Limericks

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A globe-trotting man from St. Paul
Made a trip to Japan in the faul.
One thing he found out,
As he rambled about,
Was that Japanese ladies St. Taul.

A censor, whose name was Magee,
Suppressed the whole dictionaree;
When the public said, “No!”
He replied, “It must go!
It has alcohol in it, you see!”

There was a young man from the city,
Who met what he thought was a kitty;
He gave it a pat
And said, “Nice little cat!”
And they buried his clothes out of pity.

Carolyn Wells’ Book of American Limericks, 1925

Near Thing

‘Well, do you know the one,’ I began, ‘in which two geologists converse in a cafe? One of them says: ‘Yes, unfortunately fifteen billion years from now the Sun will cool, and then all life on Earth will perish.’ A card-player nearby has been half listening to the joke, and turns in terror to the geologist: ‘What did you say? In how many years will the Sun cool?’ ‘Fifteen billion years,’ the scientist replies. The card-player lets out a sigh of relief: ‘Oh, I was afraid you said fifteen million!’

— László Feleki in Impact of Science on Society, 1969

“The High Standard of Education in Scotland”

We were staying in Ballater, a small town on Deeside in Scotland. In the town was a tiny shop which sold tourist attractions and picture postcards, and in its minute window was a very fine specimen of smoky quartz material. Buying a postcard, I said to the proprietor, ‘That’s a fine group of smoky quartz in your window’ and had this reply in very broad Scotch:

‘That’s no smoky quartz, that’s topaz. It’s a crystal. You can tell crystals by the angles between their faces. If you’re interested I’ll lend you a book on the subject.’

I knew enough (crystals being rather in my line) to be sure it was smoky quartz, and on return to base looked up a book on Mineralogy which said ‘Smoky Quartz, also known as Cairngorm, is called Topaz in Scotland.’

— Sir W.L. Bragg, quoted in R.L. Weber, A Random Walk in Science, 1973

Intro Zoology

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How to tell a parrot from a carrot, from American physicist Robert W. Wood’s extracurricular How to Tell the Birds From the Flowers: A Manual of Flornithology for Beginners (1907):

The Parrot and the Carrot we may easily confound,
They’re very much alike in looks and similar in sound.
We recognize the Parrot by his clear articulation,
For Carrots are unable to engage in conversation.

Below: A further distinction.

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Work Smarter, Not Harder

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An organization and methods engineer submitted this report after visiting the Royal Festival Hall:

For considerable periods the four oboe players had nothing to do. Their numbers should be reduced, and the work spread more evenly over the whole of the concert, thus eliminating peaks of activity.

All the twelve violins were playing identical notes. This seems unnecessary multiplication. The staff of this section should be drastically cut; if a large volume of sound is required, it could be obtained by means of electronic amplifiers.

Much effort was absorbed in the playing of demisemiquavers. This seems to be an unnecessary refinement. It is recommended that all notes should be rounded up to the nearest semiquaver. If this were done it would be possible to use trainees and lower grade operatives more extensively.

There seems to be too much repetition of some musical passages. Scores should be drastically pruned. No useful purpose is served by repeating on the horns a passage which has already been handled by the strings. It is estimated that if all redundant passages were eliminated, the whole concert time of two hours could be reduced to twenty minutes, and there would be no need for an interval.

The Conductor agrees generally with these recommendations, but expresses the opinion that there might be some falling-off in box-office receipts. In that unlikely event it should be possible to close sections of the auditorium entirely, with a consequential saving of overhead expenses — lighting, attendants, etc.

If the worst came to the worst, the whole thing could be abandoned and the public could go to the Albert Hall instead.

— From NPL News 236, 17 (1969)

“Office Mottoes”

Motto heartening, inspiring,
Framed above my pretty desk,
Never Shelley, Keats, or Byring
Penned a phrase so picturesque!
But in me no inspiration
Rides my low and prosy brow —
All I think of is vacation
When I see that lucubration:

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When I see another sentence
Framed upon a brother’s wall,
Resolution and repentance
Do not flood o’er me at all
As I read that nugatory
Counsel written years ago,
Only when one comes to borry
Do I heed that ancient story:

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Mottoes flat and mottoes silly,
Proverbs void of point or wit,
“KEEP A-PLUGGIN’ WHEN IT’S HILLY!”
“LIFE’S A TIGER: CONQUER IT!”
Office mottoes make me weary
And of all the bromide bunch
There is only one I seri-
Ously like, and that’s the cheery:

http://books.google.com/books?id=7lNLAAAAIAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s

