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Best-of joke of the week: "The Scottish Anatomy Professor"

Posted by John McIntyre at 4:00 PM | | Comments (10)


Dear Prof. McI.,

Hmm......... rather unfortunate video freeze-framed hand gesture there, particularly juxtaposed w/ your slightly evocative (for certain perverse imaginations like mine) best-joke-of-the-week title---"The Scottish Anatomy Professor".

Wasn't it the classic 5th century Greek sophist Protagoras whose great claim-to-enduring-fame was that "Man is the measure of all things"? (There were a few added bits to his rather bold-for-that-era statement, as well.)

Poor Protagoras apparently accidently drowned while being hotly pursued by authorities----the Greek thought-police-of-his-day---- for heresy, or some related trumped up charge. Where was Archimedes when he needed him? You know that whole displacement-of-a- body-in-water bit? (Groan)

John, I was hoping your unwitting 'spanning' hand gesture in the above video image might be descriptive of say a 'keeper-length' Spey River trout, and surely not the measure of a certain turgid monstrous male appendage that shall remain nameless........ keeping high-minded blog decorum ever in mind.

In the joke, your naive Miss McGregor may have, indeed, harbored dirty thoughts, but perhaps the young lassie's hopes, though frankly verging on the physically freakish, sprang eternal. Just sayin'.

What's that ancient Highland Scots' saying, "It's not so much the length of your caber that counts, as the vigor of your tosses." * (Gives a whole new meaning to a 'woodie', and Highland 'games', don't it? HA!)

Continuing in the 'evocative' hand gesture vein, I recall w/ great fondness one of my favorite Larsen Far Side cartoons where he's drawn a gaggle of old geezers sitting on the sun porch of the "Cartoonists Retirement Home" , w/ one of the retirees broadly stretching out his arms, boasting in the caption below, " Oh yeah? Well I once drew a nose THIS big!" (The old codger must have been an ancient Disney animator who had the good fortune to have worked on the Pinocchio feature back in Disney Studios' heyday........ or else a chronic hyperbolator.)

As a professional cartoonist myself, I recall how deeply (directly to my funny bone) that particular cartoon resonated w/ me some 25 years ago (and my fellow studio cartoonist, as well.). And now that I've been retired from the industry for almost four years , it has even more poignancy, and is just as hilarious. I guess even we, generally humble, cartoonists have a competitive streak, now and again?

@Patricia the Terse, now don't go bemoaning the Scottish theme here. Clearly our dear blogmeister McIntyre, w/ obvious deep Caledonian familial roots, started the haggis rolling. HA!

*Completely made up that caber-tossing (alleged) saying, as if you folks didn't already surmise.

Have a super remains-of-the-week, y'all.


He may, Alex, have deep Caledonian roots, but that attempt at a Scottish accent was fairly awful, wasn't it? Not quite Dick-Van-Dyke-Cockney awful, but fairly awful nonetheless. It was sort of Scottish via Irish via American via Japanese, didn't you think?


"Ouch". Indeed !!!

Sir Picky old lad, that's some mean bee you've got in yer tam-o'-shanter
there. Did the haggis not agree w/ you. HA!

Be gentle, old boy. Our dear professor is a sensitive soul, whose intentions are generally good, but like many of us, occasionally falls short on the execution. Happens to the best of us.

Prof. McI. never really claimed to be a master of the Scottish brogue, anyhow, and from my perspective appeared to me that in the telling of this particular joke-of-the-week-redux he seemed kind of tentative, or perhaps merely ambivalent as to whether to really lay on a thick Scots accent, full throttle, or just add a slight lilt here-and-there for 'local' effect, or some narrative emphasis.

At any rate, i think you may have been picking up a bit of a Hebridian cum Kentuckian twang there. Frankly, any hint of Japanese speech inflection totally escaped me.

Picky, i always get a charge out of folks attempting to capture the rolling, crisp crackle of Sir Sean Conerery's heavy Scottish accent, which is very distinctive, and has clearly stood him in good stead throughout his long and distinguished acting career. Must have had a bit of the alluring charm w/ the lassies over the years, as well.

Now renowned singer Tom Jones, although not a Scot, but a proud Welshman thru-and-thru, has an equally engaging, identifiable, yet more lyrical, lilting speaking voice----his English speech likely colored deeply by his formative years growing up in Wales where he apparently spoke his native Welsh tongue, exclusively, well into his teens. So the legend goes, I'm told.

