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Oxford jerks, Castro as censor, the life of an expression, &c.


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So, the Oxford boys defeated the motion, 195 to 151. The question at the Union was, “Is America itself the world’s biggest threat to peace?” You must be quite relieved that the proposition failed — by 195 to 151 (not such a big margin).

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Remember, though: Those voting against the motion did not say that America wasn’t a threat to peace. No, they only rejected the notion that America was the biggest threat to peace.

What cretins, these Oxford boys. You could laugh them off — but then you recall how they pledged not to fight Hitler.

They do teach history at that school; it’s just that the teaching is done by fools.

That was an awfully harsh item, above, wasn’t it? Well, this is war, and appeasement, idiocy, and hijinx are harder to take.

(N.B.: No, I’m not spelling it “high jinks.”)

At the website EnterStageRight, there is an interview with one Jay Nordlinger, a curious sort. Go here, if you like.

Here’s a prediction (or maybe just a wish): The principal Republican theme in 2004 will be, “Times are simply too dangerous and serious to afford a Democratic presidency. Wait till things cool off — if then.”

After the Big One, you can afford an Attlee. Once the Soviet Union collapses, maybe you can indulge in a Clinton (maybe). But when the wolf (not the Wolfowitz) is at the door?

The U.S. government sent 5,101 books to Cuba, destined for independent libraries and opposition groups. The shipment included Steinbeck, Martin Luther King — even Marx (Groucho — seriously). All of the books were confiscated by the regime: $68,770.41 worth of them. And where are the objections from our civil-liberties groups? Ah, you know where they are! Nowhere.

Our interests-section chief in Cuba, however, is on the case. He is James Cason, and he’s a good one. Recently he appeared with dissidents at the home of one of their greatest: Marta Beatriz Roque.

As Lincoln Diaz-Balart pointed out last week, the current administration is the first one we’ve had both post-Soviet and post-Clinton. And the pot seems to be stirring, a little.

I thought it telling, somehow, that the Pakistani guards shot dead outside the American Consulate in Karachi were at prayer — were murdered while praying. They were Muslims, of course. But what could the extremists care?

SIGN SEEN AT AN ANTI-AMERICA RALLY IN EGYPT: “America, are you okay? Bush will fill your tanks with the blood of Iraq’s children.”

Where do they get this stuff, the University of Wisconsin? The Kucinich campaign?

You may remember my asking why the president didn’t go berserk when Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, told the press that those with military experience like him tended to favor a moderate, diplomatic approach, while those without such experience plumped for war. What’s the point of being president if you can’t sack a guy like that?

Well, Armitage recently contradicted administration policy on North Korea before a congressional committee — and a senior administration official, quoted in the New York Times, said that Bush was “off-the-wall angry.”

Good. ’bout time. What are you going to do about it, Bushie (as Laura might say)? You are president, you know, no matter how much Colin Powell likes Armitage, and no matter how much the press likes Powell.

We must all rejoice that Vaclav Klaus has become president of the Czech Republic — a true-blue Reaganite/Thatcherite of the East. A post-Communist blessing.

It’s funny that the Russians are threatening to block us on war with Iraq in the U.N. Security Council. I don’t recall their asking anyone’s permission to beat the hell out of the Chechens.

An asinine, insulting organization, the U.N.

Did you catch labor secretary Elaine Chao giving what-for to those union leaders — to their faces? “Speaking truth to power,” as they say? I only hope that the administration, and conservatives generally, will support her. We tend not to be so good at defending and protecting our own.

While reading The (London) Spectator, I spotted a phrase I very much liked. You know how we Amurricans have “all hat and no cattle,” plus other variations? From this British writer, I read, “all gong and no dinner.” I had to read it over a couple of times, but once it registered, it pleased.

And how about this? The Outback Steakhouse has a blimp. (When I was watching sports events habitually, the only blimps were Goodyear and maybe Goodrich — can’t quite remember. And then that Snoopy-represented insurance company got into the act.) But Outback’s blimp? It’s called “The Bloomin’ Onion.”

Glorious. (And, boy, am I hungry.)

Folks, I’ve been saving something up for you. You may recall an item, a couple of months ago, concerning the phrase “ass over tea kettle.”

Here’s what I wrote: “I was with an NR bigwig, and he was describing a spill he took in the street: ‘So there I went, ass over tea kettle.’ Loved it. Immediately told David Pryce-Jones, in London. He said, ‘Here, we say “ass over t*t.”’ (For some reason, I think the second word is more bleepable than the first.) David knows everything, of course: wars, literature, slang expressions — doesn’t matter.”

Okay, this item provoked many wonderful and instructive letters, which I now offer you as a linguistic-cultural feast. Enjoy.

“I am surprised that you seem surprised and amused to discover the phrase ‘ass over tea kettle.’ I’m about to be 60 years old, and I grew up as a faculty brat on a New England college campus. In my day, ‘ass over tea kettle’ was not an uncommon phrase. In my ‘proper’ family — Dad was a scientist from Minnesota — we always said ‘bass over tea kettle,’ but the point was taken. Of course, having been raised in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Dad had actually spent a lot of time in the company of bass.”

“Thank you for the reference to ‘ass over tea kettle.’ My dad used to say that often, but I haven’t heard it in years (he has been gone for 16 years now). Since we are not English, but of German-from-Russia heritage, I always wondered about things related to tea and tea kettles. I can’t imagine the origin of that phrase, but I love the memories it brings back.”

“Dear Jay: Here in Des Moines, we’re more prone to say ‘ass over applecart,’ but I’ve heard the tea-kettle variation. Fun.”

“Jay, my mom always referred to going ‘assh*** over appetite.’ Maybe food is more important than tea in Missouri.”

“Jay, is your ass-over-tea-kettle NR bigwig a Canuck? [No — he’s Dusty Rhodes, a true-blue New Yorker.] Common expression up there.”

“Dear Jay: My personal favorite phrase for taking a tumble is ‘t*ts up.’ It’s mostly a motorcyclist term — as in, ‘I was riding this monster wheelie, one leg off, crossed up, when I accidentally dabbed the rear brake and it all went t*ts up.’”

“The best use I’ve heard of this British slang was in the movie A Bridge Too Far. A British general was explaining to Sean Connery’s character why the British 1st Airbourne couldn’t land in a more promising field that was actually near the bridge: ‘Can’t have soggy ground, old boy. The gliders go in, go ass over t*ts, and the whole thing’s a write-off.’”

“Jay, in southern Ohio, the phrase is ‘ass over appetite.’”

Dear Jay: “Makes me think of several related words from my younger days when I rode motocross motorcycles. There was ‘endo,’ which meant you did a somersault over your handlebars when the rear of the bike kicked up. A related event was the dreaded ‘flying W.’ This was when the rear of the bike kicked your feet up off the pegs while you maintained a grip on the handlebars. If your feet went high enough, from the front you looked like a ‘W’ flying.

“Crashing in corners usually meant ‘lowsiding’ or ‘highsiding.’ You lowsided by laying the bike down when the tires lost grip, basically a sit-out and not very frightening because speeds are fairly slow in corners. But if the tires hook up and the bike tosses you over, that’s highsiding, and it’s as scary as being dropped headfirst from about four feet in the air, with a lateral vector mixed in for fun.

“Yes, I rode dirt bikes and have the X-rays to prove it. Speaking of crashes, I’ve seen this show up in the civilian press: ‘brain fade.’ It comes from ‘brake fade,’ which is what happens when a race car’s brakes get so hot they boil their hydraulic fluid and won’t work. Brain fade happens when your brain overheats or otherwise stops working.

“Ain’t English wonderful?”

“My paternal grandmother (Primitive Baptist Scots-Cherokee woman) always said ‘hind over teakettle.’”

“Jay, I had a thermodynamics prof (a Brit, incidentally) who said ‘apex over base.’ I prefer that version, both for its suitability for mixed company, and its mild geekiness.”

“The military-aviation expression for upside-down, universally adopted (at least in the Air Force), is ‘t*ts up.’ My wife, a former Air Force (and current FedEx) pilot, seems inordinately fond of that expression.”

“So, Jay, you think ‘ass’ is more acceptable than ‘t*t’? You think ‘t*t’ should be bleeped? Well check out www.nice-tits.org. Don’t worry: It’s the site of the Royal Ornithological Society.”

I am speechless — with admiration.

Thanks, guys.



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