Probably the best way to achieve immortality is to not die–as The Grammar Lady would never say. Rather she would say, in her superior tone, something about not splitting the infinitive or the atom on the porch or without at least leaving a note saying if you’ll be back for lunch.
Then she would write the ornithologically correct version, criticizing my elegant, musical intro “Probably the best way…” as too many notes. She would state pedantically–and without an Edgar Allen of poetic nuance whatsoever–“The only way to achieve immortality is to die not.”
Look, I know The Grammar Lady performs an often necessary crop-dustering of the over-fertilized, overgrown field of free-range verbiage. I just want to prevent a situation wherein, one might say, the milo is wagging the farmer (whose name may or may not be Milo, but if so, according to the Grammar Lady you’d say “milo is wagging his Milo”).
I concede that to die not is very hard to do not—much harder even than to live long and prosper, then do it again and again until it gets really old and someone tells you to knock it off or you will die long and perspiring heavily.
The point is, life, ad infinitum and/or nauseam (sometimes known as life everlasting, amen), is probably not to be expected–or, as The Grammar Lady would put it “probably shmobably; it is so happening not.”
Anyway, as I was about to say, one popular method of maintaining at least a public relations image of immortality is to leave behind — above ground, of course — an original, catchy turn of phrase that borders either on wisdom or bathroom humor. When cited, such a phrase immediately invokes your name and memory and a wistful comment like “I thought he was dead, for poop’s sake.”
For example, “This knot is way too tight,” has long separated the lasting memory of the horse thief, Cowboy Bob Bebop, from his tongue-tied compadre, Cowboy Whosit as they stood on the gallows in 1873.*
What, then, are the elements of a cogent saying that you can compose and leave on a gas station receipt in your wallet to be discovered by posterity or a crime scene investigator? Consider the popularity of very brief comments.
The late WWII General Anthony McAuliffe is remembered still for his one word reply to the Germans when they demanded his surrender at Bastogne: “Nuts.”
“That’s not even a complete sentence,” complains The Grammar Lady. “And are we talking pine nuts? Pistachios? Almonds–slivered or whole? Be clear and say ‘Pardon my French, Mister Nazi man, but nuts to you, and if you have a peanut allergy, tough toenail.’”
A caution: The one word quote must be relevant to the situation. For instance no one would remember McAuliffe if he’d said “Aluminum.” The best quotes are brief, although not binding or constricting like briefs. (A bit of underpants humor there, just because.)
A good example of a bad example is Christopher Columbus. On his deathbed, desperate for inclusion in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, he blathered “Hey, how many people can say they discovered America and Indians and offshore money laundering and dry cleaning and postcards and swimming trunks and dog racing and the Macarena and casinos and card counting and what Nina said to Pinta about Santa Maria and tanning beds and blackened tilapia and a little café just the other side of the border and marmalade daiquiris and malaria…”
Much more memorable if he’d only come clean and said “I thought it was New Jersey.”
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2016, all rights reserved.