David Bruce Anecdotes
• Quaker humorist Tom Mullen once complained to his doctor about the fact that he needed to go to the restroom several times a night and that he often suffered from gastritis. His doctor asked how old he was, and after hearing the answer said, “You’re right on schedule.”
• The family of former Times Herald Record columnist Beth Quinn, like many families, sometimes makes up its own words and its own phrases — words and phrases that have their own known-to-family-and-friends-only meanings. For example, her family, which loves dogs, uses the word “eardo” to describe a dog that has one long ear flopped up on top of its head instead of hanging down as it should. And her family will sometimes use the phrase “Here! Have a kifling!” to say that something is really huge. This phrase originated when Beth’s grandmother asked Kathy, one of Beth’s friends, for her kifling recipe. A kifling is a small, delicate cookie that is supposed to be no bigger than your pinkie finger. However, after getting the recipe, Beth’s Grammy created a batch of huge kiflings, each of them bigger than her hand. Staggering into the living room under the weight of the tray of huge cookies, Grammy told Beth and Kathy, “Here! Have a kifling!”
• When they were children, young people’s author William “Billy” Sleator and Vicky, his sister, taught their younger siblings, Danny and Tycho, cuss words. However, after Danny sang a dirty song with cuss words — a dirty song that Billy and Vicky had taught him — to their grandmother, they decided that they should try to get Danny and Tycho not to say the cuss words again. Therefore, they invented a word — drang — and told Danny and Tycho never to say it, as it was the worst of all cuss words. For a few hours, Danny and Tycho said the word drang every chance they got, but since no one was shocked when they said drang, they went back to saying the other cuss words — the ones that made adults look shocked.
• Groucho Marx once allowed Ed Metcalf, a bit player in a Marx Brothers show, to take care of his son, three-year-old Arthur Marx, but warned him not to let young Arthur pour an entire bowl of sugar on his cereal. Mr. Metcalf understood this to mean not to let young Arthur have any sugar at all, so every time young Arthur said, “Pass the sugar,” he wouldn’t do it. This made young Arthur mad, so he finally said, “Pass the sugar — you son of a b*tch.” Later, Groucho taught his son that he had been guilty of bad etiquette. According to Groucho, what young Arthur should have said was, “Please pass the sugar — you son of a b*tch.”
• When Mem Fox, the Australian young people’s author of Possum Magic, was less than one year old, her parents moved to Southern Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) in Africa. This meant that she became fluent not only in English, but also in Ndebele, the local African language. Her knowledge of Ndebele did have what she considered an advantage — she was able to be cheeky to her mother in a language that her mother didn’t understand. Her mother would have to ask a native to translate what her daughter had said: “What did she say, the little monkey?”
• In the Old North cemetery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a headstone for “Benjamin M. Burnham, Originator of the Trite Swearing.” Before he died in 1855, Mr. Burnham was famous for his anti-swearing pledge and for advocating the substitution of innocuous words for swear words. For example, if you were to hit your thumb with a hammer, Mr. Burnham would want you to say something like, “Oh, peanut butter fudge” instead of what the author of this anecdotes would say.
• President Harry S. Truman spoke plainly. While speaking to the Washington Garden Society, he kept mentioning the “good manure” that was needed for a good garden. A society lady complained to Mrs. Truman, “Can’t you make him say something else?” Mrs. Truman replied, “Heavens, no. It took me 25 years to get him to say ‘manure.’”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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