David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 3 — Education

Education

• Couples about to get engaged sometimes engage in mock, funny arguments. Balanchine dancer Barbara Milberg and her future husband, Howard Shreve Fisher, enjoyed crossword puzzles, and they once argued about how to pronounce m-i-s-l-e-d. He thought it should be pronounced “mizzled,” and she thought it should be pronounced “my-zilled.” After retiring from dancing, Mrs. Fisher became a very good student — and eventually a Ph.D. In dance, she had learned that she had to be present when the curtain went up, and so she never handed in a paper late. In addition, when studying ancient Greek, she practiced the language by using it to write her grocery lists.

• Larry Doby, the second African-American athlete to integrate major-league baseball, was born in Camden, South Carolina. Wealthy white people used to ride through black neighborhoods and throw nickels and dimes on the ground for little black children to pick up. And when the black children stood up again, the wealthy white people would rub the top of the children’s heads — for luck. Larry’s grandmother always told him, “Don’t you ever — don’t you ever — do that.” When Larry was 10 or 12 years old, she explained why he must never pick up those coins. Picking up the coins resulted in a lack of dignity; the dignified way to act was to turn your back on those coins.

• In 1950, George Balanchine went to England to work with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet in staging Ballet Imperial. While there, he stayed with the noted choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton. Later, they talked over those good old days together, and Mr. Balanchine told Sir Frederick, “You know, you really taught me something.” Mr. Balanchine’s then-wife, Tanaquil Le Clercq, listened closely, hoping to learn something important about ballet, but Mr. Balanchine explained, “Yes, you taught me always to pile up the dinner dishes in the sink and run water over them before your charwoman arrived.”

• Father Damien, the leper priest of Molokai, was different from other people even as a child. For example, he once persuaded four of his siblings to not go to school one day but instead to play hooky with him. But they didn’t go swimming or play amusing games; instead, they knelt and remained silent all day, playing “Hermits.” Later, when he was studying to become a priest, he carved into his desk the words “Silence, Recollection, and Prayer.” His teacher reprimanded him, telling him that he would do better to carve the words not into his desk, but into his heart instead.

• Ratemyprofessors.com is, as you would expect, a website where students can rate professors anonymously. Some of the comments the students make about professors are quite funny: 1) “You can’t cheat in her class because no one knows the answers.” 2) “His class was like milk, it was good for 2 weeks.” 3) “Houston, we have a problem. Space cadet of a teacher, isn’t quite attached to earth.” 4) “I would have been better off using the tuition money to heat my apartment last winter.” 5) “Three of my friends got A’s in his class and my friends are dumb.”

• Sometimes young children don’t learn what their teacher attempts to teach them. For example, at a Catholic school a Sister began to teach her young pupils addition. However, after introducing the subject to the children the Sister got a telephone call from a mother wondering why her son was saying, “One plus one, the son of a b*tch is two. Two plus two, the son of a b*tch is four.” The Sister explained that she had been teaching the children to recite, “One plus one, the sum of which is two. Two plus two, the sum of which is four.”

• Where some college athletes get their grades can be a mystery. Truett “Rip” Sewell, who later became a professional baseball pitcher, played sports at Vanderbilt, but the academics were too tough for him, and he dropped out. Two weeks later, he ran into English professor Dr. Eddie Mims, who asked how he was doing. Mr. Sewell explained that he had dropped out and hadn’t been to class in two weeks. Dr. Mims said, “That’s impossible! We had an exam yesterday, and I passed you!”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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