Discussion:
"Burrow is a Hole in the Ground"
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Evan Kirshenbaum
2007-01-31 22:53:09 UTC
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The joke about "A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground.
As an <X>, you are expected to know the difference" came up on
rec.arts.comics.strips, and I noted that here in AUE we had traced it
to Bobby Ray Miller in the 1981 UPI Stylebook (with X="journalist").

On a whim, I decided to check the New York Times archive, and, sure
enough, they have an earlier citation:

(JOHN) CIARDI: MANNER OF SPEAKING -- An Annapolis midshipman
taking a course in Spanish wrote that Sancho Panza "always rode a
burrow." His ... professor wrote ... "_Burro_ is an ass.
_Burrow_ is a hole in the ground. As a future naval officer, you
are expected to know the difference. --from Saturday Review,
Nov. 15, 1975 [3/7/1976]
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Steve Hayes
2007-02-01 04:22:30 UTC
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Post by Evan Kirshenbaum
The joke about "A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground.
As an <X>, you are expected to know the difference" came up on
rec.arts.comics.strips, and I noted that here in AUE we had traced it
to Bobby Ray Miller in the 1981 UPI Stylebook (with X="journalist").
And an asshole is a burro burrow.
--
Steve Hayes from Tshwane, South Africa
Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/stevesig.htm
E-mail - see web page, or parse: shayes at dunelm full stop org full stop uk
Richard Maurer
2007-02-01 05:03:25 UTC
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Evan Kirshenbaum wrote:
On a whim, I decided to check the New York Times
archive, and, sure enough, they have an earlier citation:

(JOHN) CIARDI: MANNER OF SPEAKING --
An Annapolis midshipman taking a course in Spanish
wrote that Sancho Panza "always rode a burrow."
His ... professor wrote ... "_Burro_ is an ass.
_Burrow_ is a hole in the ground.
As a future naval officer, you are expected
to know the difference. --from Saturday Review,
Nov. 15, 1975 [3/7/1976]



I am bothered by this. Why would a naval officer
circa 1975 need to know anything about burros?
And as for burrows, not many of them are encountered
on the oceans. An army officer circa 1912
might know the ins and outs of burros.

-- ---------------------------------------------
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Tony Cooper
2007-02-01 05:30:02 UTC
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On Thu, 01 Feb 2007 05:03:25 GMT, "Richard Maurer"
Post by Richard Maurer
I am bothered by this. Why would a naval officer
circa 1975 need to know anything about burros?
All sailors come ashore at some time. If they see a hole in the
ground, they need to know that isn't a burro.
--
Tony Cooper
Orlando, FL
Pat Durkin
2007-02-01 16:38:03 UTC
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Post by Tony Cooper
On Thu, 01 Feb 2007 05:03:25 GMT, "Richard Maurer"
Post by Richard Maurer
I am bothered by this. Why would a naval officer
circa 1975 need to know anything about burros?
All sailors come ashore at some time. If they see a hole in the
ground, they need to know that isn't a burro.
After some time at sea, the sailor, I am sure, would not really care
whether the hole he espied was in the ground or walking around on four
legs (or two, for that matter).
R H Draney
2007-02-01 07:52:51 UTC
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Post by Evan Kirshenbaum
On a whim, I decided to check the New York Times
(JOHN) CIARDI: MANNER OF SPEAKING --
An Annapolis midshipman taking a course in Spanish
wrote that Sancho Panza "always rode a burrow."
His ... professor wrote ... "_Burro_ is an ass.
_Burrow_ is a hole in the ground.
As a future naval officer, you are expected
to know the difference. --from Saturday Review,
Nov. 15, 1975 [3/7/1976]
I am bothered by this. Why would a naval officer
circa 1975 need to know anything about burros?
And as for burrows, not many of them are encountered
on the oceans. An army officer circa 1912
might know the ins and outs of burros.
A high-school classmate and good friend of mine joined the US Navy in 1976 right
after he graduated...he had never been out of the landlocked state of New Mexico
in his life prior to that time, and it was a further six months before his
training occasioned a visit to any ocean....

