Saturday, October 05, 2013

Birthday Riddle

The funniest presidential riddle ever written was popular in the early 1880's.  It was created to poke fun at one of the most insipid presidents in the history of the United States.  See if you can guess which president to whom it refers.

Q: What is worse than chest arth?
A: Chester Arther (Arthur)


Cracks me up every time.  Can you guess which president?  That's right, Harry S Truman.  No, I josh.  Harry S Truman did not have a presidential riddle assigned to him, but he did have a pun, which was hilarious in its own right (get ready to hold your spleen): Harry Ass Truman.  Bet you never heard that before, huh?  Puns don't get much more hilarious than that.  It's interesting to note, by most accounts, he did not have a hairy ass.  But sometimes he would have a hair grow under his left thumbnail.  He would have to carve into his thumbnail with an awl and yank the hair out with a pair of tweezers.  This is where the popular term "holy thumbnail" was derived.  It actually has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, which is the popular lore.  But, that’s enough about Truman.

Oh, one more thing about Harry S Truman before I get back to the riddle discussion.  It is widely known that he did not have a middle name, and the “S” simply stood for “S”.  This is true as birth records indicate, but over time he earned the nickname “Sisyphus” because he was always rolling his balls.  He did not appreciate that nickname, but he got used to it.  He eventually grew to like it. It made him feel like one of the guys.  Later in life, he had his middle name legally changed to Sisyphus.

And now back to the riddle.  The riddle refers to Chester Arthur.  Who?  I said Chester Arthur.   “Who?” is the usual response I receive when I mention Chester Arthur in conversation (it occurs more often than you may think).  Most people I talk to don’t know who he is, and that offends me.  Not because I expect people to know all of the presidents (but how hard is it, really?), but I do expect them to know the funny looking ones.  For those of us who are lucky enough to know of the existence of Chester Arthur, we have been amused by his flamboyant facial hair and overall dopey appearance from the first time his picture was thrust upon us.  His facial hair is the primary attraction.  He grew a radical, never-before-seen hybrid of sidewhiskers (long sideburns that sometimes hang below the jawline) and friendly muttonchops (muttonchops connected by a mustache).  I can only imagine that he dreamed of becoming some sort of human-rodent mutant and was trying to get the mutation kick started in his DNA.  Either that or he had a bone to pick with Martin Van Buren and felt the need to one-up him.  Whatever the reason, the dude is fun to look at.  That alone should put him in the brains of US citizens.

Today is his birthday.  I don’t expect a federal holiday to be enacted for his legacy.  But it wouldn't hurt if a few drunks in the bars across America tipped a glass to him, or at least to his facial hair, on this day.   I’m not drunk, but I will tip a glass – Here’s to ya, old Chest Arth.  When I eventually give up in life, I plan to grow my facial hair in an equally ridiculous manner.

I gave you an interesting note about Truman, how about one about the birthday boy?  In the parlor game commonly known as Sex, Marry, Kill, when Chester Arthur is presented with John Quincy Adams and the aforementioned Martin Van Buren, Chester is most often chosen for Marry.  Adams gets chosen for Kill, and Van Buren gets the Sex.   Go figure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe he chose that mustache fashion because facial piercing and ear gauges didn't yet exist in 19th century America.