It was a dry summer. We had to go for water to keep the rain "barl" moist, and then the brook dried up. Trout had learned to do 'thout water and was runnin' round the fields like "squirls." Seagulls was comin' to sit in the shade and pant. It was the worst dry spell in over a good many years, as I recollect. When I comes downstairs to breakfast, my wife says, "It rains!"
I says, "Dew tell!" She says, "I dew!"
And I looked out and it was pouring some old good, for sure. And I was glad. Everybody would be glad.
I says, "Let's turn on the Pandora Box and hear what Gabriel Heater has to say about it."
So we done just that, we did, and whilst we was having porridge with eggs, bacon, home fries, apple pie, and two sugar doughnuts, the meteorologist spoke as follows, to half-wit, namely:
"At this moment, right now, as I speak, presently and at this point in time, precipitation is producing rain in this area." My wife said, "That's what I just said!"
I said, "But you didn't say it elegant." She said, "That's on account I ain't a meteor-o-lo-just and I don't get paid to look out the window and see if it's wet or dry." I said, "Do you think it'll rain all day, I hope?" She says, "Rain before 7, clear by 11." The sun broke through at 10.
It has been said, and I have heard it said, that windbag gibberish, stilted lingo, gobbledygook, came to foul American English with the brain trust of President New Deal F.D.R. But while we have much to deplore in his memory, the truth is that birdbrain rhetoric began with the agrarian movement in the 1800s, when we started doing kind things for the underprivileged farmer.
The Grange was organized; roads improved; the Department of Agriculture established; the land grant, or cow college, invented where the farmers' children began using toothbrushes. And with that came the Farm Bureau, the County Agent, the 4-H Club, and the Extension Service.
From the Extension Service the Country Gentleman could get free reading matter, which was called "literature," on any subject, and it was there that the whole art of peripheral philology developed. These "government bulletins" were written by cow-college professors who were experts in everything except writing.
There began a flood-tide transition from comprehension to vacuity, which is now so endemic that we never say anything in grace and beauty with respect for perfection and precision.
From the first government bulletin, no United States farmer has ever fed a pig. He administers nutriments. No cow-college professor ever "used" anything; he "utilizes" it. My first 4-H project, mind you, was keeping a few hens, but when my bulletins arrived I found I was engaged in poultry management. In that same transmogrification of our linguistic heritage by spurious pedagogues, our janitors became custodians, our cops became security officers, Dry Pond was changed to Crystal Lake, and dear little ladies became Miz. Why should this be?
"It rains," she said. The TV, in the elegance of superiority, says, "Right now it is raining at this point in time." Is there a wrong now and a left now? Now is now, and now it is gone, so which now is the now that was? Doesn't "is" mean now? A point in time for gracious sake!
One of our early University of Maine bulletins had the impressive title, "Factors of Economy in the Preparation of a Typical Day's Meals on a Maine Farm." A professor had cooked spinach in a five-inch pan on a 10-inch electric burner, and then he had cooked spinach in a 10-inch pan on a five-inch burner, and so on, and his conclusions were "confounded" so a housewife could save money on her electric bill. Roger Blackstone read the bulletin at Grange and it got a big laugh. At the time only two or three farm homes in Maine were wired for electricity.
It is true that the farm bulletins expanded the gentility of the countryside, and had their importance besides entertainment at Grange, but at the same time they put gobbledygook into our vernacular and left us poorer for it. Did you ever time a TV interview and count the "you knows"? Last summer, a baseball player was asked about his home run, and it took him seven minutes to declare, state, and asseverate, "I was lucky."
My father mistrusted people who "used big words to show off," and told us never to use a word we couldn't spell.
Long ago, our parish church had a preacher who came now and then to cadge a free meal, as my mother set a sumptuous repast, and he liked to sound pompous so the occasion was termed a parochial visitation. His pomposity didn't fool Dad, who knew a freeloader when he saw one, so after the minister had gone Dad would quote the Old Quaker who left his horse at the livery stable.
He said, "My equestrian beast requires stabulation; accommodate him prithee and when the early hour of oriental awakening doth arrive thee shall be adequately rewarded for thine amiable hospitality."
One time somebody came to the door while my mother's biscuits were in the oven and they browned a bit more than usual. They were still good to eat, but she apologized for their appearance. She said there were extenuating circumstances. With one voice her family said, "Spell it!"