Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tylenol, Frugal and Cubby Holes

I was pleasantly surprised a few months ago when I read Beowulf (translation by Seamus Heaney) to find that I liked it. I have seen it on lists of “must read” books since I was in high school but had never read it (at least to my recollection) nor had a desire to read it. Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language so I had my doubts that I would enjoy it, let alone understand it. And I didn’t understand all of it but that did not matter because of the enjoyment I received from the words and sounds.

"They arrived with their mail shirts/
Glittering, silver-shining links/
Clanking an iron song as they came./
Sea-weary still, they set their broad,/
Battle-hardened shields in rows/
Along the wall , then stretched themselves/
On Herot's benches. Their armor rang;/
Their ash-wood spears stood in a line,/
Gray-tipped and straight: the Geats' war-gear/
Were honored weapons." pg. 33, lines 321-330

That is good! If this selection does not excite your ears, try reading it out loud. Or try reading the 23rd Psalm (in English) and figure out why it is so pleasing to read (besides the wonderful message!).

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Many years ago our family was invited to a friend’s house for a Christmas party. We visited in the front room and admired the live Christmas tree with hundreds of lights and ornaments. Pollie loved putting up and decorating the tree and did it herself, no help from her husband or kids, because she wanted to. As we sat there nibbling on cookies she informed us she had a headache and was going to take a Tylenol. Philip burst out laughing. She said it again “Tylenol.” More laughter. Now we all were laughing. What was there about that word that struck him funny? After that whenever Pollie saw Phil she would get up close to him and say “Tylenol” and he would respond with joyful laughter. I don’t know how long the two of them carried on with this.

Just this Christmas season when Phil was helping put away decorations in the attic, Paul told him to put something away in one of the cubby holes. Phil burst out laughing. Paul repeated the words “cubby holes.” More laughter.

He went through the “frugal” stage a few years ago, even calling Paul Mr. Frugal so he could laugh. So why? Why Tylenol, frugal and cubby holes and other words? Why do some words bring on laughter? I suppose it has something to do with why we enjoy certain readings, how the words sound to us. I don’t know for sure but this I do know—Phil’s response to certain words always catches us off guard and causes us to join in the laughter.

Pretty cheesy grin!


  1. You're probably right. There must be something that tickles his ear.

  2. That was the same evening that we discovered when all our guests had gone home, that there was a lot of hot apple cider still simmering on the stove top. As we were standing there our youngest walked in and poured a cup of cider into the kettle. As it turned out he had been doing so all night. Sorry everyone, but we have been laughing ever since. Hey Phil, TYLENOL..Pollie