Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2003 / 27 Shevat, 5763

Richard Lederer

Lederer
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


Twice in a Blue Moon


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | To say that the moon is blue originally meant to believe in a fantasy. An old proverb, recorded as far back as 1528, tells us:

Yf they saye the mone is blewe

We must believe that it is true.

At first, then, it was ridiculous to think of the moon as blue, and a blue moon was as absurd as one made of green cheese. When the expression "till a blue moon" came on the scene in the early 19th century, it still meant "never" rather than "rarely."

Nowadays "once in a blue moon" translates best into W. S. Gilbert's famous line from "H.M.S. Pinafore": "What, never? Well, hardly ever." Perhaps that slight but crucial change in meaning was influenced by the observation that, on rare, unusually clear nights, the moon does seem to have a blue tinge. Others say that very special conditions -- ice crystals, cloud banks, or dust high in the air -- can turn the moon blue.

Words wander wondrously, and during the 20th century "blue moon" transmogrified yet again. A full moon comes every 29 and 1/2 days, when the earth's natural satellite is opposite the sun in the sky. Thus, any month except February can see two full moons. Still, two full moons in a single month occur approximately every 32 months. Gradually, the label "blue moon" became attached to that second full moon.

And now the paradox of paradoxes: Incredibly, after a February of no full moon, another blue moon will occur just two months from now, on March 31. It truly is only once in a blue moon that we have two blue moons in the same year, let alone only two months apart.

Astrologers, vampire novelists and others fascinated by mysticism hold that the moon exerts a special pull not only on the tides, but on human affairs. Indeed, the word lunatic descends from the Latin luna, because it was believed that recurrent attacks of insanity were brought about by the varying phases of the moon. Prolonged exposure to the moon rendered one "moonstruck."

Lorentz Hart and Richard Rodgers may well have benefited from such superstitions. Their song "Blue Moon" (1934), a rewrite of several less successful versions and titles, became one of their first great hits, both endearing and enduring. Elvis Presley's 1961 recording of it sold more than a million discs.

Blue moon,
You saw me standing alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.

Each of the following clues yields a word or phrase that contains the word "moon." Shoot for the moon and get them all right. Answers repose at the end of this column.

1. a trip taken by newlyweds
2. working two jobs
3. illegally distilled liquor
4. to spend in idle reverie
5. sweet treat
6. star baseball pitcher
7. Cher movie
8. Andy Williams song
9. James Bond novel
10. John Steinbeck novel
11. W. Somerset Maugham novel
12. Wilkie Collins novel
13. a day of the week

Answers
1. honeymoon 2. moonlighting 3. moonshine 4. to moon 5. Moon Pie 6. Blue Moon Odom 7. Moonstruck 8. "Moon River" 9. Moonraker 10. The Moon is Down 11. The Moon and Sixpence 12. The Moonstone 13. Monday ("moon day")

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Richard Lederer is a language maven. More than a million of his books, which have been Book-of-the-Month Club and Literary Guild alternate selections, are in print. He is the host of "A Way With Words," on KPBS, San Diego Public Radio, and a regular guest on weekend "All Things Considered." He was awarded the Golden Gavel for 2002 by Toastmasters International. Comment by clicking here.

Up

01/23/03: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
01/16/03: Retro-active words
12/19/02: Why I deserve welfare --- actual letters
12/05/02: English for -- make that "by" -- foreigners
11/21/02: Humorously Inclined Informational Products
11/14/02: Disorder in the Court: a Collection of 'Transquips'
10/31/02: Oxymoronology
10/24/02: The Bandwagon
10/17/02: Is life a movie? We all speak their lines
10/03/02: Brave New Words
09/26/02: English is a Crazy Language!
09/12/02: How wise is proverbial wisdom?
09/05/02: A celebration of presidential prose
08/29/02: Food for thought
08/22/02: Jest for the pun of it
08/08/02: Hop up to the kangaroo words
08/01/02: A pouchful of synonyms
07/11/02: Poli-Tickle Speeches
06/27/02: Suppository questions
06/20/02: George Orwell is looking at you
06/06/02: Jest for the health of it
05/30/02: It is truly astonishing what havoc students can wreak on the chronicles of the human race
05/16/02: A bilingual pun is twice the fun!
05/09/02: What's in a president's name?
05/03/02: Slang as it is slung
04/25/02: Abstemious words
04/19/02: This Riddle Isn't Letter-Perfect

© 2003, Richard Lederer