Saturday, May 2, 2020

For Those Living a Parable and In Need of a Laugh


Let’s start off with a neologism.  I’ll return to the subject later on, but for now all you need know is that a neologism is an alternative meaning for a common word. For example, “Parables (n.)  Something far too many government leaders are lacking.”

Two months ago we left New York City to prepare for going into isolation in northwest New Jersey. We’ve essentially been here since then, following the fates of our brothers and sisters around the planet battling Covid-19.  New York and New Jersey have been particularly hard hit, with New York State reporting 304,000 confirmed cases (167,000 in New York City), and New Jersey 119,000. 

Thankfully, our distinctly rural township has been mercifully spared. Though the largest township in the county, it has but six (6) reported cases, the majority within a single family.  We’re as isolated a population as virtually anywhere in rural America, and that has proved a blessing (so far, puh-puh-puh).  So, too, has been the way our neighbors are generally following the rules and guidelines. No one likes living like this, but it beats the alternative. 

In recent days, though, confusion has arisen over what should be the simplest of questions to answer: WHAT ARE THE RULES?

I’ve heard the situation in our nation described as a “Chinese Fire Drill.”  Whether that’s an effort to cast blame on another country, or tinged with racist innuendo, I do not know, but according to the dictionary the phrase is defined as “a state of disorder or confusion.”

For me, that sums up perfectly the current state of much of America’s response to the pandemic.

Another way to look at the situation is via a slight modification to the opening six lines of Ella Fitzgerald’s classic version of “Undecided.” , written by Sid Robin and Charlie Shavers.

Here’s the original version:

First, you say, you do
And then you don't
And then you say, you will
And then you won't
Your undecided now,
So what are you gonna do?

Now my version:

First you say, lockdown,
Then liberate,
Next it’s back to lockdown
Then liberate.
You’re undecided now,
So what are we left to do?

But there’s another way to describe what I see as our current national dilemma, and it harks back to a parable on the consequences of indecision.

In ancient biblical times (apropos of this crisis of biblical proportions), a man was found guilty of a crime, and offered the choice between which of two harsh punishments he’d suffer: receiving forty lashes across his back, or consuming a cauldron of the vilest concoction imaginable.

After deliberating, the man chose the lashes.  Five lashes into his punishment he screamed to drink from the caldron instead.  Five swallows later he cried. “No more, I’ll take the lashes.” After five more lashes, he begged his way back into drinking from the caldron.  Back and forth his indecision drove him, until the caldron was empty and his back flayed raw.

The moral is obvious: when faced with choosing between inevitably horrific alternatives, endure the one you first chose valiantly or suffer both ignominiously.

Now on to the funny papers part of this post. 

A buddy of mine sent me an email the other day containing the winners in the Washington Post’s annual neologism contest.

The winners are: 

 1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs. (editorial note. Special significance these days)
 2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
 3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
 4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
 5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
 6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
 7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
 8. Gargoyle, flavored mouthwash
 9. Flatulence (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
 10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline. 
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
 12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
 13. Pokemon, a Rastafarian proctologist.
 14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
 15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul    flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
 16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

The winners are:

-Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

 -Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

 -Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

 -Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

-Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

- Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these Really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

- Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

 - Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

- Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

- Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Thanks, Andrew.



  1. OMG! You hit it out of the ballpark with this post!!

    1. Thanks, J&J, it all just came to me in a bright orange vision.

  2. Those are just wonderful! Why does ignoranus immediately make me think of one particular person?

    1. Thanks, Michael. For answer to your question, see reply to Jackie and Joel Smith above. :)

  3. Chilarious (adj): An event or condition that makes you afraid that nothing will ever be funny again (e.g., the election of the tangerine shitgibbon).

    Palm (n): A friend who's puns inevitably cause the impact of one's face by one's hand. (No e.g. for fear of lawsuits...)

  4. one of my favourites was always meanderthal: people who wander around on the pavement (er, that's the sidewalk to you, Jeff) taking up an inordinate amount of space when you're in a hurry and trying to get by.

    1. I love that, but these days the Meanderthal takes on special meaning as it hunts for a --drum roll-- masktodon.

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  6. Bro, I also got this list from a friend in an email. Here is what I (who like all NYrs, use a lot of Yiddish words) fear I will be dubbed an 'Oyster.' I'd rather be a pearl. Unless you spell it peearl--which seems more a designation of an incontinent nobleman.

    1. I think you got into the cooking sherry a bit early today, sis. :)

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  8. Great post, Jeff. In this era of levity drought, it makes me want to break into a braindance.

    1. When you break into a braindance, Craig, joy and wit reign. :)