Sun 1 Dec 2013
He’s one of those writers whose words we all remember, but few people today are familiar with his works or even his name.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
Yet when Snoopy sits down to type his novel, we readers of the comic strip Peanuts immediately know what the opening line will be: “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Now where did cartoonist Charles Schultz get the line? The British writer cum politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (1803-73), coined it for the opening line of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.
Let’s take another line that’s frequently used, especially among journalists: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” One might guess it originated with someone like Voltaire or Thomas Jefferson. In fact, this adage too was coined by Lord Lytton. He used it in his 1839 play called Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.
Along with being a writer and serving in the House of Commons and House of Lords, he was Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1858-59. As such, he focused much of his attention on the development of the Crown Colony of British Columbia.
The son of a general, he knew how the upper classes viewed the world. So it is not surprising that he coined a dismissive reference to the common man as “the great unwashed” in his novel Paul Clifford. Or that he coined the condescending “pursuit of the almighty dollar” in his 1871 novel The Coming Race.
These phrases have become clichés, so the next time you hear people using them, ask if they know whom they’re quoting. If they need a clue, you can tell them he was once a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. Then ask them if they’ve ever heard Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton.
Joseph Estrada receives congratulations upon being elected mayor of Manila in May.
There has been so much tragic news from the Philippines as a result of October’s Typhoon Haiyan I’d thought I’d offer some light-hearted relief. The mayor of Manila is Joseph Estrada, a popular movie actor who was the country’s president from 1998 to 2001 but was ousted following charges of graft.
On the eve of Estrada’s taking office in 1998, The Los Angeles Times published what it described as an apocryphal story: “Estrada, who is as famous for his malapropisms as for his romances with leading ladies and beauty queens — he has three children out of wedlock — is said to have taken confession from Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin and replied, ‘Forgive me, Sin, for I have fathered.”
Drew Houston — Listen carefully to what he says.
Sometimes what people hear can cause as much confusion as what others say. On Sept. 17, Wired Magazine’s website wrote in an interview with Drew Houston, co-founder of the Dropbox computer application, that “he soon saw that what he was making had the potential to be useful to everyone. ‘You think about who needs Dropbox,’ he said years later, ‘and it’s just about anybody with nipples.'”
Four hours after the posting went online, Wired issued a correction. Houston hadn’t said “anybody with nipples” but “anybody with a pulse.” I guess they do sort of sound alike. And if that isn’t subtle enough, Houston pronounces his name “HOUSE-ton” (like the street in Greenwich Village, not the city in Texas).