Ask Dr. Salvo
January 10, 1995
I've been so busy entertaining and protecting your family, that I'm running a little late with my nature notes. The life of a modest-sized canine naturalist is not all easy answers. Sometimes it is hard questions.
Take for example the phenomenon of Indian Summer, or as some prefer to call it, False Spring. We've had a lot of it this past fall and early winter, manifested by bizarre behavior of the pecan trees: Even as the dry brown leaves are rustling to the ground, the pecan is leafing out with fresh green new leaves. As you all know, every spring the pecan is the most cautious, the last tree to put forth new leaves. Canny tomato gardeners always wait till this occurs before putting their tomato plants out. There has never been a frost (to canine knowledge) to come along after the pecan leafs out.
Lately, not only the pecans, but the mockingbirds have been acting strangely. They are doing the same mating dances they ordinarily do in the spring -- but with no prospects of love, marriage, nesting, and a new crop of little birds. What makes them do it? Well, hormones, of course. But what makes them tune up? Some of us theorize that every fall the light from the sun reaches the earth at angles (and temperatures) characteristic of spring sunlight. Except, of course, that the light in the fall is coming lower and lower to the horizon, and with shorter and shorter duration. Many roadside flowers put on a springlike burst of blooming, and for some reason yellow is the prevalent color of the bloom, with blue and lavender close behind. The white blossoms of berry vines are notably absent.
Boss, I know you don't have all the answers to these questions, but some of your readers may enlighten me. By the way, I like the new motto for your column: "No question too trivial, no answer too obscure." However I suggest that you also hang on to the one that has served you so well, contributed years ago by N.H. Jr. and his high school Latin teacher: Saepe in errore sed numquam in dubito," i.e., "Often wrong but never in doubt."
It seem to me, Boss, that Latin is making a comeback. Take for instance, this choice item from Oxford, thoughtfully sent in by a dear friend of yours who must be a Republican, poor lamb.
This version of the Latin laudation to President Clinton at Oxford University is just in from Britain: "Wilhelmus Jeffersonius Airplanus Clintonensis, salutamus venerabilis Universitatis Oxoniensis. Quondam Rhodus scholasticus et marijuana non-inhaliensis, et exBello Vietnamensis non conscritone excusatus. Subsequentis gubernator respublica Arkansensis et perpetrator criminalis sleazissimus in nomine "Aqua Blanca" scandalus,cum t uxore Hillarius Roddama Clintestrone. Etiam legoverus multitudinus cum multae bimbones, Gennifa Flores, Paula Jones, et cetera, et cetera. Satyriasis abnormalis in modo Presidentius Kennedensis. Tua fama extendit per omne mundo pro joggendo, juvando ad saxzphonum, et non much else. Esperamus quid pro quo multirichi Americani donabunt muchos dollares ad Universitatem Oxoniensis.
"Vivat, vivat Clintstone zaba-daba-doo."
Dear Dr. Salvo,
The above is just hot off the press from the "Mother Country." We are sending it -- not necessarily for publication, but to satisfy your intellectual curiosity and perhaps give you an opportunity to brush up your Latin. If you have any troubles with the translation consult your R.A. Tim.
Ti Amici in Montgomery
I hate to admit it, but this fragment has merit. It is remarkably condensed and seems to cover all the slanders employed by the infidels to embarrass our tainted, sainted I mean, leader. Even though I know these slurs all to be false, I must say they do hang together very aptly, glued as they are by clever Latin nouns in their declensions. No conjugated verbs to speak of, however, as the writer hadn't the nerve to try them. I had the same trouble in high school latin.
Well, Boss, I guess that's all for now and I will scratch off -- I use the term advisedly. Your deligent Research Associate,
My dear Amici of Montgomery,
Since Tim tends to scoop up and read all my mail before I can get to it -- he calls it "research," I call it tampering with the U.S. Mail -- he had already composed a thoughtful reply to the latin letter from the Limies. I agree with Tim, but not of course with my strayed british brothers. After all, what about Margaret Thatcher? A very large and open ended question!
Also, if you will carefully re-read the Oxford canard you will find some slurs strongly suggesting that the writer imagined he was lampooning DeWitt Clinton, one time Governor of New York. Perhaps he/she will correct this error in the next issue? With warm appreciation and New Year's greetings to the Montgomery Amici!
-- January 10, 1995