This page is devoted to “Short, Pithy and/or Pissy Posts about Parkinson’s, gardening or anything really … but uncharacteristically for me, I must say it in 750 words or less! Merriam-Webster defines pithy as “using few words in a clever and effective way” while pith in this context is “substantial quality (as of meaning)” or the essential part, the core. Pissy is a condition that happens to us all from time to time – live with it!
The phrase “short and pithy” jumps off the page as the perfect dust jacket endorsement for… let’s see .. an essay critiquing President Trump’s communication strategies. These book flap notes are so important in book publishing that they are seldom entrusted to the author and contracted instead to specialists who produce lines like “In a world gone bad, only a band of misfits can save them all from the impending doom.” (1)
Similarly, news headlines are not written by the journalist covering the story and the headline must sell the newspaper e.g., “Man bites dog” sells.
The memorable lyric or “hook” is a staple in the music industry compelling people to go about their daily lives singing or humming “YMCA” from The Village People, “Beat it” from Michael Jackson, “Dancing Queen” from ABBA, “Wild Thing” from The Troggs or “If I were a rich man” from Fiddler on the Roof. The hook ensures longevity in the marketplace.
Those three words, “short and pithy,” promise that the piece will be clever, entertaining, educational and written by an erudite, erasable and acerbic character. I do not warrant that my personal qualities meet that test but I can promise brevity such that this page can be read in fewer than three public transit stops or in the time it takes to drive from St. Benedict to Pilger, Saskatchewan for The Pumpkin Festival (look it up.)
Critics will argue that “short and pithy” itself is redundant and should be shortened to read simply, “pithy.” Surely, this line of thinking leads us into an examination of the adequacy of the words “pithy” and “short.” Is this additional time and effort worthwhile just to satiate curiosity? The short answer is “no.” The pithy answer is … “short is a long time coming.” The “pissy” answer is … who the hell are you to determine the quality of pith or how short short is?
Speeches by politicians in North America are short compared to speeches by politicians in Latin America e.g., Cuba’s Fidel Castro could speak for 8 – 9 hours with hardly a pause. I once sat in the pouring rain listening to whispered interpretation of a four-hour speech by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. I fear it might have been longer had the rain not dampened the atmosphere. Interestingly, Chavez referenced his “good friend Fidel” early to underscore the political and ideological parallels and to prepare us for an oratorical marathon.
You could argue that Castro and Chavez were “long and pithy” except that this description is a non sequitur as if to prove the grammatical correctness of “short and pithy.” On the other hand, a speech by President Trump may well be “short and pissy” although not likely “pithy.”
The phrase “long and boring” may be used quite safely in opposition to “short and pithy.” On the other hand, the phrase “short and boring” is most often interpreted to mean that the author knew when to throw in the towel and bring a particularly superfluous piece of fluff to a screeching halt … as I am doing here.
Now that we have the basics down, check back later for more Short, Pithy and/or Pissy Posts.
If I was a headline writer….
Daring Robbery in Neurology Clinic: Thieves shout,”Freeze! Nobody move!”
(1) Thomas, Richard, “Writing Compelling Dust Jacket Copy,” in Storyville, May 9, 2017
© Stan Marshall (The PD Gardener) 2017