— Franklin Pierce Adams, Tobogganning on Parnassus, 1913

Being and Nothingness

There was a shoemaker in Paris, which was a widower, and he was not very wise. Of him Scogin bought all his shooes, and on a time Scogin came to the shoemaker’s house to speak with him. The shoemaker was at dinner, and bad his maid say that he was not at home. Scogin, by the maid’s answer, perceived that her master was within, but for that time dissembled the matter, and went home. Shortly after, the shoomaker came to Scogin’s chamber, and asked for him. Scogin, hearing the shoomaker enquire for him, said aloud: I am not at home. Then sayd the shoomaker: what, man, think you that I know not your voice? Why, said Scogin, what an unhonest man you are! When I came to your house, I beleeved your maid that said you were not at home, and you will not beleeve me mine owne selfe.

Scoggin’s Jests, 1626

“Regina v. Ojibway”

This is an appeal by the Crown by way of a stated case from a decision of the magistrate acquitting the accused of a charge under the Small Birds Act, R.S.O., 1960, c.724, s.2. The facts are not in dispute. Fred Ojibway, an Indian, was riding his pony through Queen’s Park on January 2, 1965. Being impoverished, and having been forced to pledge his saddle, he substituted a downy pillow in lieu of the said saddle. On this particular day the accused’s misfortune was further heightened by the circumstance of his pony breaking its foreleg. In accord with Indian custom, the accused then shot the pony to relieve it of its awkwardness. The accused was then charged with having breached the Small Birds Act, s.2 of which states:

2. Anyone maiming, injuring or killing small birds is guilty of an offence and subject to a fine not in excess of two hundred dollars.

The learned magistrate acquitted the accused holding, in fact, that he had killed his horse and not a small bird. With respect, I cannot agree.

In light of the definition section my course is quite clear. Section 1 defines “bird” as “a two-legged animal covered with feathers.” There can be no doubt that this case is covered by this section.

Counsel for the accused made several ingenious arguments to which, in fairness, I must address myself. He submitted that the evidence of the expert clearly concluded that the animal in question was a pony and not a bird, but this is not the issue. We are not interested in whether the animal in question is a bird or not in fact, but whether it is one in law. Statutory interpretation has forced many a horse to eat birdseed for the rest of its life.

Counsel also contended that the neighing noise emitted by the animal could not possibly be produced by a bird. With respect, the sounds emitted by an animal are irrelevant to its nature, for a bird is no less a bird because it is silent.

Counsel for the accused also argued that since there was evidence to show accused had ridden the animal, this pointed to the fact that it could not be a bird but was actually a pony. Obviously, this avoids the issue. The issue is not whether the animal was ridden or not, but whether it was shot or not, for to ride a pony or a bird is of no offence at all. I believe counsel now sees his mistake.

Counsel contends that the iron shoes found on the animal decisively disqualify it from being a bird. I must inform counsel, however, that how an animal dresses is of no consequence to this court.

Counsel relied on the decision in Re Chicadee, where he contends that in similar circumstances the accused was acquitted. However, this is a horse of a different colour. A close reading of that case indicates that the animal in question there was not a small bird, but, in fact, a midget of a much larger species. Therefore, that case is inapplicable to our facts.

Counsel finally submits that the word “small” in the title Small Birds Act refers not to “Birds” but to “Act”, making it The Small Act relating to Birds. With respect, counsel did not do his homework very well, for the Large Birds Act, R.S.O. 1960, c. 725 is just as small. If pressed, I need only refer to the Small Loans Act, R.S.O. 1960, c. 727, which is twice as large as the Large Birds Act.

It remains then to state my reason for judgment, which, simply, is as follows: Different things may take on the same meaning for different purposes. For the purpose of the Small Birds Act, all two-legged, feather-covered animals are birds. This, of course, does not imply that only two-legged animals qualify, for the legislative intent is to make two legs merely the minimum requirement. The statute therefore contemplated multi-legged animals with feathers as well. Counsel submits that having regard to the purpose of the statute only small animals “naturally covered” with feathers could have been contemplated. However, had this been the intention of the legislature, I am certain that the phrase “naturally covered” would have been expressly inserted just as “Long” was inserted in the Longshoreman’s Act.

Therefore, a horse with feathers on its back must be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be a bird, and a fortiori, a pony with feathers on its back is a small bird.

Counsel posed the following rhetorical question: If the pillow had been removed prior to the shooting, would the animal still be a bird? To this let me answer rhetorically: Is a bird any less of a bird without its feathers?

— Anonymous, collected in Amicus Humoriae, ed. Robert M. Jarvis, Thomas E. Baker, and Andrew J. McClurg, 2003