On the other hand, the veteran Scottish born-and-raised multi-European- Order-of Merit-winning champion golfer, Colin Montgomerie has only a very slight trace of his Caledonian upbringing in his conversational speech. I believe he received his middle-school education in England, and later attended a major U.S. university on a golf scholarship; which likely led to a gradual dilution of his earlier distinct Scottish accent. He talks like your typical educated, worldly English bloke............ much like you Picky, I would guess. Hmm....... maybe more like another Colin w/ Scottish roots----actor Colin Firth.

At least our good professor got his point across in the telling, even though a few private speech lessons from Sir Sean at his Bermuda estate, sipping some fine Speyside single malt to mellow out the vowels sounds, might be in order.



P.S.: ----Picky, very saddened to hear of the most recent passing of one of Britain's (dare I say the world's) true cultural treasures, the consummate, IMHO, incomparable satirical illustrator, Ronald Searle, at the fairly ripe age of 91.

I just adored his unique scratchy, hyper-detailed, often-verging-on-the-wickedly-grotesque pen-brush-and-ink graphic style. His biting wit was always honed to the nth degree. Just laugh-out-loud funny stuff.

One of my favorite of Searle's many published books was his limited edition, 'History of the Hudson Bay Company', especially commission by said venerable enterprise to mark its tricentenary (?) of operations in North America. The cover graphic pretty much said it all.

Searle drew a motley mix of fur-bearing animals---- moose, caribou, deer, mink, beaver, otter, ermine--- all lined up outside the front entrance of a typical early log cabin-type Hudson Bay Co. trading post, literally bearing their own pelts -in-paw', each totally stripped naked of their pelts, clearly reluctant to turn them in for filthy lucre. Sad-sacks all. Absolutely priceless.

Ironically, Searle should likely have died decades ago from a combination of torture, hard-labor, and starvation in the enemy Japanese military interment camps in Burma (now Myanmar), where he was held captive as a Brit prisoner of war from 1941 until the Great War's end in 1945.

Amazingly, he managed to create, in secret, hundreds of on-site drawings-from-life during those hellish years of enslavement, deprivation, and hard labor, often secreting these precious sketches beneath the corpses of fellow British comrades who had sadly perished from incessant torture, starvation, or the dreaded cholera. The japanese captors were reluctant to deal immediately w/ the diseased dead bodies, for fear of contagion.

Alas, Ronald Searle was clearly meant to survive, and eventually thrive as one of Great Britain's most gifted visual artists of our time. He shall be truly missed.

You’re quite right, Alex; that was a bit hard on the poor chap. Trouble is what was thrown off in a lighthearted way last night is this morning about as amusing as a stubbed toe. My apologies, John. And while I am putting my head on the block and you are drawing your snickersnee I might as well admit that the Japanese bit was, I’m afraid, merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude.

Yes, Alex, Ronald Searle was a wonderful artist. I’m one of the many who have his partnership with Geoffrey Willans in the Molesworth books as an ineradicable part of our mental baggage. Molesworth fans are likely to drop into Molesworthese at any moment, as any fule kno.

Just be grateful that I didn't attempt an Irish accent.


I was just trying to pull your chain a bit, old boy, re/ your slightly harsh assessment of our dear professor's 'awkward' handling of the Scottish brogue in his little joke-of-the-week session. I realize you were merely having some innocent fun at the expense of our esteemed blogmeister. No biggie.

I'm fairly certain our John has developed a rather thick 'skin' over his many years toiling in the journalistic and academic trades. Any criticism, whether done w/ tongue-in-cheek, or w/ a more admonitioning intent, just tends to roll off his back (side?) like the proverbial water off a canard's, (or mallard's). A Ruddy duck, I'm not so sure.

Hmm..... or maybe not? I shouldn't really speak for our kind professor. He's a big, grownup lad, and can easily defend himself, no doubt.

Picky, without benefit of a quickie Wiki search I earlier kind of just took a blind stab at the title of that zany Searle tome re/ the history of the Canadian fur -trade, and proved to be sorely off the mark. The actual titled is "Great Fur Opera: Annals of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1670--1970".

At least I got the tricentenary bit correct, but managed to leave off the possessive "s" in "Hudson's". Oh well, can't win 'em all. Oh, and it was a collaborative effort, w/ Searle doing the illustrations and a Mr. Kildare Dobbs handling the witty prose.

