all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

Forays into Logic, Whimsy, Meaning, Hilarity, and Nonsense.

Tag: philosophical

All Flibertysquibs Are Treacleandjam: Or, Just a Different Batch of Nonsense

 

Abstract:  In which the Blogger is confronted with a taste of his own linguistic medicine, and the Good Reader teams up with a mysterious “Anti-Blogger” and two anonymous young ladies you may recall from days of yore, to dismantle a long-established literary tradition.


 

The Anti-Blogger is an archetypal sort of fella. He’s sort of like, “The Blogger,” only different. He’s like, you know, the opposite. When The Blogger says “left,” the Anti-Blogger says “right.” When The Blogger says “plain,” the Anti-Blogger says, “peanut.” When The Blogger says “capitalism,” the Anti-Blogger says “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” When The Blogger says “Which way to the Men’s room?” the Anti-Blogger says, “Dang, that was one very excellent burrito.” When The Blogger says, “Girl / I want / To be with you / All of the time / All day / And all of the night,” the Anti-Blogger says, “My little China girl / You shouldn’t mess with me / I’ll ruin everything you are.”

You get the idea.

In this post, we get a rare glimpse into the thinking of this extraordinary fellow, as he suddenly appears from nowhere and takes on The Blogger at a fundamentally philosophical level. And as dessert? We get to revisit the razor’s-edge thinking of Females #1 and #2, and as the cherry on top, even The Good Reader shows up! It’s a party, man.

 

The Blogger:  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

The Anti-Blogger:  All flibertysquibs are treacleandjam.

The Blogger:  Wait. What?

The Anti-Blogger:  I said, “All flibertysquibs are treacl….”

The Blogger:  Right, right. But that doesn’t mean anything!

The Anti-Blogger:  It means as much as “all flockbinkers are treadknicious,” or whatever it is that you’ve been saying.

The Blogger:  It most certainly does not! “Flockbinker” is a real word, and “liberty-squabs” absolutely isn’t!

The Anti-Blogger:  Flibertysquibs is as real a word as flockbinkers. They’re both nonsense.

The Blogger:  Are not!

The Anti-Blogger:  Are so.

The Blogger:  Are not!

The Anti-Blogger:  Are so!

The Blogger:  Look, there’s a solid literary tradition undergirding my use of the term “flockbinkers.” And you just now made up the word “flaherty-drabs.”

The Anti-Blogger:  Flibertysquibs. And a few random blog posts by a single eccentric sitting in front of the computer in his jammies does not constitute an established literary tradition.

The Blogger:  It does! Oh, wait.

The Anti-Blogger:  [smiling]  See here, you’ve got a real problem. You just can’t make claims for one set of nonsensical words, and then try to block those very same claims from being made of other nonsensical words. It’s as if you’re tying to establish a hierarchy of nonsense.

The Blogger:  If there’s never been a record album with that name, someone better snatch it up soon.

The Anti-Blogger:  Hmmm?

The Blogger:  “A Hierarchy of Nonsense.” Shoot man, i’d buy it. I don’t care what the music sounds like.

The Anti-Blogger:  Very cool. But now, back to our topic. What is it about the word “wamwam” that makes you want to treat it seriously as a philosophical term, while at the same time rejecting “treacleandjam”?

The Blogger:  Why, because it IS a legitimate philosophical term! And the other one’s just a succession of sounds that you made up to make my position look ridiculous.

The Anti-Blogger:  I don’t think your position needs much help to look ridiculous, but i’m delighted to do what i can.

The Blogger:  Mmmmmm.

The Anti-Blogger:  Tell ya what. Why don’t you explain, right now, what it is about the term “wamwam”–which, if i’m not mistaken, can’t be found in the dictionary–that makes it a legitimate philosophical term.

The Blogger:  Delighted to! Well, first off–  [pauses, deeply immersed in thought]

The Anti-Blogger:  Mmmmm?

The Blogger:  Sorry. Just assembling my case.

The Anti-Blogger:  Fine. Carry on, my good man.

The Blogger:  Okay. So, the question is, how is the word ‘wamwam’ a real term, whereas the stupid nonsense you’ve been saying isn’t?

The Anti-Blogger:  Something like that.

