Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Comedy of Errors

There are countless varieties of humor in the world, but it seems most can be boiled down to two broad categories--that which is intended and that which is unintended. An example of the former is sophomore Aaron Schlosser's delightfully satirical website Fartlog, which, as you may guess from its eponymous name, is a spoof of this website and The Dartmouth Review. The humor is sharp and the rhetoric witty--though it doesn't touch the time the Harvard Lampoon, back in the '90s, I think, published a perfect replica of TDR and distributed it in Hanover. (If anyone can hunt that issue down in the archives, you'll be rolling on the floor for quite a while.)

And then there's the unintended type of humor, which Abe Clayman '07 so graciously offers up in today's D. Some of you may have noticed I lit into Kapil Kale '07 a few days ago for publishing an editorial that was pretty lame, at best. But Kapil had one thing working in his favor: I could at least understand his argument, even if it was anodyne, muddled, and, well, flat out wrong. (He's since backtracked, grasped for straws, and come up short--but I'll leave that for another day.)

Anywho, as I read Abe's editorial I kept trying to figure out if he suffered from some malignancy that caused his synapses to fire out of order, thus creating the strange amalgam of sentence fragments intended, I think, to make an anti-Bush argument. Nathaniel mentioned below that he was speechless while reading the column. So was I--because I was laughing too hard.

If you want a wholesale destruction of the piece, check Emmett's bit in the comments section under Nat's post. But I think Emmett has erred by responding. People like Abe shouldn't be taken seriously--not, at least, until he has a rudimentary understanding of the subjects he addresses, and can figure out how the English language works. People like Abe should instead be laughed off the stage.

Since the subject of this post is humor, perhaps a contest is in order. I recall a good one to come up with the best, by which I meant worst, headline from the D. Let's do something similar: In two sentences or less, what was the D's op-ed editor thinking when he decided to publish Abe's piece? Post in comments, and the winner, as determined by me, can try to convince TDR president Kevin Hudak or editor in chief Michael Ellis to give him an Indian T-shirt.

I'll kick it off:

"Well, I'd really like to publish the next installment in R. Lance Martin's incisive series entitled "Mock Conversations You Might Have Heard on Saturday Night at the Fro-Yo Machine," but I'm afraid his second part is just a little weaker than the first--oh, wait, what's this on the floor? It looks like it's in English..."

(Does anyone recall what we crowned winner in the D headline contest?)


Anonymous said...

Wait - that guy from fartlog's middle name is Elizabeth? That's comic genius right there...

- Brian

Emmett said...


Close but no cigar:

ep�o�nym (n.)
A person whose name is or is thought to be the source of the name of something, such as a city, country, or era. For example, Romulus is the eponym of Rome.

Dartlog is the eponymous name, because it is the putative source of the name for Fartlog.

No wonder the Review was, and remains, the most literate of Dartmouth's publications. We not only have people who know the word "eponymous," we also have people who can comment on its usage. Gosh, we're swell!

Otherwise, I agree entirely.

PS -- Good to see you blogging again; I'll be in touch soon.

Alston B. Ramsay said...

I beg to differ, Emmett. I do not doubt that Dartlog is the eponym of Fartlog. But the definition of 'eponymous' is: "Of, relating to, or constituting an eponym." Fartlog certainly relates to an eponym, and thus I respectfully disagree with your interpretation.

Emmett said...

Alston, I'm afraid the OED does not agree with you. The definition it provides for "eponymous" is:

1. That gives (his) name to anything; said esp. of the mythical personages from whose names the names of places or peoples are reputed to be derived.

Furthermore, the usage examples given by the OED all suggest that "eponymous" is used to describe the eponym, not something related to the eponym.

Alston B. Ramsay said...

If we're going to be narrow to the point of anal retentive, all the definitions put forward so far suggest that eponyms are solely the domain of people--so weblogs couldn't even be considered. I don't think language or writing, which is an art I might add, should be quite so restrictive. So for the moment let's ignore the person requirement. The closest source to my desk, Fowler's Modern English Usage, notes that:

"Legions of products, processes, etc., are named after or are believed to be named after particular people: in each case, the person concerned, and also the product if it is identical in spelling and pronunciation, is an eponym."

Fowler's offers diesel, Braille, clerihew, and, my favorite, sandwich as examples. (The 4th Earl of Sandwich, 1718-92.)

Yes, yes, I know that Fartlog is not identical in spelling or pronunciation to Dartlog, but I think, Emmett, that this proves there's a little more wiggle (or is it wriggle?) room in this debate. When my managing editor gets in, I'll check his library for more sources.

Alston B. Ramsay said...

To confuse matters, Webster's offers 'eponymic' as a adjectival form in its definition of 'eponym.' But here's an interesting question, or perhaps I should say dilemma, to consider: I've just used the adjective 'adjectival,' which means "Of, relating to, or functioning as an adjective" to modify something, 'form,' that is quite clearly not an adjective. Have I used 'adjectival' correctly? If, as I contend, I have, then perhaps we should now debate the exact meaning of reductio ad absurdum.

Homer Simpson said...

I am so smart! I am so smart! SMRT! I mean, SMART!

Anonymous said...

the parody of TDR was published by the Jack-o-Lantern in I believe '97, not the Harvard Lampoon (unless the Lampoon also did a parody at some earlier point that I'm not aware of). interestingly, the parody had some racial humor in it which touched off a letter being sent to all students' home addresses by President Freedman condemning the lack of sensitivity.