All Over Your Leg

“That cat will write her autograph all over your leg if you let her.” ~ Samuel L. Clemens

from memoirs of Clemens’ secretary Mary Howden which were published in
New York Herald, December 13, 1925

It is 3:30 a.m. I stayed up working on a website for a friend. Then I replied to some emails. Then I wrote several more emails to the same people, as if I thought they were awake and waiting for them. In fact, one of them was awake, and she read my email and replied, so I replied to her.

Then I checked out a page of Shakespearean insults. Earlier in the evening I had found a blog with a title very like the one at the top of this page, so it’s obvious I need a new one–the fact that I’m down to a cow as header is another clue things here are wearing thin; I love cows, but I don’t consider them header material–and before I can do anything else, I must have a title, and the title must be literary. And since Lewis Carroll is pretty well taken up, I turned to Shakespeare. Why I chose insults, I don’t know, except that a while back I found a perfect title there–Guts and Midriff. It’s from Henry IV Part I: Act 3, Scene 3. The entire quotation goes this way:

There’s no room for faith, truth, nor honesty in this bosom of thine. It is all filled up with guts and midriff. 

For vivid imagery, there’s no one better than Shakespeare.

Except for Mark Twain. Finding no insult that seemed appropriate, I turned to a site of Twain quotations and, of course, ended up on the cat page. Twain liked cats. A lot. And his family had a passel of them. Put Mark Twain and cats together, and I’ll read quotations all night without a thought of a blog title.

I think my love of Twain comes from growing up among men who talked like Twain wrote. My father and his Woodward uncles, one of whom lived next door, had the same–I don’t know what, but they had it. If a stenographer had followed them around, the transcripts would have had a lot of Huck Finn in them. When Huck says that Pap has a couple of his toes leaking out the front end of his boot–I can hear my dad saying it. One of my greatest regrets is that the last time he and his three brothers were together, I sat there for three or four hours listening to them remember but didn’t get up and go into the next room for the tape recorder. Well, spilt milk.

Anyway, in my moseying through the Twain and cats page, I discovered the quotation at the first of this post–not something Twain wrote, but something he said to his secretary about the cat that was shredding her dress–and thought it would make a decent post. But when I got it on the page, it looked so small all by itself, so I decided to add a few words of my own. And now I have, so I without further ado, I shall sign off.

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“The saddest words…,” or, “Who cares?”

English: Monkeys Blogging Español: Simios blog...
Image via Wikipedia

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.—Somerset Maugham

After two days of letting A. A. Milne and Mark Twain do my thinking for me, I buckled down this evening and composed an essay about my experiences teaching high school English.

Actually, I wrote about half of a draft in which I said that all except three of my students hated writing, and that when I became a better teacher about a dozen showed slight enthusiasm for writing, and that after the library (to which I had fled in search of a job that would allow me to buy books with other people’s money) connected to the Internet and let students open e-mail accounts, those who had formerly resisted picking up a pen skipped lunch to park themselves at my computers and e-mail students sitting less than a foot away when they could have just turned their heads and spoken face-to-face.

Of course, I said that in shorter sentences, but a lot more of them.

I was planning to say that kids who’d been telling their composition teachers, “But I don’t have anything to say,” suddenly found plenty to say. I was going remark that the novelty of the technology contributed to the verbal onslaught. I was going to mention that the definite sense of aim, mode, and audience also promoted fluency.

I was going to expand the discussion from students with e-mail to adults with blogs. I was going to say that two weeks ago I joined the NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) network and, following its dictates, have posted on two blog sites every blessed day for thirteen days straight, even when I haven’t had anything worth saying.

I was going to say I’m running out of pictures of my cats, and there are only so many poses they’re willing to strike, and I’d prefer not be pigeonholed as a chronicler of cute.

I was going to say that more than 12,000 other people are blogging at NaBloPoMo–poetry, journals, photographs, devotionals, stories, recipes, a plethora of words, words, words. I was going to marvel at what appears to be a compulsion among people who, like my students (and I was going to admit I had once shared feeling), would once have found it difficult or foreign or unimaginable to put pen to paper.

I was going to wonder about this desire to create, to share, to vent, to communicate, to play, to do whatever we’re doing when we contribute to the sentences flooding cyberspace.

I was going to say that some people tat or make doilies or whittle, and we write.

Then I was going to draw a lesson, wise and well-phrased, from all the foregoing, and end with a nod to novelist Somerset Maugham, whose words precede mine on this page.

That’s what I said and what I was going to say.

Unfortunately, about three hundred words in, I touched an alien key and deleted everything except the HTML for font, and I couldn’t find the Undo icon because I’d composed on a new blog I’d set up on a rival blog site and hadn’t read all the instructions and found out I’d have to undo with a keystroke rather than an icon.

So now, instead of referring to Maugham, I shall end by paraphrasing Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, T. S. Eliot, and any others to whom the line has been attributed, and say that this post would have been shorter but I didn’t have time.*

*It would have had better sentence structure, too. But it’s a lot less pompous, ponderous, and moralistic in this who-cares version.


Reposted from Whiskertips, July 23, 2009


Image by Julitofranco (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons