‘Seems an Awful Waste’

by Jay Nordlinger

When I saw the headline “Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals” (story here), I thought of Sweeney Todd. Reason is, I saw this Sondheim musical recently, and reviewed it here. Sweeney Todd can put you in a macabre frame of mind.

Remember, Mrs. Lovett is a maker of meat pies. Her friend Sweeney has just killed someone — and will kill many more. They are talking about how to dispose of the first victim’s corpse. And Mrs. Lovett gets an idea.

“Well, you know me, sometimes bright ideas just pop right into my head, and I keep thinking . . . Seems a downright shame . . .” Sweeney wonders, “Shame?” Mrs. Lovett continues, “ Seems an awful waste . . . Such a nice plump frame Wot’s-his-name has . . . Had . . . Has . . . Nor it can’t be traced. Business needs a lift — debts to be erased — think of it as thrift. As a gift. If you get my drift . . .”

Sweeney doesn’t. Mrs. Lovett continues, “Seems an awful waste. I mean, with the price of meat what it is, when you get it, if you get it.” Sweeney says, “Ah!” Mrs. Lovett answers, “Good, you got it.”

“Mrs. Lovett, what a charming notion,” says Sweeney, “eminently practical and yet appropriate as always. . . . How delectable! Also undetectable.”

A question: If an unborn child is just a “meaningless blob of protoplasm” (the phrase I grew up with), what’s the rumpus about using this blob for a little fuel? Why the squeamishness?

Either it’s a baby or it’s meaningless matter. Decide, please. (The cries I always heard were, “It’s not that simple!” Then you grew up, thought, and realized, “Yeah, it kind of is, actually.”)