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Dr Johnson's Cucumber

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629251.  Sat Oct 24, 2009 5:47 pm Reply with quote

I noticed that the QI quotation for the 21st was Johnson's oft-repeated, “A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing."

I happened to be reading Patrick Dillon's The Last Revolution and came across a remark made by the Bishop of Peterborough to the Earl of Nottingham in 1689 referring to the new oath that they were to swear to William and Mary: "I regard it like a plate of cucumber dressed with oil and vinegar and yet fit for nothing but to throw out the window".

These words were delivered some 20 years before Johnson was born, so it looks very much like he nicked them.


630247.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:42 pm Reply with quote

I like that, ex.

We might nick it ourselves and put it in the 2nd edition of Advanced Banter.

We've already found two mistakes in the US version If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?

Prof Wind Up Merchant
630288.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:41 pm Reply with quote

Dr Johnson had a cucumber. This is interesting. Did he call it Cyril?

630334.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:58 pm Reply with quote

I've got an image of Miriam Margolis popping her head round and cackling "Wayhay, get it? Cucumber, sounds like...."

630346.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:23 pm Reply with quote

According to Boswell, Johnson may have been paraphrasing lines from 'A Beggars Opera' (Gay).
Anyway, while reading about cucumbers in literature, I came across this gem:
“Who coined these words that strike me numb? . . .
The cuke, the glad, the lope, the mum.”
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)


Ion Zone
630352.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:29 pm Reply with quote

There is one I noticed, the Billy Connelly one is miss-phrased.

Ion Zone
630369.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:04 pm Reply with quote

Here's a good one, don't know if it's in there though.

Robert Benchley wrote:
Defining and analyzing humor is a pastime of humorless people.

630378.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:34 pm Reply with quote

OK. The bishop would have been Thomas White, and the earl, Daniel Finch.
After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, there was some controversy over whether William of Orange should be considered King or Regent. Thomas White was one of 9 bishops (known as the non-jurors) who refused to take an oath recognizing William as King, and Daniel Finch was the leader of the parliamentary opposition to the idea.
It seems to me likely that they would be taking the matter seriously (Bishop Thomas had already been in trouble with James VII (II if you're English) in regard to the Declaration of Indulgence and had, surprisingly, been acquitted; so he would be familiar with the seriousness of his position). So, it seems to me that they would be more likely to be discussing their political and legal strategy than making off-the-cuff jokes about cucumbers. I'd like to hear something more definitive.

630384.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:51 pm Reply with quote

Well, the first move would be to have a look at the book I cited, but short of that I can tell you that the reference is taken from Lord Ailesbury's Memoirs. He, as you could no doubt tell me, was a great supporter of James II/VII. He was also an eyewitness to the exchange mentioned. Subsequently, of course, both Nottingham and Ailesbury did take the oath and the Bishop of Peterborough declined so to do. I don't know that the Bishop's comment is an off-the-cuff joke so much as it is his opinion that the oath is a thing which interests him not, like the aforesaid cucumber.

I'm really not sure what else I can add.

630386.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:53 pm Reply with quote

That would do it, as far as I'm concerned :)

The book in question is on my must-get-at-some-point list.

630387.  Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:01 pm Reply with quote

I can't say I'd recommend it, tbh. I sort of have to read it, but it's not the smoothest read I've ever encountered. He jumps about rather a lot and treats many areas I'd like to get more depth on with almost breathless haste and areas I could frankly not care less about with loving detail. But, that is the fault of his sources to some extent, they are largely of the personal memoir variety (which lends it an immediacy, but glosses over the analysis, the whys and the wherefores that are of more interest to the historian than the bare events).

630650.  Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:47 pm Reply with quote

When I was little one of my teddies was called "Kewkum".

(think about it)

Prof Wind Up Merchant
630651.  Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:48 pm Reply with quote

Or the cucumber could have been called Cuthbert.

Ion Zone
630653.  Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:00 pm Reply with quote

I love that Bondee!

630724.  Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:13 pm Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
I've got an image of Miriam Margolis popping her head round and cackling "Wayhay, get it? Cucumber, sounds like...."


huge green penis


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