Ogden Nash has been on my mind a lot in recent days. Not sure why, but because he and his writings have been so present in my mind of late, I thought today I would share some of his insight and his humor with you all.
My Dad enjoyed Nash, and would often quote him at appropriate times. One of the first recitations I ever performed for a school class was a poem by Nash called “The Tale of Custard the Dragon.” that my Dad used to read to me. Looking back on it, this poem – all 14 stanzas of it – was quite an undertaking for a 9-year-old to memorize, but I loved it, and find that I can still recite much of it to this very day. Nash wrote for children – much of it nonsensical verse – as well as for adults, often including equally nonsensical words.
He is famous for his inventive vocabulary – made up to humorously and many times ironically rhyme where needed. Nash loved to rhyme. “I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old,” he stated in a 1958 interview. He had a fondness for crafting his own words whenever rhyming words did not exist, though admitting that crafting rhymes was not always the easiest task.” Nash said of his poetry, “My verse represents a handle I can grasp in order not to yield to the centrifugal forces which are trying to throw me off the world.”
He had an uncanny ability to comment on the ordinary events and objects of life and in so doing became very popular, not only with the rather elite readership of magazines such as “The New Yorker,”( the editorial staff of which he joined in 1932, and remained with for many years,) but also with the “man – or woman – on the street.” Most people today have heard or know some of his rhymes without knowing perhaps their authorship: “Candy is dandy/But liquor is quicker,” or “The Lord in His wisdom made the fly/And then forgot to tell us why.”
So, Gentle Reader, for your amusement, I include some of my favorite quips, clips, and rhymes by the inimitable Frederick Ogden Nash.
“There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, And that is to have either a clear
conscience, or none at all.”
“The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up
our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late.”
“The trouble with a kitten is that-
eventually, it becomes a cat.”
“Oh, what a tangled web do parents weave, when they think their children are naïve.”
“Candy/ Is dandy, But liquor/ Is quicker”
“The cow is of the bovine ilk; One end is moo, the other, milk”
“Here is a pen and here is a pencil, here’s a typewriter, here’s a stencil, here’s a list of today’s
appointments, and all the flies in all the ointments, the daily woes that a man endures — take them, George, they’re yours!”
“The turtle lives ‘twixt plated decks Which practically conceal its sex. I think it clever of the turtle In
such a fix to be so fertile.”
“Sleep is perverse as human nature, Sleep is perverse as a legislature, Sleep is as forward as hives or
goiters, And where it is least desired, it loiters.”
“Some tortures are physical and some are mental, but the one that’s both is dental.”
“I do not like to get the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so
right for so many of the wrong persons.”
“The Pig, if I am not mistaken, Gives us ham and pork and Bacon. Let others think his heart is big, I
think it stupid of the Pig.”
“Middle age ends and senescence begins, The day your descendants outnumber your friends”
“Hark to the whimper of the seagull. / He weeps because he’s not an ea-gull. / Suppose you were, you
silly seagull. / Could you explain it to your she-gull?”
“I prefer to forget both pairs of glasses and pass my declining years saluting strange women and
“Tell me, O Octopus, I begs,/ Is those things arms, or is they legs?/ I marvel at thee, Octopus; If I were
thou, I’d call me Us.”
“The camel has a single hump;/ The dromedary, two;/ Or else the other way around./ I’m never sure.
“In real life, it takes only one to make a quarrel.”
“You can take it as understood that your luck changes only if it’s good
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good!
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.
The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamity.
He throws open his nest with prodigality,
But I distrust his waspitality.
Lines on Facing Forty
I have a bone to pick with fate,
Come here and tell me girly,
Do you think my mind is maturing late,
Or simply rotting early.
Crossing the Border
And middle age ends
The day your descendents
Outnumber your friends.
The panther is like a leopard,
Except it hasn’t been peppered.
Should you behold a panther crouch,
Prepare to say Ouch.
Better yet, if called by a panther,
The one-l lama,
He’s a priest;
The two-l llama,
He’s a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn’t any
I don’t mind eels
Except as meals.
And the way they feels.
What’s the Use?
Sure, deck your limbs in pants;
Yours are the limbs, my sweeting.
You look divine as you advance —
Have you seen yourself retreating?
A Word to Husbands
To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.
A child need not be very clever
To learn that “Later, dear” means “Never.”
So, I leave you for today, Gentle Reader, with a smile, a few laughs, and praying for you all, enough…