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For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 7 July 2007 - 11:48pm.

Outlandish Reasoning

It was the questions and inconsistencies of life, like those in the previous section, which finally set me adrift upon the sea of inquiry. I simply had to know the answers. I couldn’t sleep until I had them. Each time I answered one question, other ancient mysteries arose and demanded attention, as well. But one, in particular, has always remained prominent in my mind. I have deliberated over it, tortured over it, begged and cried for enlightenment and still the answer has yet to come. I became so engrossed in the absolute profundity of the question that I could not refrain from writing a song about it (refrain? Perhaps my wife’s skills are contagious—but I digress). So, here I pose the question to you, as well:

What Kind Of Best Is A Spam?
--© Steven G. O’Dell

CH. 1
What kind of beast is a Spam? Is it chicken or beef; is it ham?
Does it bark, does it bite? Is it active at night?
Tell me, what kind of beast is a Spam?

V. 1
Do they cackle or bark? Do they glow in the dark?
Are they furry and cute as can be?
Are they big? Are they small? Can you see them at all?
Are they more like a truck or a flea?

CH. 2
What kind of beast is a Spam? Is it chicken or beef; is it ham?
Are they sexed? Are they neutered? Designed by computer?
What kind of beast is a Spam?

V. 2
Are they smooth, are they hairy? Quite pleasant or scary?
Are they hooved--do they claw--are they sweet?
What’s the size of their maw? Do they have just one jaw?
Here’s the mystery: Are they real meat?

CH. 3
What kind of beast is a Spam? Is it chicken or beef; is it ham?
Are they ugly as sin? Do they have a big grin?
Tell me, what kind of beast is a Spam?

Here’s a puzzle needs solving—from what source they’re evolving.
Are its claws truly frightening to see?
If I were not quick as to bite on it first,
Tell me, would it first bite upon me?

What kind of beast is a Spam? Is it chicken or beef; is it ham?
Are they slimy and slippery? Can their hides be made frippery? (Huh? Oh, never mind).
Are they real or just some kind of sca-a-a-a-m?
Tell me, what—kind—of—beast—is—a—Spa-a-a-a-m?

And there you have it—the essence of the question, but still, the question remains unanswered; the mystery unsolved. Will we ever know the true nature of the original Mystery Meat? (Sigh…).


Words are interesting. The first part of ‘fundamentals’ is FUN. This is important to remember when one is teaching kids. If it isn’t fun, they aren’t going to learn for long. I someday expect that someone will point out that the first part of ‘rudiments’ is RUDE. Oh…I guess I just did. And maybe our schools are there already.

Why are some words made as they are? We are taught that certain prefixes mean a specific and consistent thing and then we place them into words that make no sense when they are combined, except as we are taught to trust the definitions from our authority figures. Well, enough of that! I intend to question authority!

The prefix RE-, for example, means ‘to do again.’ You trace and RE-trace your steps. You turn and RE-turn. You move and RE-move. These make sense. So why deviate from the pattern?

What is meant by RE-peat? Can you first ‘peat?’ That’s a moss, for Pete’s sake! (I think I am getting Linda’s Syndrome again.)

You can RE-ject, but can you ‘ject?’ You can double and RE-double, but that’s actually quadruple. You can mark something and RE-mark about something, but if I mark something I can get in trouble and if I RE-mark it, I am in twice as much trouble! And then ‘RE-verse’ verses ‘verse’ is just outright ridiculous! You can RE-vert, RE-frain and RE-linquish, but to do these you must also be able to ‘vert’, ‘frain’ and ‘linquish’. Is that even possible? Before you know it, you’re chasing your tail. And what a nice one it is, too, but that’s another subject altogether.

When my brother Kevin was about ten, he once chided the rest of us for “making such a recastatory remark.” My parents and I just looked at one another in a stunned fashion and I quietly slipped off to get the dictionary. The word wasn’t there, but it had to be! It sounded official. I asked him what it meant and he nonchalantly confessed that he had made it up. Touché. Not bad at all for a ten year old kid. But when I think of these combinations of words and prefixes, I think I’ve never heard such recastatory tripe in all my life.

The prefix DE- means to “undo.” You can form and DE-form. But can you ‘cide’ or just DE-cide? You can ‘posit’ a solution, but to DE-posit means something other than to UN-posit. You can DE-bate, but can you ‘bate?’ That has something to do with fishing. Why would you DE-bate your hook if you wanted to catch a fish? You can DE-plane (“De plane, Boss! De plane!”), but to simply ‘plane’ is more like surfing, dude—gnarly!

I haven’t been so confused about the meanings of words since Bill and Al’s Excellent Adventure. And speaking of Pinocchio, some of these politicians (the word is derived from ‘poly’, meaning many and ‘tics’ —blood-sucking insects) could use a talking cricket in their ear now and then to set them straight when they make an ass out of themselves. Talk about your language skills! These guys can speak for hours and say nothing at all. It’s amazing! But two ways you always know they are lying—their lips are moving and no one is trying to assassinate them.

Language is just weird at times. Take the fact that we have derived our American English from the British, (which is a Germanic language—go figure). Except that the British spell things differently. We have taken the Bruce Lee approach and removed several unneeded letters from their words. Never mind the fact that you may not know what a ‘boot and a bonnet’ are (the trunk and hood of your vehicle), or ‘squash and a biscuit’ (soda pop and a cookie) or that you don’t wear ‘pants’ (women’s panties)—you wear ‘trousers.’ Unless, of course, you are a woman, in which case you can wear anything you please and probably look completely fabulous in it, darling.

But, back to spelling differences. I imagine a conversation between an American and a Brit on this subject might go something like this:

“Why do you Brits always put so many extra letters into your words?”

“Whatever are you talking about, my good fellow?”

“Like ‘color’, for example. You spell it ‘c-o-l-o-u-r’, with a ‘U’ in it. The same with ‘favor’. Also, you say the letter ‘H’ as ‘haytch’ and yet drop it totally when you use it in a word—such as ‘appening.’ Then you pronounce the letter ‘R’ as ‘Ah’, as in ‘hahd-ly’. What’s up with that? And I won’t even get into the word ‘aluminum!’

“Hrumph! You mean ‘Al-u-min’-ium?”

“Hey, it’s your language! I’m just trying to use it!”

Yeah, life is funny the way it works. The wonder is that it works at all.


On occasion I have told my wife, jokingly, that she has no sense of humor. Her response? “I married you, didn’t I?” In fact, she tells people that the only reason she married me was that she was laughing too hard to say, ‘no’. At least I was doing something right. I’ve often felt it a great wonder that she hasn’t killed me in my sleep a long time ago. She deserves better. If she waits long enough, I will be better, thanks to her.

Her favorite joke? “If they can send a man to the moon, why can’t they send them all?” But seriously, folks….


There is a very real generation gap in language these days. When the elderly and the young refer to investing their money into CD’s, they mean totally different things. When the elderly and the young are “feeling cool” or “really sick’…well, you get the idea. Different again. No wonder we can’t talk to one another.

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