The Blogger:  Why, it’s simple. It’s because you just now made those terms up in order to make me look like a buffoon.

The Anti-Blogger:  Well, once again, i’m glad to help nature take its course, if any help is necessary. But my having made those terms up just now is no different from your having made your terms up a few years ago.

[The Good Reader walks up, interested in the discussion.]

The Blogger:  [To the Anti-Blogger]  Look. Flockbinkers are not the same thing as flibertysquibs, and the state of being ‘treadknicious’ is not the same as being ‘treacleandjam’.

The Good Reader:  Why not? None of it means anything.

The Blogger:  [infinitely patient sigh]  Saying that these are ‘undefined terms’ is not the same thing as saying that they don’t mean anything.

The Good Reader:  Sure it is. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. You just like making funny sounds — and building a blog around it. If 2-year-olds had a blog, they would be doing the same thing.

The Blogger:  They would not!

The Good Reader:  Would so.

The Blogger:  Would not!

The Good Reader:  Would so.

The Blogger:  [sigh]  Look here. It seems to me that we’re dancing around the main issue, which is….

[It is at this point that the little gathering is joined by two young ladies who were, um, anonymously featured in an earlier post to this blog a couple of years back]

Female #2:  Howdy!

Female #1:  How’s it going.

The Blogger:  Um, howdy there. I haven’t seen you two in a long while!

Female #2:  No indeed! We have been otherwise occupied.

Female #1:  Developing categories by which to better understand horses.

Female #2:  So. Okay. I have a question. Is it possible to misspell “frockdrinkers”? After all, it’s not in the dictionary.

Female #1:  And does it matter how you pronounce it? I’d kind of like to pronounce it “flockber,” which is shorter and easier to say.

The Blogger:  But that’s not how it’s pronounced….

Female #1:  Ah ah ah, but it’s not in the dictionary, so how is it that i can’t pronounce it however i want to?

Female #2:  And i’d like to spell it “fwump,” which is considerably shorter and much less trouble than “frodpickers.”

The Good Reader:  Oooohh. Such good points they seem to be making!

The Blogger:  Oh, stop. Look guys, you can’t just randomly make up spellings and pronunciations for words! The universe would descend into utter chaos!

Female #2:  Chaos and abaddon, with darkness upon the face of the deep, and spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places!

Female #1:  And all kinds of terrible stuff going on.

The Blogger:  Um, uh, yes, precisely. So no. No: you can’t just randomly make up spellings and pronunciations for words, just sorta out of your noggin.

Female #2:  Words… that you’ve randomly made up.

Female #1:  Right out of your noggin.

The Blogger:  Well, no, um. I mean…um. Oh, poo.

The Anti-Blogger:  I’m afraid they’ve scored one on you.

The Good Reader:  As in: Ga-ZING. Pow. Whack.

Female #1:  I feel like we’ve maybe gotten him back for that “horse people” thing a couple of years back?

Female #2:  Hey! I thought he made some very good points in the horse people discussion.

Female #1:  What? He just kept including random stuff and confusing the issue. But what am i saying? You were just as bad!

Female #2:  Hrmmff. You only think that because you’re a horse people yourself. I thought he performed brilliantly.

[Females #1 and #2 withdraw, still arguing the merits of the various horse-people models. The Anti-Blogger has, meanwhile, somehow dissolved into the aether, leaving The Good Reader standing alone with The Blogger.]

The Good Reader:  Ahh! This sort of conflict is good sometimes, y’know? It sort of clears the nasal passages and whatnot.

The Blogger:  If you say so.

 

 

The Blogger and The Good Reader Have Yet Another Argument

 

Abstract:  Yawn. It’s nearly as seasonal as baseball, or 4th of July picnics–the Good Reader and The Blogger are about to get into it again. Yet another philosophical argument. [*sigh*]  Not to worry, though: the only weapons at hand are the Good Reader’s sharp tongue, and the Blogger’s profound grasp of philosophical principles.


 

Early one afternoon, as the gladsome sun was beaming down upon the land….

The Good Reader:  I think you should reverse those two attributes.

The Blogger:  What? Ho! Why, hello there, The Good Reader!

The Good Reader:  Hello. How’s it going?

