Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Have Words, Will Travel...

The Humpty Dumpty Rule

Fans of Lewis Carroll's classic tale Through the Looking Glass will remember Alice's encounter with Humpty Dumpty, which includes this famous passage:
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'
When I engage people in conversations about political, social, economic, or artistic issues, I always assume that they are people of good will who mean well, and I am rarely disappointed in this (of course, I tend to pick my rhetorical opponents rather carefully). The surest test of someone's good will in such matters is whether they can accept that words have specific meanings, at least in the context of whatever topic is being discussed. As soon as my opponent starts to sound like Humpty Dumpty ("X means whatever I say it means") I know that I am dealing with an intellectual child, and do my best to extricate myself from the conversation.

It's a pretty good Life Pro Tip, my friends: If the person you're engaging rhetorically reserves for themselves the right to arbitrarily redefine words to make their argument stronger, bail. At that point, you might as well be trying to have a debate with a three-year-old...

Very funny. It's a sunny day outside, shouldn't you be eat-murdering some ant colonies or something?

Anyway, I consider myself as, among other things, a paladin of both the art of rhetoric and the proper use of the English language, and I try to conduct myself as such online, and everywhere else. It ain't easy...

"Trust me, it will help if you have a really cool outfit..."
Workin' on it...

The Hero We Need (Today)

"We" meaning Royals fans, of course. My beloved Kansas City Royals have now lost three straight games for the first time this season, and will try to avoid being swept in Yankee stadium this afternoon. We send this man to the mound today as our champion:
Chris Young   4-0, 0.78 ERA

Things That Make Me Happy: Railroad Edition 

The other day I posted an image of the newest addition to my HO scale locomotive collection, an Athearn Genesis DDA40X "Centennial." I also posted a picture of myself posing next to the real-life "Big Jack" on display at Kenefick Park in Omaha. Well, while I was browsing one of my favorite websites ( this morning, I came across this marvelous photo, taken just a few days ago (May 22nd):

This freshly-painted DDA40X is sitting outside the Norfolk Southern's Juniata Shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania. It has undergone a complete cosmetic restoration (love that Armour Yellow!) and is bound for the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. That's close enough to where I live that I hope to see her in person some day...

Take it easy, buddy. We won't be going anywhere for awhile...

Until Next Time...

Today's fine arts bit is a belated "Happy Birthday" tribute to another one of my musical heroes, trumpeter and band leader Maynard Ferguson (1928-2006), whose birthday (May 4) came a couple of weeks before I launched the blog. I had the pleasure of seeing Maynard and his big bands in person three times. I even had a front row center seat for one of those shows, and got a little of Maynard's trumpet spit on me! One of my peak life experiences, for sure. This clip is a performance of Joe Zawinul's "Birdland" on the Mike Douglas Show back in the late '70s.  Enjoy...


  1. Maybe it's just me, but I think Eat-Anter is funnier.

  2. I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that he agrees with you...