Chicken Little was out one morning walking around town. It was a fine morning, and he decided he wanted a cup of coffee. He wanted one so much could even smell the coffee in the air. So he walked into a local restaurant. But then he stopped and his mouth fell open in horror.
He saw three horses sitting together at a table. Chicken Little didn’t like horses in general, but these were the Three Horses of the Apocalypse. The Three Horses he hated more than any other horses in the whole wide world. The most evil, nastiest, ugliest, horses he had ever seen. Talking. Laughing. Drinking coffee.
Clearly plotting. That’s what horses do: they get together to talk, to laugh, to drink coffee, and to plot. And when horses plot, it means the sky must be falling.
“My, oh, my,” he said to himself. “They’re talking. They’re laughing. They’re drinking coffee. The sky is falling. I can feel it. A piece just hit me! I must run and tell the Weasel about it!”
And Chicken Little skedaddled out of the restaurant as fast as his little legs would carry him while he sent text messages to all his friends.
“They sky is falling!” he texted.
“WTF?” they texted back, but he was too much of a hurry to explain.
I was in the local grocery store with Susan, picking over the collection of organic vine-ripened tomatoes, earnestly searching for the best couple of them. A man recognized me as a member of council and approached me, smiling, hand extended.*
“Hi, Councillor Chadwick,” he said. We shake. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Okay,” I replied and passed what i considered the two best tomatoes to Susan who headed off in search of some fresh Ontario asparagus. “How can I help you?”
“Well, I’m Pastor Jones with the local United Way and I wanted to ask…”
“Wait a second,” I interrupted, holding my hand up. “Are you going to lobby me?”
“Uh, I suppose. I’m not sure. I just wanted to…”
“Are you registered?”
“What do you mean? We’re a registered charity…”
“No, I mean are you a registered lobbyist?” I shuffled sideways to the avocado bin and started to gently poke them. My new companion followed behind, scratching his head.
“I… I don’t know. I’m not sure. But we might be. But I just wanted to ask…”
“Not good enough. I need to know if you – not just your charity or corporation – is registered. Personally. You have to be registered before you can lobby me. Council passed a bylaw. I can’t talk to any unregistered lobbyists.” I picked a particularly nice avocado and handed it to Susan who passed by on her way to the potatoes.
As I just learned from a recent piece on Open Culture, I must be a Communist. Based on my preference for writing (and reading), that is.
(This would definitely surprise my left-wing friends who often think I’m right of Stephen Harper… himself being so far right of the iconic Genghis Khan that it defines a memetic categorization). Damn, I’ve been exposed…
According to the piece, a 1955 manual prepared during the Second Red Scare for the U.S. First Army Headquarters helped readers identify potential “Communists.” Among these traits, the piece notes, is a preference for multi-syllabic words and long sentences (apparently Real Americans prefer a much-reduced vocabulary a la Winston’s Smith’s Newspeak and eschew the semicolon and a connector of subordinate phrases…):
While a preference for long sentences is common to most Communist writing, a distinct vocabulary provides the more easily recognized feature of the “Communist Language.” Even a superficial reading of an article written by a Communist or a conversation with one will probably reveal the use of some of the following expressions: integrative thinking, vanguard, comrade, hootenanny, chauvinism, book-burning, syncretistic faith, bourgeois-nationalism, jingoism, colonialism, hooliganism, ruling class, progressive, demagogy, dialectical, witch-hunt, reactionary, exploitation, oppressive, materialist.
This list, selected at random, could be extended almost indefinitely. While all of the above expressions are part of the English language, their use by Communists is infinitely more frequent than by the general public…
Why, I recall using the word “parsimonious” at one meeting of council only to have another councillor stop my discussion and demand to know what the word meant, never having heard it before in his life. Exposed, I was, as the Communist among them by my use of Big Words. I slunk back into my seat, afraid he might call me out. I vowed to shave my Lenin-like goatee at that moment…
I’ve always wondered why Lewis Carroll’s wonderful poem,The Hunting of the Snark – an Agony in Eight Fits – has never been redone, rewritten in a modern version, with modern references and people. It seems to lend itself to revision, at least to my eyes.
Perhaps it’s because it’s a long poem, and reworking it all would be a considerable effort. After all, it’s roughly 4,400 words and you need to make it both scan and rhyme.
Perhaps it’s because of the language: a combination of formal and nonsense writing. Wikipedia reminds us Carroll borrowed from himself with eight portmanteau words he coined earlier:
Eight nonsense words from “Jabberwocky” appear in The Hunting of the Snark: bandersnatch, beamish, frumious, galumphing, jubjub, mimsiest (which previously appeared as mimsy in “Jabberwocky”), outgrabe and uffish.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Perhaps it’s because Carroll was just too brilliant to imitate that these works have not been widely imitated or mimicked. Who, today, could out-Carroll Lewis Carroll with similar language and fancy?
Snark has been replicated in various – sometimes odd – ways, such as Mike Batt’s 1986 concept album, released as a musical on DVD in 2010. But these are tributes, not reinventions.
And what did Carroll himself mean by the poem? Is it just entertaining nonsense, or was it an allegory? Late in his life, Carroll “agreed with one interpretation of the poem as an allegory for the search for happiness.” Others have suggested it was: