The Corner



At Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, New York City, December 18, 2020 (Jay Nordlinger)

There’s no snow on the range now, as there is above. I took that photo about a month ago. But yesterday, someone was saying there’s more snow coming soon.

On the homepage today, I have an essay: “Golf in a Time of Pandemic: Or, home on the range.” Have you ever been golf-mad? Or mad about anything? Then you’ll “relate,” as we used to say in the ’70s, I think.

I’d like to publish some mail, but before I do, I’d better publish a brief excerpt from my piece, so you know how Wodehouse enters into the whole deal:

Hearing I was back in the game, my National Review colleague Kevin Williamson sent me a dozen balls. You know the most famous line from NR’s mission statement (1955)? The one about standing athwart history, “yelling Stop”? Well, these balls are stamped, “Standing athwart history, yelling Fore!”

(I pause to recall one of my favorite opening lines in all of literature. P. G. Wodehouse begins a short story, “It was a morning when all nature shouted Fore.”)

That line comes from “The Heart of a Goof,” which is the titular story of a Wodehouse collection. You know who gave me that collection, about 20 years ago? Another NR colleague, Kathryn Jean Lopez.

So, a reader writes with “one of my favorite passages in the entire Wodehouse canon,” as he says. The passage comes from “The Coming of Gowf,” a story in the collection The Clicking of Cuthbert. (Bear “Gowf” in mind, because I will comment on pronunciation soon.)

The passage in question:

“Who,” he inquired, “is that?”

“He is one of your Majesty’s gardeners,” replied the Vizier.

“I don’t remember seeing him before. Who is he?”

The Vizier was a kind-hearted man, and he hesitated for a moment.

“It seems a hard thing to say of anyone, your Majesty,” he replied, “but he is a Scotsman.”

I shared this passage with NR’s resident Scotswoman, Madeleine Kearns — the kind of person with whom you can share such things, with serene safety.

Another reader writes,

Years ago, I picked up a book at the library, the dog chewed on it, so I ended up paying for it. I never minded that because it was not damaged enough to be unreadable, just too damaged to put back on library shelves. The book was The Golf Omnibus, and it contained every single one of Wodehouse’s golf stories, and I have loved it. It was a hardback book, about two or more inches thick. I’m not a golfer, but I love his golf stories.


Speaking of words: John Guaspari, a golf writer himself, writes,

During your recent podcast with Sally Jenkins et al., you seemed to be pronouncing the word “golf” without the L: “goff.” Or if the L was in there, it was kind of swallowed.

Was I hearing you right? If so, is that a Michigander thing? Or were you following the example of Arnold Palmer, who always pronounced it that way? (And if so, is it a Western Pennsylvania thing?)

For me, “golf” has no L. Neither does “wolf” or “folk.” Neither — hold on to your socks — does that Tennessee president, “Polk.” I would no sooner put an L in golf than I would in “yolk,” “talk,” or “half.”

The last name of two of my nieces and nephews is “Wolf,” and they live in New York. They think that my, and my mother’s, pronunciation of their last name is hilarious and mysterious.

When I responded to John Guaspari, he wrote,

Differences in the pronunciation of “golf” are mere quibbles. What is not a quibble, though, is using “golf” as a verb. Mortal sin.

Ha! I’m inclined to agree — I always “play golf,” rather than “golf” — but it must be acknowledged: We English-speakers can make a verb out of anything, and do.

At any rate, John cites a scene from the movie Spotlight (2015). The Mark Ruffalo character says, “Hey, shouldn’t you be golfing?” The Michael Keaton character answers, “Golfing’s not a verb. And I couldn’t get a tee time today.”

Dang. Anyway, my golf piece, for your enjoyment, is here.


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