He had been casually acquainted with any number of burros from childhood....r
--
"You got Schadenfreude on my Weltanschauung!"
"You got Weltanschauung in my Schadenfreude!"
Richard Maurer
2007-02-01 08:37:29 UTC
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[re "A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground.
As an <X>, you are expected to know the difference".

Evan Kirshenbaum moved the dating back from 1981 to 1975.
(There is also a 1977 newspaper snippet for
"not know his burro from a hole in the ground".

The material for the joke goes back farther,
although it is not presented as a joke.

This 1912 manual has a section on spelling.
This page has words often confused with another word

Burro, A small animal resembling a donkey.
Burrow, A hole in the ground.
Hansom, A two-wheeled cab.


A Civil Service Manual - Page 134
by Joseph Archibald Ewart, Wilbur Stanwood Field,
Adelbert Harland Morrison - 1912
(1912 is on the title page, Google Books full view)


The same thing is repeated in newspaper snippets
from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s (probably filler items).

I say, the joke is just sitting there.
It must have been reinvented a hundred times
before 1975. But who would print it in full?

-- ---------------------------------------------
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
(and were those 1912 authors in on it)
Richard Maurer
2007-02-04 23:32:34 UTC
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We were looking at:
A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground.
As a reporter, you are expected to know the difference.

which is nearly
"He does not know his ass from a hole in the ground.


So I got interested in how far back in time we can see
"from a hole in the ground".
and found these:

The Daily Review (Newspaper) - April 29, 1897, Decatur, Illinois
Subscription - Daily Review, The -
NewspaperArchive - Apr 29, 1897
... 'beat and briiise tli'e aforesaid Ast till
he mouiiln't know himself from a 'hole in the ground
unless Tandy was lesally restraint d. ...


Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, The (Newspaper) - March 19, 1879
Subscription - Fort Wayne Daily Gazette -
NewspaperArchive - Mar 19, 1879
... as "He needn't come here putting on his dog meaning
and "I won't be Tiullragged and when surprised,
"I can't lell my head from a hole in the, ground. ...


Badger State, The (Newspaper) - August 14, 1857,
Portage, Wisconsin Subscription - Badger State, The -
NewspaperArchive - Aug 14, 1857
... (wo furget his name) knows punch from a artngaree,
and a mint julup from a hole in the ground.
Stages run directly to tliis home from the depot, ...


In general, we see substitutions reminiscent of brass monkeys
(different substitutions though). Hard to tell if
burro vs burro came first or if it was "ass from
a hole in the ground." Probably the latter,
after people got tired of "cannot tell his ass from his head".

I am still suspicious of those spelling guide writers.
They could have defined burrow as
"A hole in the ground made by a small animal."

-- ---------------------------------------------
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
[subthread of "Burrow is a Hole in the Ground"]
Pat Durkin
2007-02-05 16:39:59 UTC
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Post by Evan Kirshenbaum
A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground.
As a reporter, you are expected to know the difference.
which is nearly
"He does not know his ass from a hole in the ground.
So I got interested in how far back in time we can see
"from a hole in the ground".
Badger State, The (Newspaper) - August 14, 1857,
Portage, Wisconsin Subscription - Badger State, The -
NewspaperArchive - Aug 14, 1857
... (wo furget his name) knows punch from a artngaree,
and a mint julup from a hole in the ground.
Stages run directly to tliis home from the depot, ...
Strange, I think, that the writer would use such a comparison. The
expression is obviously old, for such a variation. The example also
shows how old "mint julup" is. Also, scanning errors aside, one wonders
whether "julup" is a misspelling.

What really catches my interest in this the name of the paper. While I
know the history of the state's name (for the early lead miners in SW
Wisconsin, and maybe even NW Illinois) who, when wintering over rather
than heading back to Kentucky, Tennessee and other related areas, spent
their lives in holes in the ground, referred to as badger holes. They
were, of course pit mines.) Also, what kind of jingoism provoked a town
as far from the SW part of the state as is Portage to so label both the
state and its paper.

But the application of the name "Badger" to a newspaper thus, and to the
state as a whole is something that has caused me to wonder if any other
states received their nicknames in such a way. I have assumed that the
Wolverines and the Golden Gophers invented their University sports
teams' nicks because Wisconsin did it first.

