The Corner

On the USS NR

Sounds like “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” right? (Some people refer to that waltz as “The Beautiful Blue Danube.” Don’t forget the “On.”) Anyway, in Impromptus today, I write about a friend of mine, who went to Harvard College in the 1950s, I believe. He was enthusing about a professor of his: Werner Jaeger, the renowned classicist who lived from 1888 to 1961. “I was so excited, just being in his classroom, I could hardly listen to what he was saying. He was simply a great, electrifying teacher. We all felt hit by lightning or something.”

I had one or two like that — but these were not teachers in schools. Anyway, a reader writes, “Being so excited you can hardly listen? Being practically dizzy in the presence of greatness? That’s exactly how I feel on an NR cruise!”

Hey, she said it, we didn’t. In any event, her check is in the mail . . .

P.S. I have headed this lil’ item “On the USS NR.” I have a question for you: When do you drop the periods in “U.S.S.”? When do you drop the periods in “U.S.S.R.”? How about “C.I.A.”? These things evolve, I guess — you just know.

P.P.S. One of the (minor) plagues of contemporary America is that people call acronyms things that are not acronyms: USS, USSR, and CIA are not acronyms. They are abbreviations, or initials. NATO, NORAD — yes.

In the summer of 2008, a writer for New York magazine was having an Obamasm, or whatever we might call it. He wrote that the candidate was “our national oratorical superhero — a honey-tongued Frankenfusion of Lincoln, Gandhi, Cicero, Jesus, and all our most cherished national acronyms (MLK, JFK, RFK, FDR).”

Um, no. On many, many counts, no.

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