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Question and comment

A question for my Gentle Readers: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? No, wait, that’s not the question. Your Humble Blogger knows the answer to that one: A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

No, the question is: what is the proper word for that exchange? It’s not a riddle, and it’s not, properly speaking a joke, either. My Perfect Non-Reader called it a joke, but there’s no real joke in it. And it sounds like a pun, but there isn’t actually a pun in it after all, is there? Is it a tongue-twister? If so, it’s a spectacularly easy one to say, not at all like the story about Betty and her bit of butter or Peter and his pickled peppers. If not, well, what is it?

While you’re chewing on that, Gentle Readers, I will inform you that this Tohu Bohu no longer takes comments to entries more than 30 days old. YHB is weary of deleting spam, particularly the comment that “I think the man should be given a medal for having more balls than all the Democracts combined.” Since that comment (with a variety of links to a variety of sites) seems to be frequently attached to either (a) my Report on Jimmy Carter’s book (and I know he isn’t a Democract, but he certainly is a Democrat, and although ballsy enough in his own way (as is Roz, to be fair) not ballsier than, say, Charlie Rangel and Kathleen Sebelius combined, much less all the rest of us), or (2) my musings on Valmont’s possible fading prowess (and the Vicomte is not a Democract or a Democrat, nor yet a democrat nor even a republican, and although the man has, in some sense, huevos, it seems a odd extrapolation from that particular aspect of his character, if you follow me, to emphasize).

At any rate, if you are moved to comment on something very old, send me an email, and I will ... well, I’ll read it, that’s what I’ll do. And then I’ll see. Probably I’ll make a new post incorporating your email, but perhaps I’ll find a way to incorporate it into the old thread. Email me, anyway.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


A: a liturgy.

Now that you bring it up, I wish I'd kept track of where that particular comment kept getting dropped on my journal, because it wasn't on either of my two vaguely political entries.

I would put "woodchuck could chuck wood" in the tongue twister category. Even though it isn't particularly difficult, the fact that the way to say it is as fast as possible establishes its membership in the tongue-twister category.

That may not be the only category of expression "wood chuck could chuck wood" fits into. The "vocal warm-up exercise" comes to mind, and because it's a question, it fits with other questions that call attention to the illogical or nonsensical quality of common idioms. I can't think of an example off the top of my head, and I don't know what this category of expression should be called, but I think it's recognizable as a category, similar to jokes, but not quite the same.

Dan: It does have an air of the catechism, doesn't it?

Chris: Are you thinking of the "Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?" sort of thing? I don't know what it should be called, either, but I'm not really inclined to put woodchuck in that category. And aren't those jokes, of a kind? More than woodchuck, anyway.

I might be inclined to put it in with "One fine day in the middle of the night..." and things like that, whatever they are called, and what are they called anyway?

I am inclined to put it with vocal warm-ups, although I don't think I've even used it in that way. Did I mention that our cast did not do vocal warm-ups? Not as a group, and not in my hearing individually. I can't say it effected our vocal technique in the play, although of course I am not in a position to judge. I don't remember whether the community-theater shows I did ten years ago had group warm-ups, either, now that I think about it. Perhaps that's one of those college things.

On further reflection, is it a nursery rhyme?

I learned it as a tongue-twister, alongside selling seashells and ill sheep from Arabia. It's easy, like Peter Piper, but a child's 20-piece jigsaw puzzle is still a jigsaw puzzle. But I like the "liturgy" answer.

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