Our state seal (coat of arms) has a badger (the animal) in a prominent
place, but it is a recursive reference, and not a tribute to the animal
at all.

http://www.wisconsin.gov/state/core/wisconsin_state_symbols.html

I have done desultory searches for the origins of other state nicknames
and their origins, but haven't found such a linkage in the few
individual states whose pages I found. Short of my doing each state
individually, I wonder if someone can refer me to compilations in books
or websites that would help me answer my questions.

I know about the Golden Bear of California, but the nickname of the
Forty-niners is much more frequently used. I know the source of the
'49ers, (more miners, hah!) but the Golden Bear?
R H Draney
2007-02-05 18:50:52 UTC
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Post by Pat Durkin
I know about the Golden Bear of California, but the nickname of the
Forty-niners is much more frequently used. I know the source of the
'49ers, (more miners, hah!) but the Golden Bear?
Jack Nicklaus?...r
--
"You got Schadenfreude on my Weltanschauung!"
"You got Weltanschauung in my Schadenfreude!"
Pat Durkin
2007-02-06 00:51:30 UTC
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Post by R H Draney
Post by Pat Durkin
I know about the Golden Bear of California, but the nickname of the
Forty-niners is much more frequently used. I know the source of the
'49ers, (more miners, hah!) but the Golden Bear?
Jack Nicklaus?...r
Aha! And then, there is the Great White Shark! Not Californian, you
know, but from a place that suffers many of the same curses.
Richard Maurer
2007-02-06 07:52:52 UTC
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Pat Durkin wrote:
I know about the Golden Bear of California, but the
nickname of the Forty-niners is much more frequently
used. I know the source of the '49ers,
(more miners, hah!) but the Golden Bear?


We knew it as the Grizzly Bear. Bigger and fiercer than
your average bear. Used to be thousands here before gold was
discovered; then they were respected, admired, feared
and hunted until extinction. Golden Bear rather
than Grizzly was chosen as an allusion, I suppose.

-- ---------------------------------------------
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Evan Kirshenbaum
2007-02-06 17:30:07 UTC
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Post by Evan Kirshenbaum
A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground.
As a reporter, you are expected to know the difference.
which is nearly
"He does not know his ass from a hole in the ground.
So I got interested in how far back in time we can see
"from a hole in the ground".
[snip citations back to 1857]

Checking Google Books, I see a bunch of these, but I also see one
(unfortunately in snippet, so I can't get context or be sure of the
date, but it doesn't seem to be a serial) dated 1860:

... so that, with my dim eyes, I could not distinguish the shade
of a bush from a hole in the ground, ...

This implies that the earliest form may well have been the
straightforward notion that in low light levels or with poor eyesight,
one might mistake a hole in the ground for something else and fall
into it.
--
Evan Kirshenbaum +------------------------------------
HP Laboratories |Never ascribe to malice that which
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 |can adequately be explained by
Palo Alto, CA 94304 |stupidity.

***@hpl.hp.com
(650)857-7572

http://www.kirshenbaum.net/
Mark Brader
2007-02-01 23:36:44 UTC
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Post by Richard Maurer
Post by Richard Maurer
An Annapolis midshipman taking a course in Spanish
wrote that Sancho Panza "always rode a burrow."
His ... professor wrote ... "_Burro_ is an ass.
_Burrow_ is a hole in the ground.
As a future naval officer, you are expected
to know the difference. --from Saturday Review,
Nov. 15, 1975 [3/7/1976]
I am bothered by this. Why would a naval officer
circa 1975 need to know anything about burros?
And as for burrows, not many of them are encountered
on the oceans. ...
Next thing Richard will be telling us that a modern major general doesn't
need to have information vegetable, animal, and mineral; to know the kings
of England; and to quote the fights historical from Marathon to Waterloo,
in order categorical; or to be very well acquainted, too, with matters
mathematical; to understand equations, both the simple and quadratical...
--
Mark Brader I "need to know" *everything*! How else
Toronto can I judge whether I need to know it?
***@vex.net -- Lynn & Jay: YES, PRIME MINISTER

My text in this article is in the public domain.
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