In my first collection of my own funny pieces, you’ll meet:
At a cheap Muskoka aquarium, camp kids visit a burnt-out dolphin named Flippant. Poor Flippant just doesn’t care anymore. He looks at the kiddies crowding around his tank, blows them an aquatic raspberry, and swims over to the far side of the tank. This summer our class took a pass on a Flippant visit. Last summer members of the Junior Good Guys Youth of Tomorrow Club had visited the dolphin and been apprehended in the act of teaching Flippant to ingest marijuana pellets hidden in a folded sardine.
• Two camp counsellors discuss the parents who brought their kids to camp.
Nancy : Did you meet the Whittakers? Primitivo!
Joan: How primitive?
Nancy : Mrs. Whittaker carries her younger children in a fold of tissue attached to her abdomen!
Joan: My god! You mean . . .?
Nancy : Yes, Mrs. Whittaker is a marsupial. Of course, she’s driving a Bentley, so we have to be nice.
• There are exciting book reviews to catch up on.
My Life in the Garden, by Pillory Thrips-Gibbett, Stone Books, $23.
Here at last are the memoirs of Miss Thrips-Gibbett, the world’s leading authority on ornamental thistles, who is also plucky Canadian-born headmistress of Kidneystoun, her no-nonsense gardening school for British girls nestled in an old quarry in the Cotswolds. We’ve all read of Miss Pillory who begins each semester by scraping the bare arms of her students repeatedly with crown-of-thorns branches and having all the girls chirp in unison, “Ouchies! Ouchies!” Also included is an instructive list of novel uses for those leftover lengths of garden twine that hang in the woodshed. These are detailed in her chapter entitled “Bondage Tips for School Leavers.”
Those are the appetizers to our wee feast. Enjoy more when you buy the book in bookstores everywhere in Canada. Or order it online.
“Casselman’s Monty Python Universe
of erudite silliness”
© 2005 Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Sat. Nov. 12 2005
As The Canoe Tips By Bill Casselman
McArthur & Company, 146 pages, $12.95
By Willa McLean
Bill Casselman has been described as“Canada ’s funniest collector of salty sayings.” Canadians must agree. Casselman has written nine popular books on etymology, and two of his Canadian Sayings collections remained on the Top Ten Canadian Non-Fiction lists for over 60 weeks.
As the Canoe Tips is a departure from Casselman’s usual format. In the first part of the book, “Funny Pieces,” we meet “characters out on a day pass from my subconscious,” and in Part 2, “Words in My Life,” Bill airs his linguistic “cosseted peeves” with vicious glee.
In Part 1 as we read the diary of one of the deliciously demented counselors of “Camp Shining Water” we learn about Flippant, the burnt-out dolphin at the Haliburton aquarium. Flippant blows bored aquatic raspberries at the kiddies crowded around his tank. Perhaps Flippant was waiting for the return of the Junior Good Guys Youth of Tomorrow, who were apprehended feeding him marijuana pellets hidden in folded sardines?
The Funny Pieces include a treatise on how to “absterge” or blow your nose; a lengthy list of side effects of an exciting new drug “that doesn’t cure anything”; seven reasons why Ontario and Canada will not join the U.S.-Iraq War; and the 12 politically correct days of Canadian Christmas.
Then about Casselman’s folk tales. There aren’t many happy endings. If Bill had written the Three Bears, Goldilocks would have become an ursine lunch. The story of Mibbley Falls is an extreme example of his subversively twisted plots.
Another story, “Charity Rings a Bell,” involved a young lad collecting for Kyknothreptic Orphans of Ontario. To qualify, the recipient would have to be “a child abandoned by his or her parents, near water, in the environs of Stratford Ontario, then found on the river bank and raised by swans.” The K word has legitimate Greek roots.
In Part 2, Words of My Life, Casselman has issues with the P in ptarmigan, and the origins of Easter, but his most intense vitriol is saved for the word “nordicity,” his “all-time, least-favourite Canadian word.” He blames government bureaucracy for the creation of such “weasel words” and other gobbledygook.
Casselman’s peeves are balanced by his sharing, “A Risley Act”-“the biggest, best laugh of my life.” He also inadvertently reveals a delight in Canada ’s passing seasons. About a new spring sun in Ontario: “Warmth gongs a deep bell in us, and calls us North.” Of camp: “Wonder held our breath all through July and August, as summer brimmed with awe.” Casselman describes fall as the “forlorn and lovely mellowing of the year.” His recollection of a boy’s ride on the giant Ferris wheel at the CNE on a hot breezy August night is fondly evocative.
A word of advice; leave your politically correct sensibilities behind before you enter Casselman’s Monty Python Universe of erudite silliness. In “As the Canoe Tips” Bill proves that he can be outrageous on almost any subject.
Willa McLean is a freelance writer who lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
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The cover of "As The Canoe Tips"