(11 May 1997)
Recall from column d that a double dactyl is a poem of roughly this form:
The word "dactyl" derives from the Greek word meaning "finger" (as in "pterodactyl"). I'm amused that the word now refers to a foot... At any rate, poetry (or at least doggerel) and Greek (or Greeks) often go hand in hand. Or do I mean finger in finger?
The relatively recent demise of Spiro T. Agnew (whose original family name was "Anagnostopoulos," which apparently means "seller of books" in Greek) prompted a veritable flood of articles and comments about his penchant for interesting and often offensive phrasing. He's been cited as saying "If you've seen one slum, you've seen them all"; he referred to reporters as "nattering nabobs of negativism" and "an effete corps of impudent snobs"; and he called my alma mater, Swarthmore College, "the Kremlin on the Crum" (referring to Crum Creek, which runs through campus, and the college's traditional leftist bent). In Agnew's honor, I composed the following bit of doggerel, though alas I had to stretch the rules of the double-dactyl form a bit.
On seeing the above, a friend gently (although a trifle arrhythmically) corrected me about the authorship of the phrase:
(About the regrettable Mr. Agnew's penchant for unfortunate gaffes, rudenesses, and insults, Elliott Moreton has said: "After a while, people took to showing up at his public appearances with signs saying APOLOGIZE NOW, SPIRO. IT WILL SAVE TIME LATER. One suspects that he cannily saved even more time by not apologizing at all.")
Much further back in political history, a stop to poke fun at the Stoics (from "stoa," meaning "porch," which is where Zeno taught from):
And going even further back, a friend once told me about a dinosaur called parasaurolophus [a name, of course, derived from the Greek], which had a huge nose; scientists speculate that the schnoz in question was (ahem) blown in the manner of a trombone, and was used to produce mating calls. I was so taken with the name that I came up with the following:
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