Birth-control those vowels


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Benjamin Franklin, my friendly iGoogle app tells me, slept in four beds per night.

(OK, it's probably not really an app. I just used that word to make it seem as if I, too, live in the 21st century — when in reality, which is a country somewhere near here despite what you might think if you listen to political "debates," I actually reside in Sylvia Beach's joint around 1922. It's a trick I'll show you sometime.)

Why, you wonder, did Ben Franklin sleep in four beds per night? According to the iGoogle sort-of app, he believed that a warm bed stole a man's essence, so as soon as his bed warmed up, he hopped into a cold bed. (No word on what he thought a warm bed did to a woman's essence, which we should be grateful for.)

I don't bring this up to tarnish the good name of one of our Founding Fathers — although you have to admit, he seems to have been more than little bit batty. In this political season, we all genuflect in the direction of our Founding Fathers, even though some of them were slave owners. And Ben Franklin, in addition to being one of the revered double-F words, also invented electricity (much like Al Gore invented the Internet). Which was followed soon after by the invention of the electric bill. Thanks, Ben. Sleep in whichever bed you want.

Which brings us to birth control. (Well, if you think about it, everything, sooner or later — later is better, I hear — brings us to birth control.)

There's been something of a spat about birth control recently, involving Catholic bishops, presidential candidates, and other politicians of every stripe. (Who knew politicians had stripes? I thought it was only leopards and skunks, but I digress. Besides, I don't want to insult any skunks.)

The birth-control brouhaha would be funny if it weren't so silly. Or maybe it's the other way around. But there is this: Any health-insurance plan that covers Viagra but doesn't cover birth control is probably the Mount Everest of hypocracy.

Which brings us to vowels (better than birth control).

Midwestern states, especially Iowa and Ohio, have all these vowels in their names, which confuses people on the East Coast, who are just not used to that sort of thing. That's why people from the East mix up Iowa and Ohio — too many damn vowels.

Don't you people get tired of all these vowels all the time? they ask. Next year, we're going to Florida, they say. Sure, it has a few vowels, and many flying cockroaches, but it has some nice, hard consonants, too. That's what you need in a state — nice, hard consonants. Let me teach you how to say "New Yawk." Hear that nice, hard "k"?

The vowel thing is more discomfiting for them than all the thousands of miles of corn and beans that insist upon stretching before them as they try, in vain, to drive across the Midwest. Most give up in eastern Indiana. Oh, no, they say. Not more corn. Not more beans. Not more vowels.

What happened was this: Wales, whose place names now consist of nothing, but nothing, of hard consonants — Where is that? you ask, having thought that you were visiting a place in which the inhabitants speak English.

Wnglshdtnxcbvpfjhqrzm, the Welshman replies brightly. Everybody's heard of Wnglshdtnxcbvpfjhqrzm.

But once, Wales had a surfeit of vowels. They were scattered all over the landscape like poets, making it hard to till the soil. Damn vowels, Welsh farmers would say, vainly pushing hand plows against granite-like a's and e's and, yes, iou's. The Welsh economy was suffering, there was no doubt.

Luckily for the Welsh, an American private-equity firm appeared, bought up all the vowels — on the cheap, it must be said — and shipped all those nasty vowels to the middle of America. Hence, Iowa.

Hence, Ohio.

It became known in Welsh legend as the Great Vowel Movement.

Happy ending.

Well, not exactly.

Turns out, with all the vowels gone, the market for consonants collapsed. Many farmers lost everything. It became known in Welsh legend as the Grt Cnsnnt Bbbl.

You know? Ben Franklin and his beds doesn't seem so batty after all.

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