I'll have to check out Searle's (Nigel) Molesworth efforts. Thus far they have mysteriously eluded me. Just the 'puddingly' name of Nigel W.'s school, i.e., St. Custard's, is enough to prick one's perverse curiosity.

Picky, I'm sure you would agree w/ me that Searle's, "Slightly Foxed/ Still Desirable: Ronald Searle's Wicked World of Book Collecting", is any ardent bibliophile's must-read? Not only was I buckled over in stitches of laughter while reading this book, but I actually learned quite a lot about the rather quirky, arcane, and fastidious netherworld of rare book collecting.

These avid classic tome collectors, (1st editions being the Holy Grail of the enterprise), in my view are about as odd, or let's just say eccentric, as us fanatic bird-watchers, when it comes down to attention to the finer details, and the almost manic, or fetishistic urge to collect. One for rare books, and complete collections thereof; and the other, for amassing the largest, most wowing bird life-list on the planet.

I highly recommend another early Searle work, namely, "Second Coming of Toulouse Lautrec". Even the book's title has a naughty imbedded double-entendre inference, and from there it's literally a hilarious comical descent into the Parisian demimonde of late 19th-century Paris, and the titillating antics of one of it's true modern art masters,

It's a delightfully fun and satirical romp, w/ Searle's ever-lively drawings having a decidedly low-angle POV; as if we were viewing the impish Lautrec's fine-de-siecle world from the artist's almost-always-looking-upwards perspective.

I recall a particularly brilliant horizontally rendered graphic image showing Searle's spot-on Lautrec, here in a mythic Old Testament Samson pose,(only clad in his signature little frumpy suit-coat, short trousers, bow-tie, pince-nez glasses, and jaunty bowler hat), arms spread-akimbo as if parting great marble temple columns. But in this spoof, it's the gorgeous, lithe naked thighs of a bevy of Parisian dance hall 'femmes' that replace the marble pillars.

Searle cannily cuts off the top frame of the shot at the base of the ample bare bottoms-and above, so the scene is dominated by these beautiful, taut gams, w/ Toulouse, cane-in-hand, looking upward w/ a look of sheer erotic longing, and anticipated carnal pleasure in his gaze. (A tough job, but somebody had to do it.)

From his magnificent cartooned felines, to his naughty boarding school girls, to his graphic musings on the elixir of the grape, to his wacko Dick Deadeye, to his fanciful animals both mythic and real, Searle rarely, if ever, failed to please his legions of loyal admirers. He was a true master of his craft, who entertained millions across the globe for decades. His legacy is immeasurable.

Ronald Searle, in his unique way, made living in this increasingly mad, mad, mad world of ours, far more bearable, and far less serious, or oppressive. You could not come away from reading any of his books without feeling more alive, enervated and perhaps a little more hopeful about your day(s) ahead.

R.I.P. great man!


Try this, Alex:

Drats! Picky.

Blimey, old lad! Your posted attached appears to be locked out to us over-the-Big-Briny-New-World folks.

(Curiously, this is often the case w/ attachments I try relay via e-mail to my brother, Don, back in eastern Canada from here in the States. Particularly items from Yahoo!, which is my homepage for news and such. Damn infernal internet!)

When I tried to click on to your attached site I got a perfunctory "Not found-404 / URL requested not found". Period end of story.

I'm sure I can just do a Wiki search of St. Custard's School, or Searle's Molesworth books, and discover oodles of good stuff there.

Incidentally, I donated $50.00 U.S. to the Wikipedia folks a few days ago, on the final day of their start-of-the-new-year, online fundraising drive. Honestly, I get so much use, intellectual pleasure, and invaluable information from this cool cyber-encyclopedia; and seeing those youthful, bright, intelligent, and optimistic faces of several of their major source writers, along w/ reading some of their engaging individual stories, on the Wiki home page-----well I just couldn't resist helping out financially in some small way.

Much like our national public radio, and our valuable PBS television programming, Wikipedia also depends, to a great degree, on 'the public'-----the ongoing generosity of listeners and viewers-------to support, and sustain them financially so that they can continue their invaluable service, and in turn advance their mission.

I suggest some of you fellow blog members should also strongly consider sending Wikipedia some money, particularly if you visit the site w/ great regularity. It's a good feeling to be just a small, yet integral part of an honorable and vital enterprise. And it's a tax deduction, to boot.

Try it.... you'll like it!


Alex, thanks for your tribute to Searle. As a cataloger (including the cataloging of rare books from time to time) I know and love "Slightly foxed/still desirable." I knew nothing of his personal history, however.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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