- Carrots are good for the eyes. Myth started by the British during World War II as cover for radar’s abilities to detect airplanes.
- Carrots are good for the ears. Myth started by the British during World War I as cover for sonar’s abilities to detect submarines.
- “Carrot” the plant is the same word as “carrot” the vegetable. These are etymologically completely separate words that happen to be spelled alike, much like “bear” the animal and “bear” meaning to-put-up-with, that were merged in the one act of simplifying English that anyone was ever able to agree on.
- Carrots are good for the sense of touch. Myth started by the British during the Franco-Prussian War just in case they had to get involved and needed cover for their long-stick technologies.
- Carrots are naturally orange. They were bred to be orange; in their natural state they are polka-dotted.
- Carrots are good for the sense of taste. Myth started by the British immediately after the Battle of Austerlitz because apparently you can get Germans at war to believe anything about carrots.
- Carrots are kind of long, tapered candle-shaped things. They are actually five-dimensional spheres and this is just how they appear projected into our three-dimensional Euclidean space.
- Carrots are good for the smell. Myth started by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War because they wanted in on this fun too as long as they had to deal with Hessians.
- Carrots have never started forest fires. Well, often myths have an element of truth to them. In fact carrots have never put out forest fires, but not for want of trying.
- It’s interesting whether Mel Blanc liked carrots or not. He was an actor hired to play someone who liked carrots.
[ Since it’s such a busy week all around why not return to the pages of Robert Benchley’s Love Conquers All and to the part where he summarizes some opera for our convenience? Here, his notes explaining Die Meister-Genossenschaft. ]
Scene: The Forests of Germany.
|Strudel, God of Rain||Basso|
|Schmalz, God of Slight Drizzle||Tenor|
|Immerglück, Goddess of the Six Primary Colors||Soprano|
|Ludwig Das Eiweiss, the Knight of the Iron Duck||Baritone|
The basis of “Die Meister-Genossenschaft” is an old legend of Germany which tells how the Whale got his Stomach.
The Rhine at Low Tide Just Below Weldschnoffen.—Immerglück has grown weary of always sitting on the same rock with the same fishes swimming by every day, and sends for Schwül to suggest something to do. Schwül asks her how she would like to have pass before her all the wonders of the world fashioned by the hand of man. She says, rotten. He then suggests that Ringblattz, son of Pflucht, be made to appear before her and fight a mortal combat with the Iron Duck. This pleases Immerglück and she summons to her the four dwarfs: Hot Water, Cold Water, Cool, and Cloudy. She bids them bring Ringblattz to her. They refuse, because Pflucht has at one time rescued them from being buried alive by acorns, and, in a rage, Immerglück strikes them all dead with a thunderbolt.
A Mountain Pass.—Repenting of her deed, Immerglück has sought advice of the giants, Offen and Besitz, and they tell her that she must procure the magic zither which confers upon its owner the power to go to sleep while apparently carrying on a conversation. This magic zither has been hidden for three hundred centuries in an old bureau drawer, guarded by the Iron Duck, and, although many have attempted to rescue it, all have died of a strange ailment just as success was within their grasp.
But Immerglück calls to her side Dampfboot, the tinsmith of the gods, and bids him make for her a tarnhelm or invisible cap which will enable her to talk to people without their understanding a word she says. For a dollar and a half extra Dampfboot throws in a magic ring which renders its wearer insensible. Thus armed, Immerglück starts out for Walhalla, humming to herself.
The Forest Before the Iron Duck’s Bureau Drawer.—Merglitz, who has up till this time held his peace, now descends from a balloon and demands the release of Betty. It has been the will of Wotan that Merglitz and Betty should meet on earth and hate each other like poison, but Zweiback, the druggist of the gods, has disobeyed and concocted a love-potion which has rendered the young couple very unpleasant company. Wotan, enraged, destroys them with a protracted heat spell.
Encouraged by this sudden turn of affairs, Immerglück comes to earth in a boat drawn by four white Holsteins, and, seated alone on a rock, remembers aloud to herself the days when she was a girl. Pilgrims from Augenblick, on their way to worship at the shrine of Schmürr, hear the sound of reminiscence coming from the rock and stop in their march to sing a hymn of praise for the drying up of the crops. They do not recognize Immerglück, as she has her hair done differently, and think that she is a beggar girl selling pencils.
In the meantime, Ragel, the papercutter of the gods, has fashioned himself a sword on the forge of Schmalz, and has called the weapon “Assistance-in-Emergency.” Armed with “Assistance-in-Emergency” he comes to earth, determined to slay the Iron Duck and carry off the beautiful Irma.
