Posts by Dr. Boli


Charles Baudelaire giggling at a particularly outrageous pun.

The modernist poet Alouet LaPlage once wrote the same poem as an erotic ode to his mistress and a commemorative verse for the opening of a shopping plaza in Lille.

Pierre Corneille was told by his high-school creative-writing teacher that he was cut out to be a technical writer at best.

In his off hours, Charles Baudelaire liked to sit in the bright sunshine and read Asterix comic books.

François Villon borrowed the idea of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor from the legends of Robin Hood, but was never able to implement the second part of the program successfully.

According to his biographer, Paul Verlaine wrote 437 poems on the subject of absinthe, all but half a dozen of them illegibly blurred and covered with green stains.


Dear Dr. Boli: My sister is getting married in May, and she insists on having three Elvis impersonators for her bridesmaids. This, of course, has caused a heated argument in our family over the obvious question: viz., what is the proper plural of Elvis? —Sincerely, Miss Aralia Throttle, D.Litt.

Dear Madam: The answer depends on etymology. You will find that this principle holds true for most of the vital questions: when in doubt, turn to etymology, and you will find the answer. In this case, the ending -is is common to Latin and Greek. If it were a Greek term, the proper plural of Elvis would be Elvides. The letter V is not native to classical Greek, however, so the answer is probably to be sought from Latin. The most correct plural of Elvis would then be Elves. Make sure to pronounce both syllables, of course, or you will just sound silly.


Dear Dr. Boli: This sausage says it was made from “uncured pork.” What does that mean? —Sincerely, Otto von Bismarck.

Dear Sir: It means that, whatever disease that pig had, that was what it died from.


Dear Dr. Boli: In light of the current situation regarding the blockage of the Suez Canal, do you think it might be the proper time for suitable authorities to reconsider the route forged by General Chesney’s Euphrates Expedition? While I grant that towing cargo vessels via wagon across the Syrian desert might be a considerable challenge, the likelihood of ships being sunk by a hurricane strike on the Euphrates River remains an insignificant risk. If nothing else, it will probably be faster than the antecanalian route around the Cape. —Sincerely, Colin.

Dear Sir: It seems that every generation is doomed to have its Suez crisis. This should teach us something about canals and inland shipping in general. The clear solution, then, is not to dislodge ships when they become tightly wedged, but to send more ships after them, from both directions, until the entire canal has become one dense wad of ships. Then we can build a railroad across the decks.


Our frequent correspondent “RepubAnon” asks,

Is there a cat-resistant ink well? (Nothing is cat-proof to a feline determined to remind the primates who is the boss.)

It would indeed be difficult to imagine much of anything that would resist the assault of a determined cat. Much ingenuity went into designing inkwells that were nearly impossible to spill, usually by giving them broad bases that resist tipping. But a cat would inevitably dip an experimental paw in the ink, and then, discovering that a foreign substance had polluted the paw, would begin vigorous flicking. Somewhere in the course of it the inkwell would be knocked off the desk.

Instead of adapting the inkwell, therefore, Dr. Boli would suggest adapting the room to the inevitable. One might consider speckled wallpaper and a Rorschach-patterned rug. These decorations would only acquire more character when the cat discovered the inkwell and allowed natural feline instincts to operate.