14 Oct. 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project

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Taken For Granite

My friend Heather tells me "The French call it 'staircase humor.'"  It is the well-known phenomenon of thinking of the right thing to say when it's too late.  She mentioned the term when she and I were galumphing down 5th Avenue in Manhattan, after an entirely-too-satisfying dinner.  This was long ago, while Monty Python was in its original American run.  I was a fan, and, worse, Heather was British*, and could do the "Pepperpot voices" exquisitely.  For whatever reason, possibly because we needed to walk more slowly and breathe more deeply, we engaged in a mock-Python argument, complete with accents and voluble discord.

It so happens that while we were in "discussion," a man walking his dog looked at us and made a derisive comment about what a "fine couple" we were.  I looked pointedly at him, and then at his dog, and made a similarly derisive comment about him and his companion.  Although I don't remember the exact wording, Heather and I heard no more from him and continued our Pythonesque extravaganza for an additional block or so.  It was when that was complete that Heather explained that it was very rare that one said exactly the right thing at exactly the right timeas I had to the dog-walker and told me about "staircase humor."

Preamble now complete, let me tell you what I should have said to the uni-l-ular Michele who delivered herself of the "Rockport" theory, which Michele was my employee at the time:

"Michele, I am your boss, you know.  You shouldn't take me for granite."

Of course I didn't and couldn't.  I was laughing too hard, and in any event I only thought of the riposte when the moment had passed, just as the French people on the staircase would have had it.


Although my new computer has eaten my life and robbed me of time I might have spent blogging, it has not for an instant prevented me from having stupid notions about what I should babble in this space.  It has been my practice to, each time one of these notions furrows my cranial components,  write a sentence or two about it so that I can later turn it into a blogitem.  Alas, this list has itself become greater in extent than any of the blogitems it has engendered, and the earlier items thereon seem to be divorced from even my own tenuous reality.  Recognizing that I shall never be able to do the list justice, I shall instead do my millireaders justice and winnow the list, while gleaning from it items that still seem to make sense perhaps a sentence or paragraph.  By this means I hope to make the list manageable and possibly even relevant.  There is, by the way, a name for this listing disease:  "Ideaphoria."  I am always intrigued to find that things that one thinks of as things have actual names.  Two of my favorite examples:  The antimacassar and the modesty panel.

Generic Names

I had always been curious about where drugs' "generic names" come from.  Although the drug companies pay consultants and marketing departments a fortune to come up with trade names such as Lipitor and Zoloft, the generic names, atorvastatin and sertraline, have to come from somewhere, too, and I can't imagine paying a consultant big bux for either of them.  Yet, they didn't exist until a drug company invented them, so how could they have "generic" names at all?  The answer is all too simple:

"In the United States, an official body—the United States Adopted Names (USAN) Council—assigns the generic name."

You can see how much fun I was going to have writing a blogitem about that!  I don't even think that USDUC has anything to do with them.  One list entry down, hundreds to go...

*I am not sure whether "was British" is appropriate.  She has recently become a citizen of the United States, which may or may not be compatible with her remaining British.  I look forward to additional voluble discord.

NP:  "The Big Wheel" - Rush

© 2007
Richard Factor

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