Gelett Burgess and cursive writing

cursive When I was younger, well, let us say much younger, back in the day when recess consisted of jump robes and hopscotch, there was one event that occurred which truly made you feel as though you were growing up. It was the time when the teacher announced that she was going to teach us how to write in cursive. Writing in cursive was a rite of passage…a style of penmanship that was introduced at the very end of second grade…directly before summer vacation… so that it gave you just a hint of what would be in store for you when you returned to third grade.

Writing in cursive separated you from the lower elementary classes; for if you could write it then you could also read it; with its swirly letters flaunting curlicues and slants… like deciphering a secret language… it was called “script”.

But today the teaching of cursive is becoming more and more obsolete… so much so that there are debates whether or not they should demote it from scholarship at all… Some arguments contest that it an antiquated skill; a form of writing that is not needed with the advent of computers and the like.
So, like many other things we may find that it will become a lost art, out with the old and in with the new…. However what will really be lost with its notoriety of becoming passé will be the extinction of a youthful celebration in one’s life.

Gelett BurgessToday blog brings back the esteemed thinker: Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) American poet, artist, and humorist. Best noted for his iconoclast creations, the Goops, those less than perfect children! As an illustrator, Burgess created not only the persona of his characters, but also what they looked like, round headed and wiggly!

From his book titled More Goops and How Not to Be One (1908), I have extracted the poem “Write Right”. For those of you who may have encountered a ‘stringent’ penmanship teacher in your youth, this may hit home a wee bit more!

“If you were writing with your nose,
You’d have to curl up, I suppose,
And lay your head upon your hand;
But now, I cannot understand,
For you are writing with your pen!
So sit erect, and smile again!
You need not scowl because you write,
Nor hold your fingers quite so tight!
And if you gnaw the holder so,
They’ll take you for a Goop, you know!”

First image: Elementary school children standing and watching teacher write at blackboard, Washington, D.C., Johnston, Frances Benjamin, photographer, 1899?

Esteemed thinker: Gelett Burgess

the goops Manners are the simple etiquettes between humans that can dictate whether an interaction will be a pleasing or unpleasing experience. Manners are not instinctive; for example we will not find a pair of dogs discussing which one will have the bone but rather they will grab and grapple until the victor is munching happily away at the marrow.

Instead, manners are learned activities that can be passed down from generation to generation like grandmother’s linen tablecloth. But unlike that tablecloth which only dons the table on special occasions; we can only hope that manners are always showing. Alas, this is not always the case and what was once considered ill mannered are now simply part of the norm.

Let me present a few examples of manner interpretations having changed through time. In the earlier part of the 20th century, speaking on the telephone in public was conducted in a private “telephone booth” so as not only to maintain some modicum of privacy but also as consideration to others around. Today, speaking on a cell phone is as conducted everywhere and those around, whether they like it or not, are subjected to its intrusion.

Food today has been packaged in a fashion whereby children hardly need to use any utensils but rather finger their way through a meal; yogurt is squeezed through tubes, chicken is pre-cut as finger- food, and fruit is rolled into plastic-like material to be peeled and eaten. Even waffles are now designed to be neatly fit in the hand and dunked in syrup without the assistance of a fork. Often table manners have been modified for convenience.

And then there was the removing of a man’s hat when indoors, which was once considered good manners but is now regarded as quite archaic.

However, as times have changed our interpretations of manners the one conduct that has not gone out-of-style is the custom of please and thank you whereupon I say, I am pleased that you have stopped by and thank you for taking time from your busy day to read this post! And oh yes … have a most pleasant day!!

Gelett Burgess Today’s post acquaints you with the esteemed thinker: Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) American poet, artist, and humorist. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, his career began after graduating from MIT with an engineer degree. Best known today as the creator of the Goops and the famous Purple Cow verse, he was also the author of many books and a brilliant, iconoclastic American humorist.

From his title, More Goops and How not to be Them, I bring you one of his poems, “At Table” which will indeed fit neatly into today’s post. Enjoy!

At Table

Why is it Goops must always wish
To touch each apple on the dish?
Why do they never neatly fold
Their napkins until they are told?
Why do they play with food, and bite
Such awful mouthfuls? Is it right?
Why do they tilt back in their chairs?
Because they’re Goops! So no one cares!

First image: 1900