by Bye Bob
Epigraph: “Justice For Some” (inscription on the entablature of the Springfield courthouse in “The Simpsons”)
"Entablature" means “a horizontal, continuous lintel on a classical building supported by columns or a wall, comprising the architrave, frieze, and cornice.”
I advise against using the verb “comprise” in any form, especially “is comprised of.” The word has become an opponym (a word that means itself and its opposite, like “sanction”), so “the United States comprises 50 states” and “50 states comprise the United States” are both proper usages, even though they mean the opposite. That advances clarity not a whit. Again I say: steer clear of it.
My own favorite Simpsons quote is Bart’s “Anyone who says there are no easy answers isn’t looking hard enough.”
But I also like Homer’s “Trying is just the first step toward failure.”
The word "ambisinistrous" means "clumsy with both hands." It has variants “ambisinister” and “ambisinistral.” “Ambidextrous” (“dextrous with both hands”) is its opposite.
“Ambisinistrous” has an even rarer synonym: "ambilevous" (from Latin "laevus," left).
“Cack-handed” is a British term, meaning (literally) “left-handed” and (metaphorically) “clumsy” or “awkward.”
"Cack-handed" may go back to days when in Arabia and elsewhere, the left hand was used to remove "cack" and so was socially unacceptable. Deadly insult to offer one’s left hand to an Arab in those days.
"Cacography" means bad writing, bad spelling, or both.
My sources tell me the root is the Indo-European “kakka” or “kaka,” designating defecation or its, ah, fruit.
Of course that was thousands of years ago, so we might not have known about it if Nancy Pelosi hadn’t happened to remember it.
It’s fun to run across an unfamiliar ancient Greek philosopher who has both a sense of humor and a sympathetic heart. I speak of Bion of Borysthenes (c. 325-250 B.C.). Two of his surviving gems are:
"It is useless to tear our hair when we are in grief, since sorrow is not cured by baldness." (Quoted by Cicero.)
“Though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, the frogs die not in sport, but in earnest.”
For the latter, the translator deserves kudos, for there is no more powerful rhetorical structure in English than a series of monosyllables with one disyllable carrying the hot potato of meaning. If you read it slowly aloud, you may cry without knowing whether from the sadness of the thought or the beauty of its expression.
Great news! No African proverbs this issue. But instead, seven famous G.K. Chesterton quotes that he probably never said.
(1) “Love means loving the unlovable, or it is no virtue at all.”
This may be a tweak of “Stated baldly, charity certainly means one of two things–pardoning unpardonable acts, or loving unlovable people.”
(2) “The great thing fairy tales teach children is not that dragons exist, for they know that from an early age, but that dragons can be beaten.”
That one is doubtless the work of a skilled condenser who labored over the following:
“The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone. Barbarians fear the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it– because it is a fact. Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
“Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear. When I was a child I have stared at the darkness until the whole black bulk of it turned into one negro giant taller than heaven. If there was one star in the sky it only made him a Cyclops. But fairy tales restored my mental health, for next day I read an authentic account of how a negro giant with one eye, of quite equal dimensions, had been baffled by a little boy like myself (of similar inexperience and even lower social status) by means of a sword, some bad riddles, and a brave heart. Sometimes the sea at night seemed as dreadful as any dragon. But then I was acquainted with many youngest sons and little sailors to whom a dragon or two was as simple as the sea.”
(3) “A man knocking on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”
This one is actually a near-quotation from author Bruce Marshall in The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith, in which the following appears: “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” It was likely re-attributed because it sounds Chestertonian.
(4) “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”
That’s very nearly exact. The original is but one letter different: “If there were not God, there would be no atheists” (emphasis added). In context, however, it means not that atheists would not exist without a creator to create them, but that atheism rejects something likely real, since no organizations or movements exist to deny the existence of unicorns or leprechauns.
(5) “Meaninglessness comes not from being weary of pain, but of pleasure.”
This one is a paraphrase of a variously phrased argument that social decline begins when for some reason the good things in a society no longer work: its food does not feed, its cures do not cure, its blessings refuse to bless. It seems related to Chesterton’s point made elsewhere that struggle is necessary to happiness: “The full value of this life can only be got by fighting ... This life of ours is a very enjoyable fight, but a very miserable truce.”
(6) “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”
In one of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, the priest-detective says, “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.” A writer discussing the passage paraphrased it as “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything,” and from there it was off to the races.
(7) “What is Wrong With the World?” “Dear Sirs, I am.”
In the dedication to his book “What is Wrong With the World,” Chesterton said in part, “I accuse myself ... of having written a very shapeless and inadequate book, and one quite unworthy to be dedicated to you. As far as literature goes, this book is what is wrong and no mistake.”
In a review of the book, St. John Ervine wrote, “The book is called ‘What’s Wrong with the World,’ by G.K. Chesterton: it should have been called, ‘What’s Wrong with the World’ is G.K. Chesterton’.”
Zen P.S.: “Love reveals an existential vulnerability -- that living is living dangerously.”
P.J. O’Rourke P.S.: “No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed, and love of power.”
(c) 2016 Quality Nonsense, a tiny little division of The Entropy Corporation