paul dickson

You have heard of the most famous of the Official Rules. Everyone knows it as Parkinson's Law, about work expanding to fill the time available for its completion.  A whole book was written about that. Closely related was the idea that people rise to the level of their incompetence.  And I like the one that advises, "when all else fails, read the instructions".  There are more, by all kinds of people and they have been gathered into two collections that are very precious to me. 

I'm sure I've mentioned Paul Dickson before because I quote him a lot in my day-to-day life. He is a prolific American non-fiction writer and I own two of his books that I store on my quotations shelves: The Official Rules (1978) and The Official Explanations (1980). They go far to explaining a lot in this world we live in.  The aphorisms, instructions, rules, laws and explanations are collected by Dickson; very few originate with him. For example, he cites Robert Benchley's definition of travel (two kinds, first-class and with children).  You already know how I feel about Benchley.

My copies are not only well-worn, with loose pages, but they are also studded with post-it-notes highlighting favourite items. I didn't need such a colourful bookmark to find Rebecca's House Rules. "At Least One Fits Any Occasion."  They are embedded in my memory but I had to look them up to get them in the right order. 

1. Throw it on the bed.

2. Fry onions.

3.Call Jenny's mother.

4. No one's got the corner on suffering.

5.Run it under the cold tap.

6. Everything takes practice, except being born.

(Credited to the person  who said it - Sharon Mathews, Arlington, Virginia.)

This has to be one of the most useful blogs I have written.