is nevertheless true: the late George Harrison lost a copyright infringement lawsuit that claimed his song “My Sweet Lord” unconsciously plagiarized “He’s So Fine” by the Chiffons. It was a case of Dickensian duration. Close call, but "He's So Fine" is the better song.
9 The Colonel’s Lady, she of the keen eye, points out that painted signs in the road that used to say “CBYD” (“Call Before You Dig”) now say “CBUD.” Come alive, you’re in the texting generation.