August 23, 2016

About those 4 "half-naked" men who broke into a school office in Humpty Doo and released saltwater crocodiles.

This stupid vandalism took place in Australia, but it's getting attention in America, including a substantial article in the NYT. Presumably, we're supposed to be amused. But why?

1. Crocodiles are scary. But if you watch the video, you'll see that they are tiny crocodiles, and you'll hear that they'd been out of water for a long time and were actually in bad shape and suffering. The story isn't really about scary animals — at a distance, for our safe horror — but animal abuse, and abusing animals isn't funny.

2. Humpty Doo is a very funny name for a town. I'll give you that.

3. Half-naked men. It sounds racy at first, but wait a minute? Which half is naked? These are just men without shirts. These are men in shorts.

ADDED: Wikipedia says the name was originally Umpity Doo, perhaps based on "umpty" used by the Army to mean a Morse code dash or a corruption of an Aboriginal original word "Umdidu," but if the "h" was always there, the name could be slurred pronunciation of the English word "two" as "doo" and the idea that this was the second of more than one hump, and "humpty doo" might have been slang for "upside down." The Wikipedia article on Humpty Doo doesn't mention Humpty Dumpty, but he's a character in a nursery rhyme that's been around since at least 1797:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.
That's not the version we're familiar with, just the oldest. Some people think Lewis Carroll created the character, but he just appropriated and repurposed him. "Through the Looking-Glass" doesn't come out until 1872. Humpty Dumpty appears in a great little vignette, a favorite of lawyers and law professors. I'll boldface the part most likely to be quoted and cited in a law review article or judicial opinion:
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "

"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

39 comments:

Rae said...

Everyone knows you capture crocs in a three piece suit. What are the Aussie man boys thinking?

rhhardin said...

The story isn't really about scary animals — at a distance, for our safe horror — but animal abuse, and abusing animals isn't funny.

That's the "that's not funny" feminist instinct.

These are guys we're talking about.

A sex difference.

How may cows have to be led up into the college bell tower? An 1800s prank at my college.

rhhardin said...

Australia is filled with funny town names.

Laslo Spatula said...

So just let me introduce myself
My name is Humpty, pronounced with a "umpty"
Yo ladies, oh how I like to hump thee
And all the rappers in the top ten--please allow me to bump thee
I'm steppin' tall, y'all, and just like Humpty Dumpty
You're gonna fall when the stereos pump me
I like to rhyme, I like my beats funky
I'm spunky, I like my oatmeal lumpy
I'm sick wit dis, straight gangsta mack
But sometimes I get ridiculous
I'll eat up all your crackers and your licorice
Hey yo fat girl, come here are ya ticklish?

I am Laslo.

rhhardin said...

Un petit d'un petit
S'étonne aux Halles
Un petit d'un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent
Indolent qui ne sort cesse
Indolent qui ne se mène
Qu'importe un petit
Tout gai de Reguennes.

(pronounce in French, listen in English)

rehajm said...

I can see how the episode could be intriguing for the collection of so many tiny absurdities. What's the motivation? Why crocs and not cane toads? Why throw the crocs inside through the broken door then open the door and walk through it? Why the ridiculous outfits? What's the frequency, Kenneth?

I've heard when you order a beer in Australia they serve it to you in an oil can...

rehajm said...

I went there, too Laslo.

Wilbur said...

Samoans ... do the Humpty Hump.

EDH said...

The story isn't really about scary animals — at a distance, for our safe horror — but animal abuse, and abusing animals isn't funny.

Maybe not funny, but a little ironic, though, that "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" was made famous by a sex criminal.

Fernandinande said...

"An [Indian] Oklahoma college student visiting Washington D.C. on a school trip, says he was beat up for wearing a Redskins Jersey. And the person he got into a fight with was a White House official in charge of American Indian education.
...
“He comes to me and calls me the name weetard not retard, weetard. ‘You’re a weetard for not understanding Redskins is offensive’,” said Dahl on Wednesday."

Original Mike said...

One thing I love about traveling in Australia is the place names.

Fernandinande said...

Speaking of crocodiles -

"Think UW-Milwaukee is being a tad too politically correct? You too might run afoul of the administration, since complaining about "political correctness" is now considered a microaggression, according to the university's ironically-named Inclusive Excellence Center."

Rob said...

Not just men in shorts, men in very low-slung shorts. They were half-naked. You could see cleavage. Twelve million Australian women succumbed to vapours.

rhhardin said...

