Friday, July 17, 2009

A for Horses, B for Mutton

A clever Ode to a Scarecrow was included in Anu Garg's popular AWADmail newsletter, sent last week to 750,000 wordlovers in 200 countries . You could call it a surreal alphabet. Read it aloud: Hey be seedy, eh, effigy, hate shy jakey yellow man; oh, peek, you're rusty, you've double, you ex-wise head.

A slightly different version can be found on the internet: Hay be seedy, effigy, age-eyed jakey lemon-yellow man. O peek you! Arrestee! You've double! You ex-wise he!

The Ode was first published many years ago in The Scientific American . It was in a column called "Mathematical Games," written by Martin Gardner, a gifted American word spinner now 94 years old.

He calls himelf a mathemagician, and is famous for his popular mathematics, stage magic, puzzles and debunking of myths.

Before reading on, please look at this hilarious sketch by British comedians The Two Ronnies, Swedish Made Simple: FUNEX? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkWMcRlE1mQ

Back in the 1930s, another famous British comical duo, Clapham and Dwyer, recorded another surrealist alphabet. This is how it went:
A for 'orses (hay for horses)
B for Mutton (beef or mutton?)
C for th' highlanders (Seaforth Highlanders)
D for 'ential (deferential)
E for Adam (Eve or Adam)
F for 'vescence (effervescence)
G for Police (Chief of Police)
H for Respect (age for respect)
I for Novello (Ivor Novello, film star)
J for Oranges (Jaffa oranges)
K for 'ancis (Kay Francis, film star)
L for Leather (hell for leather)
M for Sis (emphasis)
N for Dig (infra dig)
O for The garden wall (Over the Garden Wall, a popular song)
P for a Penny (pee for a penny)
Q for a Song, or Q for Billiards (cue for a song, or cue for billiards)
R for Mo (half a mo)
S for You (it's for you)
Tea for Two (Tea for Two, a popular song)
U for Films (UFA films)
V for la France (Vive la France)
W for a Bob (double you for a bob - a bob was a shilling)
X for Breakfast (eggs for breakfast)
Y for Gawd's sake (why, for God's sake)
Z for Breezes (zephyr breezes
)
In the 80 years since that sketch was performed in music halls and recorded on vinyl discs, various wits have come up with variations. Here are some of them:
C for Miles, or C for Yourself (see for miles, or see for yourself)
D for Dumb (deaf or dumb) D for Kate (defecate)
E for Brick (heave a brick) or E for 'ning Standard (Evening Standard newspaper)
H for Consent (age of consent)
I for the Engine (Ivor the Engine)
K for 'teria (cafeteria)
O for the Wings of a Dove (O for the wings of a dove -- hymn)
P for Relief (pee for relief)
Q for a P (queue for a pee) or Q for a Theatre (queue for a theatre)
P for Relief (pee for relief), P for a Whistle (pea for a whistle) or P for 'ming seals (performing seals).
U for 'mism ( euphemism) or U for Me (you for me).
W for Quits (double you for quits) )
Y for Girlfriend (wife or girlfriend? or Y for a Husband (wife for a husband)

Going back to the remarkable Martin Gardner, he has written more than 70 books in the last 70 years, which must be a world record. At the age of 94, living in Norman, Oklahoma, he is still writing and being interviewed.

In March 2006, he recalled his early days as a columnist for The Scientific American, in an interesting interview http://www.maa.org/columns/colm/cardcolm200610.html with Professor Colm Mulcahy, who writes a monthly column for The Mathematical Association of America.

At 94, Gardner is one of the world's oldest (and liveliest) bloggers, with a page on MySpace http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=267546396

DISCLOSURE OF INTEREST. I'm copy editor of Anu Garg's A Word A Day (AWAD) newsletter http://wordsmith.org/awad/ Serendipitously, Anu and I each live in one of the two picturesque places rightly called The Emerald City, http://www.bdb.co.za/shackle/articles/emerald_cities.htm -- on opposite sides of the Pacific.
END

1 comment:

DonW said...

As much as I always loved to read Mr Gardner in Scientific American, he was not nearly as prolific in book writing as Isaac Asimov, who published 506 volumes during his lifetime. See: http://www.asimovonline.com/oldsite/asimov_titles.html

Cheers,
Don Wilkes, Victoria, B.C.