But Frimsel overhears the plan and has a drink brewed which is given to Ragel in a golden goblet and which, when drunk, makes him forget his past and causes him to believe that he is Schnorr, the God of Fun. While laboring under this spell, Ragel has a funeral pyre built on the summit of a high mountain and, after lighting it, climbs on top of it with a mandolin which he plays until he is consumed.
Immerglück never marries.
There’s some excitement over a neat discovery in ancient Greek Or Maybe Roman Mythology. Apparently they’ve managed to find a human who appeared in a myth and who didn’t come out of it in pretty rotten shape. This is really neat, since the best you can usually hope for if you find yourself a human in a Greek Myth is maybe getting turned into a grasshopper and then eaten by a loved one. Getting off scott-free was unheard of.
Anyway, the newly unearthed story goes something like this: Uhhurmneoc, the Goddess of Throat-Clearing, was discussing with Mauvetica, the Goddess of Colors You’re Not Really Sure What They Look Like, about whether any particular human was going to say or do something that got them in trouble that day. Just then they overheard a young lad, Oneoftheoselladicus, mention how he’d had a bee that sat on his chin for an unusually long time and he thought that was neat. The gods naturally poked in to see if he was going to say something that could set off Appiopithenes, God of Bee-Chin-Wearing, but the lad suddenly noticed the scroll-taker and shouted, “Look over there! It’s King Midas and he’s saying something!” Naturally everyone dashed off to see what the lunkhead had got himself in for this time, and the forgotten Oneoftheoselladicus escaped to a competing mythology that’s now believed to just be fan fiction. Midas, naturally, ended up spending three weeks speaking to and understanding only what in those days were called “torpedoes” (which we should read as “sub-aquatic propelled missiles used to sink ships or destroy harbors”), but for him that’s doing better than average.
I’m always delighted to see how we better understand the world-view of the ancients by seeing their legends and stories come back to life like this.
[ Among the essays collected in Of All Things, Robert Benchely included a fairly substantial piece, “When Genius Remained Your Humble Servant,” about the changing tenor of letters. I don’t want to reprint the whole essay here, but enjoyed the amusing hypothetical exchange here that showcases the lovely blending of high culture and pedestrian business that is so fruitful for humorists. ]
So explanatory has the method of letter writing become that it is probable that if Odysseus were a modern traveler his letters home to Penelope would average something like this:
DEAR PEN: — I have been so tied up with work during the last week that I haven’t had a chance to get near a desk to write to you. I have been trying to every day, but something would come up just at the last minute that would prevent me. Last Monday I got the papyrus all unrolled, and then I had to tend to Scylla and Charybdis (I may have written you about them before), and by the time I got through with them it was bedtime, and, believe me, I am snatching every bit of sleep I can get these days. And so it went, first the Læstrygones, and then something else, and here it is Friday. Well, there isn’t much news to write about. Things are going along here about as usual. There is a young nymph here who seems to own the place, but I haven’t had any chance to meet her socially. Well, there goes the ship’s bell. I guess I had better be bringing this to a close. I have got a lot of work to do before I get dressed to go to a dinner of that nymph I was telling you about. I have met her brother, and he and I are interested in the same line of goods. He was at Troy with me. Well, I guess I must be closing. Will try to get off a longer letter in a day or two.
Your loving husband,
P.S. You haven’t got that bunch of sports hanging round the palace still, have you? Tell Telemachus I’ll take him out of school if I hear of his playing around with any of them.
There’s nothing quite like wandering around a garden nursery looking at all the various tiny plants that I’m far too stupid to actually manage. Of course you can say that about many things: there isn’t anything quite like building a multi-use sports arena out of nothing but discarded satellite TV dishes, for instance, unless you count building several single-use sports arenas all close up against each other. But that shouldn’t be counted against the fun of wandering around all these little rows of plants nestled in tiny plastic pots and reading how relentlessly Anglo-Saxon a name they can get, and what sorts of folklore attach to them.
Many plants enjoy these blunt, old-fashioned names that speak of their folkloric origin or of something we were trying to keep secret. Putting the secret right there in the name of the plant doesn’t seem to have worked but bear in mind, before the rise of mass printing where were we going to put secrets instead?
Shunted Gutter-Berrys, also known as King Pym’s Chortles. These are found lining the roofs that other, lesser, plants build to shelter them from the elements and clumsy, plummeting chipmunks. They have become invasive in parts of the country (any country) with a chipmunk shortage, such as the space between eight and twelve feet above the ground and away from all trees or other structures. A post-Columbian Exchange plant, these were first identified by settlers in Connecticut who asked the Indians what they were, and didn’t recognize sarcasm when they heard it. Their flowering between the 30th of April and the 1st of May is considered a sign that your calendar-maker ripped you off.