Monday Madness: Mark Twain

MarkTwainWell, maybe not madness, but I do enjoy starting Monday off on a lighter note. Why Mark Twain? I think he is one of the world’s greatest writers and humorists. We could use more humor in the world right now.

He was my go-to guy when I was going through chemo and I wanted to laugh. What would Mr. Clemens have thought of the state of the union today? How would he have used the internet? What would he have had to say about the Tea Party, or the Occupy movement, or any of the social issues that divide us today? We can get a pretty good idea:

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce.

All right, then, I’ll go to hell.

Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.

The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.

There are times when one would like to hang the whole human race, and finish the farce.

But my all-time favorite quotes of his have to do with the German language. I was raised in a very German area of the country. There were still church services in German, and I remember my grandma gliding into German on the phone when she didn’t want us to understand something. (And most of the time, she’d been listening in; if you are under the age of 50, do a Google search on “party line.”) I studied the language in high school for 4 years, and I even claim to have a minor in it at the college level. Good lord, I spent several summers in Austria, where my attempts at communication improved only with wine. But can I speak it? Hell no. And Mark Twain explains why:

A dog is “der Hund”; a woman is “die Frau”; a horse is “das Pferd”; now you put that dog in the genitive case, and is he the same dog he was before? No, sir; he is “des Hundes”; put him in the dative case and what is he? Why, he is “dem Hund.” Now you snatch him into the accusative case and how is it with him? Why, he is “den Hunden.” But suppose he happens to be twins and you have to pluralize him- what then? Why, they’ll swat that twin dog around through the 4 cases until he’ll think he’s an entire international dog-show all in is own person. I don’t like dogs, but I wouldn’t treat a dog like that- I wouldn’t even treat a borrowed dog that way. Well, it’s just the same with a cat. They start her in at the nominative singular in good health and fair to look upon, and they sweat her through all the 4 cases and the 16 the’s and when she limps out through the accusative plural you wouldn’t recognize her for the same being. Yes, sir, once the German language gets hold of a cat, it’s goodbye cat. That’s about the amount of it.

Never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.

By reading keep in a state of excited ignorance, like a blind man in a house afire; flounder around, immensely but unintelligently interested; don’t know how I got in and can’t find the way out, but I’m having a booming time all to myself. Don’t know what a Schelgesetzentwurf is, but I keep as excited over it and as worried about it as if it were my own child. I simply live on the Sch.; it is my daily bread. I wouldn’t have the question settled for anything in the world.

The Germans have an inhuman way of cutting up their verbs. Now a verb has a hard time enough of it in this world when it’s all together. It’s downright inhuman to split it up. But that’s just what those Germans do. They take part of a verb and put it down here, like a stake, and they take the other part of it and put it away over yonder like another stake, and between these two limits they just shovel in German.

I hope you got at least one chuckle out of this to start your week off right. Auf Wiedersehen!


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