A Remarkable Feat


Where paraphraseology is the goal, nothing says "you betcha" like a good parallel, because right angles don't measure up when the time comes to pitch the tent before turning in with a good notebook. As it turns out, wilderness exploration makes a mighty fine soup for those with a taste for linguistic adventure, which is where Craig Conley comes in and removes his shoes. Thus primed, he's ready to illuminate the crannies in the spaghetti of words and spaces he refers to as When in Greece, largely because that's what I decided to call it.

The rule of thumb, then, is this: When exploring a wilderness of words, leave only footnotes. This is precisely what Craig has done, as you will discover as you join him on his walkabout, which commences below the line you will notice presently, after your eyes move past the small dot at the end of this sentence.

When in Greecei

by Jeff Hawkins

Among the more provocative questions debated aboveii the water cooler this week, "self-reincarnationiii, huhiv?" generated more than its fair share of interest by adherents and passersby alike. While the answer to the question may seem, at first, to require an ex partev knowledge of the botanical sciencesvi, a more direct solution can be obtained by first asking how many livesvii might be crammed into the average catviii, then dividing the result by a half dozenix of the udderx. This gives mu, which we immediately recognize as the plaintivexi feline utterance used to summon the butler, Yeatsxii, so that he might refill the vacant cream dishes left on the floor by the careless hand.

Even if those dishes had been bluexiii, the very idea of replicating lives on the flyxiv begs yet another questionxv, then one more: Why cats? Why cats?xvi While the rest of us muddle along, dodging sparksxvii thrown from the axle of the cosmic wheel as it spins, half greasedxviii, toward the window where billions are servedxix, the cat has only to wish itself a new itinerary, and providencexx responds.

Merexxi coincidence? Perhaps. I do not claim to understand Greekxxii.


i Initially a play on "When in Rome," the "Greece" in question will play on fast-food "grease" by the end of the piece.

ii The water in the cooler has evaporated into a "word cloud."

iii This is a play on "self-recursion," a form of infinite nesting (not to be confused with "infinite empty nesting," referring to revitalized marriages when the kids leave home).

iv It's no coincidence that "huh" is a palindrome; palindromes are common in peptide sequences, meaning that human lives loop in the very strands of the DNA.

v i.e., judicious partying.

vi This is the "pot" calling the Grecian Urn black.

vii The rhetorical answer is, of course, nine.

viii The average cat crams 56 prey animals into its mouth each year (24 rodents, 15 birds, and 17 lizards).

ix Why divide nine lives by six? Mathematically speaking, six is nine upside down.

x Hawkins will milk some rich wit with this "udder." The bovine allusion will yield "mu," the famous Zen answer to whether or not a dog has Buddha-nature, even as it echoes "the cat's meow" (synonymous to "the cat's pajamas"). "Udder" also sets up a pig-Latin conjugation: udder/utterance/butler.

xi "Plaintive" echoes the mournful "plaintiff" alluded to the judge's ex parte order.

xii It's little known that William Butler, Yeats earned the comma before his surname while sailing to Byzantium.

xiii "No substitutions" is the common policy on a "blue-plate special."

xiv This is the fly attracted to the leftovers on the blue plate.

xv "Begging the question" is a form of circular reasoning, though don't say that within hearing distance of Aristotle's premises.

xvi Indeed, the word "caterwaul" is of imitative origin.

xvii "Dodging sparks" is an echo of "dogs in parks," chasing their tails in pursuit of Buddha-nature.

xviii The original aphorism was: "The squeaky cosmic wheel gets the oil."

xix This seeming reference to a McDonald's drive-thru is actually an ancient metaphor for the vaginal canal. However, any allusion to sexual lubrication is product of the reader's corrupted mind.

xx Providence, as in Providence, Rhode Island, a clever allusion to the Greek island of Rhodes.

xxi This echo of the cat's meow is nearly the omega word.

xxii The joke, of course, is that "coincidence" is of medieval Latin origin, not Greek.


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