The Blogger:  Really well, thank you. Just gettin’ it done, y’know? Doin’ the stuff.

The Good Reader:  That sounds great. As a person of deep philosophical sensitivities, i applaud your efforts.

The Blogger:  Wow, thanks. Um. Uhhh. You just called yourself a person of deep philosophical sensitivities. Um. Uh. Wouldn’t that person be, well, uh, me? Among present company, i mean. You know, the very premise of this blog….

The Good Reader:  I know. You’re the big philosopher, surrounded by your adoring acolytes. And the point i just made was that you have misattributed tongue-sharpness to me, and philosophical profundity to yourself. Isn’t that sort of backwards? It occurs to me that, of the two of us, i’m actually the more philosophically acute.

The Blogger:  Oh, come come, Good Reader, this sort of thing really is unworthy of you.

The Good Reader:  But seriously! I tend to be the one who makes the important distinctions, like a philosopher. And you’re the one who, um, has a tendency to say… unhelpful things.

The Blogger:  I cannot believe what i’m hearing.

The Good Reader:  Okay. As the voice of logic and reason here, i’ll lay out some ways in which i am a more logical thinker than you are.

The Blogger:  I was just about to do that. Before you rudely interrupted me.

The Good Reader:  State how i’m the more logical thinker?

The Blogger:  Righto. Wait! No! You tricksy woman, you tricksed me.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm. Good. So here goes. Number one: I only use terms that i know the meanings of, and can define with at least some reasonable degree of accuracy.

The Blogger:  I’m afraid i’m not following you.

The Good Reader:  Ha ha! That was funny.

The Blogger:  No, i mean i’m actually not following you.

The Good Reader:  Oh. Sorry. Well, for instance, if i were to use a word like “wamwam” or “treadknicious” in an argument, i would be able to explain what it meant. I don’t use words that i don’t know the meanings of.

The Blogger:  Well, i don’t use words that i don’t know the meanings of!

The Good Reader:  Excellent! So what’s a flockbinker?

The Blogger:  [pouting]  I don’t feel like talking about that right now.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm. And that’s fine. I’m just saying, if i’m going to use a word, it’s because i know what it means. That’s all i’m saying.

The Blogger:  Well, golly, The Good Reader, you’re taking me at a disadvantage! Just because i’m not constantly talking about the meanings of the specialized terms that i use, that doesn’t mean that i can’t explain them if i need to.

The Good Reader:  Uh-huh. I’m sure that’s correct.

The Blogger:  Why do i feel like you’re making fun of me?

The Good Reader:  Here’s my Number Two. I don’t make statements that i wouldn’t be able to back up with some kind of a genuine argument.

The Blogger:  Well, that’s tremendous! You’re growing as a young, impressionable philosopher. I’m very proud of you!

The Good Reader:  [with a nearly inexhaustible fund of patience]  My point is that you DO tend to make statements that you’re not able to back up.

The Blogger:  Oh! Gee. I guess i wasn’t quite following you.

The Good Reader:  No. You weren’t.

The Blogger:  But… now, waittasecond. That’s not right! Are you accusing me of drawing unwarranted conclusions and articulating unfounded assumptions?

The Good Reader:  That was so beautifully stated. You’re really good at that sort of thing.

The Blogger:  [puffing up a bit]  Articulating the basic principles of philosophy?

The Good Reader:  No, talking about the holes in your skill set.

The Blogger:  Hrrmmf. The holes in my skill set? Why, i’ll have you know that… wait a second. What were we talking about, again?

The Good Reader:  Using real arguments to back up our conclusions.

The Blogger:  Right, right. Well, here’s the thing. When i talk about flockbinkers, wamwams, and drizzpuddlers…

The Good Reader:  That last one’s a new one on me. I don’t think i’ve heard you use that term before.

The Blogger:  [proudly]  That’s because i just now made it up.

The Good Reader:  Ah! Ni-i-i-i-ice.

The Blogger:  So, when i’m talking about wamwams and puzzknucklers and whatnot, i’m not always using these terms to indicate existent items in the real world. Sometimes they’re, oh, y’know, fun noises to make into the air with my mouth. No, wait. That’s not what i meant to say.

The Good Reader:  It’s okay. You can duck and cover, and i’ll pretend i didn’t hear anything the first time.

