Archive for January 20th, 2010

Humorous Reminiscences by ‘Nix of Cowanus’

January 20, 2010

Doings in our School House.

Under this head, we find in the N.Y. Spirit of the Times some humorous reminiscences by ‘Nix of Cowanus,’ from which we extract the following spicy paragraphs:

‘First class of vagabonds rise!’ thundered our old schoolmaster. Well, the vagabonds did rise —

‘Now answer every question correctly, or I’ll break every bone in your bodies,’ was the next pronunciamento of the old autocrat of our red school house.

Image from the 1865 edition: Google Book LINK

‘John Brown what do you understand by accoustics?’

‘Why, a stick to drive cows with, I suppose.’

‘Get out, you young vagabond! Did I not see you reading about the science of sound?’

‘Guess not — that was about Sylvester Sound, the Somnambulist.’

‘It was, eh? Sarah, you are John’s younger sister?’

‘Yeth thir.’

‘What is accoustics?’

‘I know, thir — it ith, it ith the art of making a noith and hearing a noith.’

‘You are right. Explain it.’

‘Yeth thir. If you tick your finger in your mouth and then pull it out suddenly, the cold air rushes into the vacuum, and produtheth a sound that thrikes upon the tympan of the ear which maketh the thound audible, and is denominated the thrence of a couthitixth.’

‘You are quite right, Sarah. John, can you now tell me what is meant by the science of accoustics? Be careful, sir, or you’ll feel my stick.’

‘Yes, sir. A cow sticks your finger in her mouth — kicks over the pan, which sounds awful, and is called the science of a cow’s kick.’

‘Well, John, you do credit to your teacher. — You may take your books and run home.’

Ninepence (Image from

‘Willy Chase, what is the currency of the United States?’

“Cash and money.’

‘What are its denominations?’

‘Coppers, bogus and Bungtown cents, pennies, fips, pics, four pence hap’nys, levys, ninepences, and shinplasters.’

‘That will do.’

‘Jones, what is the standard weight of the U.S.?’

‘Scale weight and a little longer.’

‘Samuel, how many kingdoms are there in the material world?’


‘Three, only three.’

‘Four, I think, sir.’

‘Well, name them — what are they?’

‘Mineral kingdom, animal kingdom, vegetable kingdom, and kingdom come.’

‘Now, how many kinds of motion are there?’


‘No, only two; voluntary and involuntary.’

‘Simon says there are four.’

‘What does Simon say they are?’

‘Point, point up, point down, and wig-wag.’

‘You rascal! I’ve a mind to wig-wag your jacket! Hadn’t you better describe the motion of my stick?’

‘I can, sir.’

‘And its effect?’

‘Yes, sir. Up stroke, and down stroke — the up stroke regular and easy, the down stroke spasmodically electrifying, and its effect strikingly indescribable.’

‘You understand that, I see.’

‘George Smith, do you recollect the story of David and Goliath?’

‘Yes sir — David was a tavern keeper, and Goliah was an intemperate man.’

‘Who told you that?’

‘Nobody. I read it; and it is said that David fixed a sling for Goliah, and Goliah got slewed with it.’

‘Wasn’t Goliah a giant, a strong man?’

‘Yes, he was a giant, but he had a weak head.’

‘How so?’

‘Why to get so easily slewed.’

‘Yes George, that was undoubtedly owing ot the strength of the sling. Wasn’t David a musician?’

‘Yes sir — he played psalms on the harp; a favorite instrument with the Jews, and at the present day it is called a Jewsharp. I have one in my pocket — here it is. Place it in your mouth thus — breathe on the tongue gently, then strike it with your fingers this way — and the psalms, in harmonious corncob fructify on the ear as natural as thunder.’

‘That’s sufficient — you can pocket your harp.’

‘Jane, what is time?’

‘Something that flies, any how.’

‘How do you make that out!’

‘Why, tempus fugit.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Latin; it means that time flies, and how can time, if it flies, be anything else than something that flies?’

‘Excellent. What is the meaning of requiescat in pace?’

‘Rest quiet cat in peace.’

‘Well, Jane: at Latin you are perfectly au fait — which translated, means perfectly awful; it is a great phrase from the classics, and applicable to this class particularly. Now take off your jackets, and I will give you ‘reward of merit.’ Those who get more than they merit, can keep the overplus as a token of my special affection for them; and those who get less, can have the mistake rectified by mentioning it to me.’

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Dec 25, 1849