Sunday, March 12, 2006

"What's in a name? . . . a rose by any other name would smell as sweet'

The other day, Jerry Clark dropped us a note after he ran into Jack Nelson and asked if he would speak "to a group of fellow colleagues" the next time he was in town.

"When JAck asked the name of the group," Jerry said, "I looked at the charming and attractive Mrs. Nelson, hemmed and hawed, and finally answered, using the phonetic version for the name: 'The OAFS, Jack, we're the OAFS.' To which Barbara replied: 'Oh, the Old Farts, I think Jack would enjoy speaking to them'."

Yes, even our honored late publisher enjoyed speaking to us, but pleaded with us to change our name if we were going to continue what was then an annual award named after him for the "best story" in the Times' previous year. We vetoed Otis -- something one seldom does to a publisher unless he seeks an exchange of venue or retirement.

At our latest meeting, one of us suggested we reinstate the annual award since Otis has gone on.

No, fellow members, if Otis had a grave, I'm sure he would turn over in it. Besides, I didn't like the idea in the first place. Let us not take ourselves too seriously -- or save it only when one us us (including me!) wants to.

But, do you know what? Some subjects require in depth investigative reporting -- or research, if you prefer the label. What is the definition of the word, "fart"? And how would Webster's or Random House, or even Google characterize an "old fart"?

My Webster's and Random House were published late in the last century -- all I could afford -- but you would think Google would promise a more modern explanation. That is not to be.
First, it wanted to pass the buck on to Mark Twain:

Fart Something that everyone does. Subject of a surprisingly good essay by Mark Twain."

I suppose a good reporter would immediately go out and get Twain's essay. Alas, I'm on deadline. My spouse Barbara is cooking dinner. That allows little time for poofery -- or poopery either. But more from Google:

"fart A noun1 fart, farting, flatus, wind, breaking wind
a reflex that expels intestinal gas through the anus"

All right, all right, Google. But dammit, what is an OLD FART?
old fart Definition

"Tribal elder. A title self-assumed with remarkable frequency by (especially) {Usenet}ters who have been programming for more than about 25 years; often appears in {sig block}s attached to {Jargon File} contributions of great archaeological significance. This is a term of insult in the second or third person but one of pride in first person. [{Jargon File}]"

Are you telling me that I can call myself an old fart, and be proud of it, but that if I call Jerry Clark or Jack Nelson an old fart I'm insulting them? I've been pecking a keyboard most of a century with no arhchaeological significance, or much other, for that matter.

OK. Back to my Webster's Ninth New Collegiate (Copyright 1984, with evidence that I might have walked off with it when I left The RAND Corportation):

Well, it doesn't identify an "old" one, but explains that a fart is "1. an explosion of intestinal gas --usually considered vulgar, and 2. a foolish or contemptible person," which Webster, (sigh) also has to add is "usually contemptible."

So where does that leave us? Maybe we should just make up our own definition -- and, since Google has access to this website anyway (and the current government administration probably does, too) -- let's see, hmmmmm:

We're good guys and dolls who get together every six weeks or so. to gossip, to blather, to repeat and repeat the good old days (and some bad ones) of newspapering, and have to pause too often for a moment of silent respect to those who have left the fold.

Fortunately, Genio's has such bad acoustics that we can execute needed other funtions almost like a whisper.