I knew to sell Allegheny International stock when Chairman Buckley opened the corporate "center for excellence."

jack hoysted said...

got friends who live there, a quietist little town in the scrub on the outer edge od darwin.

mockturtle said...

There is a town here in WA called Humptulips.

rhhardin said...

Guys humor.

"It's funny until somebody gets their eye poked out. Then it's still funny, just not around that person."

rhhardin said...

John Williamson Tubbo Station youtube

Paul Snively said...

God bless Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. This portrait hangs in the Great Hall of Christ Church, Oxford, in his honor.

mockturtle said...

I've always LOVED Lewis Carroll.

Quaestor said...

The Aussie accent is believed to derive from the first transported convicts — petty thieves, con artists, and drunken roisterers mostly, nothing too nasty — who were overwhelmingly of London stock. While we associate Cockney with the East End, there's linguistic evidence that something like modern Cockney was spoken throughout metropolitan London in the 18th century. Given the Cockney habit of dropping initial H's from where they belong and attaching them to where they don't, that may explain Humpty Doo.

gspencer said...

Crocs are dangerous.

Saltwater crocs especially. They have real attitude problems.

Paul Snively said...

mockturtle: I've always LOVED Lewis Carroll.

I never would have guessed!

DavidD said...

It coulda been two nekkid men 'n two clothed men...

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I always thought the most interesting part of that passage is:

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

Especially in light of George Orwell and political correctness.

Defining words is just the starting point.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ricky Gervais: Humpty Dumpty

Moral: don't send horses to do delicate surgery.

mockturtle said...

Ron Winkleheimer said Defining words is just the starting point.

Exactly!

buwaya said...

I am very sad about the mistreatment of that noble creature, the saltwater crocodile. My mothers old place had them in the mangrove swamp sections.

Every one of these deserves the opportunity to grow to immense size and dignity, and serve as an agent of fate to all it encounters.

In captivity they should be kept in spacious, warm crocodile pits, as a community resource.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Quaestor said...
The Aussie accent is believed to derive from the first transported convicts — petty thieves, con artists, and drunken roisterers mostly, nothing too nasty — who were overwhelmingly of London stock.


Line casually uttered by Australian woman in Flight of the Conchords:
"You couldn't get more Australian than me. My great-great-grandpa was a renowned rapist, and they shipped him out to Australia and that's where he met my great-great-grandma; she was a prostitute. You know, I said "met" but he raped her."

Fernandinande said...

Quaestor said...
The Aussie accent is believed to derive from the first transported convicts


An Aussie guy told me, "We're lucky, we got the criminals but you got the religious nuts."

Though I've heard from an unreliable source that, way-back-when, half the population of Virginia was (were?) "transported" indentured criminals.

rhhardin said...

Eagle vs Shark (2007) has a New Zealander telling an Australian dialect joke for humorous effect.

rhhardin said...

Twas Brillig in other words (scroll down to Untitled).

Smilin' Jack said...

This stupid vandalism took place in Australia...

Well, if you were upside-down all the time you'd probably do stupid things too. It affects the brain. Don't blame the victim.

Quaestor said...

Though I've heard from an unreliable source that, way-back-when, half the population of Virginia was (were?) "transported" indentured criminals.

Wrong. Indentured servants in colonial America were seldom criminals. Mostly they fit two categories: debtors and younger sons without property. The indentured could discharge a debt by "selling" themselves into servitude for a contracted period. Those without property would also trade a contract of servitude for a the costs of transportation.

mockturtle said...

My ancestor, John Howland, was an young indentured servant aboard the Mayflower. He did this voluntarily to pay for his journey and had to work for a number of years to pay off the debt. Then he was a Freeman in the colony.

Paul Snively said...

Ron Winkleheimer: I always thought the most interesting part of that passage is:

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

Especially in light of George Orwell and political correctness.

Defining words is just the starting point.


I think Anglican deacon, mathematics don, and literary nonsense author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson had a very keen sensitivity to the use of language, the difference between symbol and what is signified by it, and the role of interpretation—along with the danger of overinterpretation.

The man was a genius, and sometimes it's easy to overlook the literal genius amidst the deliberate nonsense.

Bob Matthews said...

> "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

That depends on what the meaning of "is" is?

Paul said...

Actually Humpty Doo was a fighter base for the US in WW2.

http://www.flyingknights.net/library.htm

Read about it and such men as Richard Bong entitled 'Bing Bang' Bong and the Humpty Doos.

Ctmom4 said...

I think that Humpty Dumpty quote is the only thing the Clintons retained from their law school years.