It gives one a guilty pleasure to read a funny charming obituary. That’s the way I felt when I read about Professor Allen Read demise. We have Douglas Martin to thank for writing such a fine piece.
This doesn’t seem like a very good time for humankind what with war & God knows what else brewing seemingly everywhere. Maybe this will make you feel a touch better.
Allen Read (the hyperlink is long ‘dead,’ but this is the original source) was a Columbia University (my alma mater) English professor who died recently at 96. If you love language, slang and dirty words (studied in a chaste way of course), take a look at his 2002 obituary.
Among other things, he was the first person to uncover the origin of the phrase “OK.” Read commented wonderfully and succinctly on the pleasure of language:
Mr. Read saw words as playthings and told The New Yorker that ‘jubilance is an explanation for a lot of the things that happen in language.’
Considering how many ways politicians & other human hacks degrade the language, I think we need a lot more jubilance, don’t you? Can you think of many people who would drive cross country with their wives & stop at highway rest stops in order to note down bathroom graffiti?