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January 20, 2012



Your example of the museum guard's verbal shortcutting by having you "hit Egypt," reminded me of what an acquaintance living in my building recently said to me. I don't think he's had much formal schooling but to me he has a very shrewd way of looking at the world.

This is what transpired. He has a strapping young pit bull named Hannibal. When I asked where he got the name (I assumed it would have been from Hannibal Lecter in the Thomas Harris suspense books), he told me it was from a popular TV show of the 1980s called The A-Team, with a character nicknamed Hannibal who was a former special forces soldier newly escaped from a military police prison. He then described the provenance of the nickname:

MF: He was named after an old-time general. He marched into Italy.
SD: The one who crossed The Alps with his elephants and tried to invade Rome?
MF: That's the one. And he did it a long time ago, before education.

His "before education" I suspect was a verbal shortcut for something like before man's enlightenment, before common knowledge of worldly complexities, or before sophisticated insights. I guess it seemed to him that the ancient world was a brutish and benighted one -- as in some ways it certainly was -- and that the general's feat, especially while he conducted ponderous beasts over steep mountainsides, was all the more remarkable for partially succeeding as well as it did. And I thought his word choice conveyed this so vividly that I understood the import of his phrase as soon as he uttered it.

Viva Hannibal!

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