Gleanings From The Past #54

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Not Lost in Translation

A ludicrous story is told of a great naval function which took place during the reign of the last Napoleon and the Empress Eugénie. Several American vessels were present, and they were drawn up in line to salute the Empress’s yacht as it passed. The French sailors, of course, manned the yards of their ships, and shouted ‘Vive l’Impératrice!’ The American Admiral knew that it was impossible to teach these words to his men in the time left to him, so he ordered his crew to shout ‘Beef, lemons, and cheese!’ The imperial yacht came on, and as it passed the fleet there was a mighty roar of ‘Beef, lemons, and cheese.’ And the Empress said she had never received such an ovation before.

Current Literature, August 1893

Unprepared Courage

As to moral courage, I have very rarely met with the two o’clock in the morning courage. I mean, unprepared courage, that which is necessary on an unexpected occasion, and which, in spite of the most unforeseen events, leaves full freedom of judgment and decision.

— Napoleon, to Emmanuel, comte de Las Cases, Journal of the Private Life and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon at Saint Helena, 1824

Partners in Trade

A British officer in the 44th regiment, who had occasion, when in Paris, to pass one of the bridges across the Seine, had his boots, which had been previously well polished, dirtied by a poodle Dog rubbing against them. He in consequence went to a man who was stationed on the bridge, and had them cleaned. The same circumstance having occurred more than once, his curiosity was excited, and he watched the Dog. He saw him roll himself in the mud of the river, and then watch for a person with well polished boots, against which he contrived to rub himself. Finding that the shoeblack was the owner of the Dog, he taxed him with the artifice; and, after a little hesitation, he confessed that he had taught the Dog the trick in order to procure customers for himself. The officer being much struck with the Dog’s sagacity, purchased him at a high price, and brought him to England. He kept him tied up in London for some time, and then released him. The dog remained with him a day or two, and then made his escape. A fortnight afterwards he was found with his former master, pursuing his old trade on the bridge.

— Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Tales of Animals, 1835

Collector of Sound

The widespread sail of a ship, rendered concave by a gentle breeze, is also a good collector of sound. It happened once on board a ship sailing along the coast of Brazil, far out of sight of land, that the persons walking on deck, when passing a particular spot, always heard very distinctly the sound of bells, varying as in human rejoicings. All on board came to listen, and were convinced, but the phenomenon was most mysterious. Months afterwards it was ascertained, that at the time of observation the bells of the city of St. Salvador, on the Brazilian coast, had been ringing on the occasion of a festival — their sound, therefore, favoured by a gentle wind, had travelled over perhaps 100 miles of smooth water, and had been brought to a focus by the sail in the particular situation on the deck where it was listened to.

— Neil Arnott, Elements of Physics, 1829

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The Two-Toed & Three-Toed Tree Toads

A he-toad loved a she-toad
That lived high in a tree.
She was a two-toed tree toad
But a three-toed toad was he.

The three-toed tree toad tried to win
The she-toad’s nuptial nod,
For the three-toed tree toad loved the road
The two-toed tree toad trod.

Hard as the three-toed tree toad tried,
He could not reach her limb.
From her tree-toad bower, with her V-toe power
The she-toad vetoed him.

— Anon., Mobile (Alabama) Register, August 12, 1892

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Quotable #54: Rat Race

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“A study shows that stress does not cause high blood pressure. It was conducted with rats, so it may not mean much. They’re not in the people race.” — Bluefield Daily Telegraph, October 22, 1968

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Conveyance Of An Orange

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The Western Law Journal, Vol. 5 (August 1848) gave the following interesting passage about the process of writing a deed of gift of an orange:

If a man would, according to law, give to another an orange, instead of saying, “I give you that orange,” which one would think would be what is called in legal phraseology, “an absolute conveyance of all right and title therein,” the phrase would run thus:

“I give you all and singular my estate and interest, right, title and claim, and advantage of and in that orange, with all its rind, skin, juice, pulp and pips, and all right and advantage therein, with full power to bite, cut, suck, and otherwise eat the same, or give the same away, as fully and effectually as I, said A.B., am now entitled to bite, cut, suck, or otherwise eat the same orange, or give the same away with or without its rind, juice, pulp and pips, anything heretofore or hereafter, or in other deed or deeds, instrument or instruments, of what nature or kind soever, to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.”

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Pun Of The Weak: Bored Room

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Bored Room — A room where corporate meetings are held.

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Rejection Letter From A Chinese Editor

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The following is said to be an exact translation of the letter sent by a Chinese editor to a would-be contributor whose manuscript he found it necessary to return:

Illustrious brother of the sun and moon: Behold thy servant prostrate before thy feet. I kowtow to thee, and beg that of thy graciousness thou mayst grant that I may speak and live. Thy honored manuscript has deigned to cast the light of its august countenance upon us. With raptures we have perused it. By the bones of my ancestors, never have I encountered such wit, such pathos, such lofty thought. With fear and trembling I return the writing. Were I to publish the treasure you sent me, the emperor would order that it should be made the standard and that none be published except such as equaled it. Knowing literature as I do, and that it would be impossible in ten thousand years to equal what you have done, I send your writing back. Ten thousand times I crave your pardon. Behold my head is at your feet. Do what you will.

Your servant’s servant,

The Editor.

Reference

The Literary World, March 23, 1895

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A Hecatomb Of Oxen Or: Pythagoras’s Sacrifice

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“Pythagoreans Celebrate the Sunrise” by Fyodor Bronnikov 1869

Legend has it that when the Greek philosopher Pythagoras discovered the Pythagorean theorem (the famous right-triangle theorem you probably first heard in algebra class then never heard it again until now), he celebrated by sacrificing a hecatomb (100 heads) of oxen to the gods. This event was noted several times in the literature.

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