The Blogger:  Righto. So, when i’m talking about wamblinkers and poodlewatches and all that sort of thing, sometimes they’re just, oh, y’know, logical placeholders. They’re just empty terms that i’m using to stake out space in an argument.

The Good Reader:  Right, and that’s okay. I get that. It’s just that you… so easily… fade from that position to the position of apparently taking them seriously as real things.

The Blogger:  Don’t be dissing my flockbinkers, now. They have very sensitive feelings.

The Good Reader:  Q.E.D.

The Blogger:  So, anyway, was that your point #2?

The Good Reader:  Yeah, sort of. Anyway, um, let’s see… i think i’ve got a point #3 as well.

The Blogger:  I’m listening.

The Good Reader:  I don’t say something one day that’s going to be flatly contradicted by something i say the day after.

The Blogger:  That’s terrific! You’ll make a real philosopher, yet.

The Good Reader:  [with, once again, nearly infinite patience]  My point is that you DO that sort of thing. All. The. Time.

The Blogger:  Make a statement one day that’s contradicted by something i said the day before?

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm.

The Blogger:  Well, look here: when i use a term that i don’t know the meaning of….

The Good Reader:  See, you did it just now. Just now. I mean, just now.

The Blogger:  But i wasn’t contradicting something i said yesterday. I was contradicting something i said a few minutes ago.

The Good Reader:  [makes a sound that can be best described as part groan, part sigh, part psychotic break, and part hiccup]

[At this point, the Blogger and The Good Reader stare at each other in exhausted silence for a bit, like two boxers temporarily leaning against the ropes.]

The Blogger:  [recovering]  So. Here’s a question for you, smart guy. Um: female. In what does a genuine argument consist?

The Good Reader:  Oh, golly, let’s see. Hmmm. An argument consists in two (or more) opposing positions, each presenting arguments in favor of its conclusion and employing a definitive level of logical rigor.

The Blogger:  [momentarily stunned]  Wow, that wasn’t bad.

The Good Reader:  For what it’s worth, i learned that from you. I think maybe you’re just better at talking about it, than actually doing it.

The Blogger:  I’m not sure whether i should feel like you just complimented me… or not.

The Good Reader:  Sure. Why not? Go for it.

 

An Attempt to Get to the Bottom of This “Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence” Thing

Greetings, gentle readers.  (As well as those of you who are actually reading the blog.)  (Ba – dumm – chh.)

Several posts ago, i fraudulently claimed that the upcoming post would involve more information about the joke about three Scotsmen sitting on a fence.  I meant well!  I really was intending to talk about that next.  But then i went off on a tangent about my PechaKucha presentation, and then it was Christmas, and what with one thing and another, the Scotsmen got put on a back burner.

As you might well imagine, they were MUCH happier when they were sitting on the fence.  (Ba – dumm – chh.)

Which is where they find themselves once again, because this is the post you’ve been promised, o gentle readers.  (And those of you who are actually reading the blog.  Ba – dumm – chh.)

By way of reminder, let me refresh you on how the “three Scotsmen” joke goes.

“So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.”

That’s it.  That’s the joke.  That’s as far as it ever gets.  That’s all there is.

We-e-ell… that’s not exactly true.  There have been some attempts to finish the joke.  Here’s one of the more noteworthy examples:

So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.

And the first one says,
“All flockbinkers are treadknicious.”

Then the second Scotsman says,
“All wamwams are flockbinkers.”

And the third Scotsman says,
“Would ye rather find y’rself confronted by a self-referential absurdity,
or a non-sequitur disguised as a joke about three Scotsmen?”

A respectful silence followed.

Ahhhh.  Yes.  Now we’re talkin’ ’bout the good stuff.

But, you see, not everyone has been endowed with the philosophical equipment to fully appreciate a joke like that.  Perhaps that’s one reason why the standard form of the joke is the incomplete version, just the opening line.  Because if i try to finish it, the end product will end up just a wee bit too philosophically rich for your average taste.

But there is another finished version of the joke: one which, like the one above, is going to end up on the back of a t-shirt one of these days.

