Monday, September 20, 2010

Precedence and its pitfalls

Amawalk Runagate Robbie
Being rusty in one’s Maupassant may well be a reason, but no excuse, for panic in recalling the protocol in any given promenade, for greeting someone with an offspring of another species. As a sometime “walker” of a dog, I accept that the question doesn’t arise, given that a gorilla or a giraffe may accompany a dog, and blur into oblivion for all the notice he achieves.

You’ll remember, the problem was finessed in Bringing Up Baby, more than once, where the principals were always so separated from Baby that the they could be addressed separately - with one trend-setting exception:

In the present case, however, the question achieves a refinement, through just that intimacy and emphasis of differentness we were spared by Howard Hawks, which shows how excruciatingly urgent the problem of precedence can be.

We know, the crisis of species-mixing is looming fast upon us, according to that organ embodying it - Fox News - as a crime wave against Nature it has found, erupting from the Equal Protection clause. Now is not the time to forget our Romance Lit - much less our Screwball Comedy. The problem calls for the candour of a Robert Benchley and the fast thinking of a Dorothy Parker, and comes down to this:

Does the welcome, “Who’s your baby, Tiger,” follow or does it precede, “Who’s your tiger, Baby?” Moreover (and the peril gathers as we speak) on the odd chance that the antecedent of the address is so equally distributed as to elevate confusion to catatonia, what is to be done?


  1. Maupassant was but one of a fair number of 19th-century Parisians who did not care for the Eiffel tower; indeed, he often ate lunch in the restaurant at its base, not out of any preference for the food, but because it was only there that he could avoid seeing its otherwise unavoidable profile.

    this, is why we love wikipedia.

    refeshing ones's memory, or relishing the task,

    or is it the chicken before the egg ?


  2. I was conscious of the shortcoming of not developing that reference, and I thank you for the inspired courtesy of your comment.

    A natural ironist, Guy de M suffered one of the most painful mental lives, shaping the later stories of a very brief life. His "La Ficelle," which is customarily taught to students of French as a "foreign" language, is a masterpiece beginning with a promenade by the agrarian bourgeoisie and their sundry animals toward a crucible of injustice which you and I know as "the market." The irony is light but its edge is lacerating. All of the exquisite concentration we know to be possible in the form, short story, is epic in its impact in that bagatelle. Think of the depraved meanness of Crabbe's "The Borough" (Peter Grimes), or of an installment of evening news in Mr Murdoch's network, and you have its portable, constant aide-memoire in "La Ficelle."

    I love it when you visit.