Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'What A Coincidence!'

Caution: Sensitive young persons and some members of both political parties may find the following material offensive.

California’s Republican governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently stirred up a linguistic fuss with an allegedly rude message that accompanied his veto of a bill sponsored by a Democratic legislator who had heckled him and called him a liar. Did Schwarzenegger send an acrostic insult along with his reasons for vetoing the bill?

Acrostics are an ancient form of wordplay, in which the initial letters of the lines in a poem spell words.  The Greek word akrostichis means “the beginning of the line.” Greek poets loved to write acrostic love poems, spelling out the name of the beloved.  In England the acrostic experienced a revival under Queen Elizabeth I, who delighted in seeing her name spelled out in verses written in her praise. Queen Victoria wrote and published acrostic puzzles herself.

You be the judge of Schwarzenegger’s intent. This is the message sent with his veto of a bill dealing with financing for the port of San Francisco:

For some time now I have lamented the fact that major issues are overlooked while many
unnecessary bills come to me for consideration. Water reform, prison reform, and health
care are major issues my Administration has brought to the table, but the Legislature just
kicks the can down the alley.

Yet another legislative year has come and gone without the major reforms Californians
overwhelmingly deserve.  In light of this, and after careful consideration, I believe it is
unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.

When questioned about the possibility that an acrostic message was addressed to the legislator, a Schwarzenegger spokesman said, “My goodness!  What a coincidence!”  Mathematicians who claim to know how to figure such odds placed the possibility of its happening by chance as 10 million to 1—which makes it slightly more likely than winning the California lottery.

The cynical and sometimes foul-mouthed Bard of Buffalo Bayou penned this ode to the Gov.:

    How very effective I found your acrostic!
    Ornery enemies better beware.
    Lines like yours can be very caustic,
    You’d better be sure you construct them with care.

    Some folks might find your message offensive,
    How they would think that I really don’t know.
    It must be those Democrats—they’re too apprehensive
    To tell a coincidence from a clever bon mot.


  1. I doubt seriously the acrostic can be "blamed" on Ahhhnuld, anyway ... (a) He lacks the creativity to come up with such a message; and (b) He has perfectly good speechwriters for that. Wish I knew who THEY were. (Reminds me of the good old days of "The West Wing" and the bons mots of Aaron Sorkin, in the personae of Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn.)

  2. (And can not-so-young persons not be sensitive too?)

  3. As Socrates surely would have said had he been asked, the not-so-young may be sensitive, but, owing to the wisdom acquired with age, are less likely to be offended.