Saturday, September 11, 2010

Off the Record

A couple of weeks ago I had the temerity, or foolish optimism, to present a new sort of verbal trivia I'd dreamed up, inventing comic or witty titles for imaginary (possibly even real) record albums. I gave examples and invited entries. The response since then has been underwhelming at best, and disheartening if I were feeling glum. But the winning submissions are splendid, even laugh-out-loud funny. I'll reveal them in a moment, but first a story.

Once there was a Montana ranch family, the Coogans--parents and three strapping sons, the family having been cattle ranchers for several generations. But the grown boys were chafing under the usual tight parental reins, and they decided to head out with their hard-earned savings and start their own more diverse spread, selling sheep and hogs as well as cattle. Dad was secretly proud and Mom knew they'd do well, so the parting was bittersweet but amicable.

The young men searched, found some passable land, built a house and pens, and brought in their diverse livestock. They were poised and ready to launch the new business. But... what to call their complex ranch? "Coogans' Cattle, Sheep, and Hogs" just didn't sing. Nor did "Boys Night Out," "Table Steaks," "The Rocking 3," "The Big C" (yikes!), or any other words or visuals they could come up with. After a couple of weeks of dithering and arguing and minor brotherly fisticuffs, they decided it was time to consult their best friend and adviser... Mom. The three sent her a long telegram explaining the problem and pleading for her... uh... meatiest ideas.

The dear lady fired back a one-word response: "Prism."

Huh? What? A magnifying glass or some such? What the heck does she mean?

So they sent another telegram pleading for an explanation. And this time she wired five words:

"Where the sun's rays meet."

I offer that shaggy dog tale as a sample of what's usually called a perfect pun, a triple pun in this case, meaning words that sound or even look exactly alike but have divergent meanings--the second being "where the sons raise meat" (if that cowboy boot didn't drop for you). Most puns are rather more inexact, the sounds or spelling close... but no cigar (as the saying goes).

For submitting two brilliant, no-such-album titles, one of them a truly pluperfect double pun (words spelled precisely), I present the Conny Award--which might stand for Conman, or Confidential, or Consiglieri, or Confederate, or Concupiscent, or even Contemptuous, but not Conservative, not for this sharp-witted winner--which is actually shorthand for the Joseph Conrad Award, named for the famous wordman, a Pole who wrote dozens of novels and stories in a language he didn't speak natively, namely English (and let's have no English jokes, please). Anyway, the Conny goes to Alan Kurtz, ex-reviews editor of the lamented, and currently writing political... editorials? diatribes? screeds? Take your pick; Alan skewers anyone deserving of his rapier-sharp wit and rara avis, sarcastic wisdom. (Find him writing here.)

Oh, and his winning entries? First place to Hall Pass, a duets album by Jazz guitarists Jim Hall and Joe Pass. And the even-funnier second-place pick, vocalist Julie London singing with the Soviet Army Chorus, Crimea River.

Conny-gratulations to Mistah Kurtz, alive and well (and harassing ignorant bloggers everywhere)... even as Joseph C is rotating in his burial plot.


Alan Kurtz said...

In humbly accepting the first annual "I Witness" Joseph Conrad Award, I am reminded of Steve Martin's acceptance in 2005 of the eighth annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at Washington's Kennedy Center. Mr. Martin allowed as to how he was a big Mark Twain fan, and especially cherished what he called his very favorite Mark Twain quote. "I wrote it down so I'd get it exactly right," said Steve, chuckling fondly as he reached into his pocket to retrieve a slip of paper. Unfolding it, he read: "For God's sake, please don't name an award after me."

I suppose I ought to thank all the little people who made this possible, but since I was the only contestant, maybe thanking little people would be a stretch. So I'll just thank the esteemed Mr. Leimbacher, whose write-up is fabulous. In other words, exactly what I deserve.

IWitnessEd said...

Ah, that Alan, humble to boot--to boot you out the door if he decides you need it. But enough of this pattybackin'. Eee-hah! Head 'em up! Move 'em out! Keep them bloggers rollin'. Watch your raw hide!