How many authors can claim to have invented writing devices? Shakespeare comes to mind immediately. In school we learn of dramatic irony, soliloquies and iambic pentameter, in addition to the coinage of hundreds of words that continue to be used even today (would you believe that he even used ‘puking’ once?)
But dear Will and his work are a tad too prosaic (not quite the right word, but it will have to do) for our friendly column.
Instead, let’s look at some humorists who have skilfully placed a unique stamp on their work.
Ogden Nash was an American poet and master of wit, whose writing appears to be nonsense verse at first sight but was considered profound enough to make the cut in such works as The Viking Book of Aphorisms. An example, on solitude:
‘I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.’
Then a couple that really show how brevity is the soul of wit: ‘A bit of talcum Is always walcum.’ ( Reflections on Babies)
The device of his invention is clearly seen in these examples, modifying the spelling of the last word to suit the rhyme, with delightful results.
Many of Nash’s poems were of word lengths that were shorter than their titles. Here’s one example, sometimes quoted as being the world’s smallest poem: ‘Adam Had ‘em.’ ( Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes, or Fleas).
He obviously didn’t care much for greens: ‘Parsely Is gharsley.’ On one occasion he paraphrased Dorothy Parker’s famous observation that men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses: ‘A girl who is bespectacled May not get her nectacled’. Some of his poems, reflecting the times in which they were written, presented stereotypes of different nationalities. In Genealogical Reflections the alleged parsimony of the Scottish gets this treatment: ‘No McTavish Was ever lavish.’ Tune in for another author next week.