(I hear you tentatively snickering, o less-than-gentle reader.  You thought that was a joke, didn’t you.  Hah!  Note the conspicuous absence of either boldface print or a “ba-dumm-chh” following the statement.  It was most assuredly NOT a joke; it was the condensed form of a business plan.  I would advise you to learn the difference.  But i fear we digress.)  This other version of the joke is of particular interest as we seek to understand just what the joke is all about.  And here it is:

So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.

And the first one says,
“Blah blah blah blah blah.”

Then the second Scotsman says,
“Mumble mumble mumble.”

Then the third Scotsman says,
“Yada yada yada yada.”

Your mistake, of course, was in thinking that just because something is a joke, it’s going to be funny.

You’re what, how old? You should know better by now.

All that was the joke, including the last part.  Well, no: technically, the last part was the part that will follow the joke as it is displayed on the back of the t-shirt.

Man, these t-shirts are going to be something else.

But note what this version of the joke does for us.  It strips the joke down to its constituent elements.  It reveals the underlying skeleton of the joke.  And the joke turns out to have the same form as a great many other three-part jokes.  That form is as follows:

So there were three [entities] [engaged in some activity].

And the first [entity] [A] [says or does something].

And the second [entity] [B] [says or does something that is closely parallel to what A said or did]

And the third [entity] [C] [says or does something that is a startling departure from what A and B said or did, from which dissonance arises the humor value of the joke].

In keeping with that analysis, our joke above about the three Scotsmen is true to form.  The first Scotsman says, “Blah blah blah blah blah.”  The second Scotsman says, “Mumble mumble mumble.”  These are the usual sorts of things that you expect to hear a Scotsman say, when you encounter him seated on a fence.  But then!  Ah!  The third Scotsman!  When we get to him, we are treated to a delightful surprise: he says, “Yada yada yada yada.”

The third Scotsman turns out to be Jerry Seinfeld!

But let’s get back to the pure, unadorned, basic version of the joke.  “So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.”  There is something classic, lean and lovely about the basic version, the default version.  It doesn’t say too much.  It says just enough.  It’s thrifty and economical, in much the same way that Scotsmen are reputed to be.

You can almost mentally supply the rest, if you’ve ever heard a three-part joke.  You can envision the first Scotsman saying something, then the second Scotsman saying something, then the third Scotsman saying something surprising that causes your diaphragm to begin spontaneously leaping up and down, and a sort of staccato wheezing sound come out of your mouth.  All you need is that opening line, and you can experience the joke’s potential all by yourself, with no adult supervision.

It’s almost as if everything the joke was ever destined to be is wrapped up in that opening line, and once you’ve heard the line, the joke’s inner essence begins to unfold within you, like the fruit of the Banyan tree.  Or the flower of the lotus.  Um, or something.

Interestingly, the same principle would likely not work with a different opener.  Observe closely:

“So there were these three kittens in a pet shop window, see.”

Who cares?  No one wants to hear the rest of the joke.  You can just tell it’s not going to be funny.

Or this:

“Okay, so there were these three disgruntled postal workers shooting up a McDonald’s right?”

Nope.  Too risky.  If your listeners are nervous about whether the subject-matter is politically correct, they’re not going to laugh.  They’ll be looking over their shoulders to see if anyone else is laughing.

Or this:

“So there were three intransitive verbs, and they walk into a bar, see.”

Nope.  Too abstract.  Maybe if you’re at a cocktail party with a bunch of grammarians, that one would go over uproariously.  You really need to know your audience.

The point i’m making, the Scotsmen joke has a kind of universal appeal.  As soon as that opening line hits, you’ve got the crowd in the palm of your hand.  They don’t need to hear any more.  They’re happy.  You’ve succeeded.  “So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.”  Just sit back and watch the magic happen.  One business-looking fellow in the middle of the room is thinking, “Now here’s a joke that a man can sink his teeth into.”  And over near the punch bowl, a woman is thinking, “Oooohh, Scotsmen, i bet they’re wearing kilts and everything.”  And off in the corner, a young guy in wire-rims and a turtleneck is thinking, “Golly, i wonder if this joke is going to turn out to have been a self-referential absurdity, or…” (and here he chuckles to himself) “…a non-sequitur disguised as a joke about three Scotsmen?”

See?  Something in it for everybody.

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