Mr. Dooley on the Descent of Man

“What ar-re ye readin’?” asked Mr. Hennessy.

“A comical little piece in th’ Sunday pa-aper on th’ Descent iv Man,” said Mr. Dooley. “Ye get a good dale iv knowledge out iv th’ pa-apers whin ye’re not lookin’ f’r it, an’ a fellow that’s paid five cents to find out where Gyp th’ Blood spint his vacation, if he doesn’t stop there but goes on r-readin’, is li’ble to end up as an idjacated man.

“Maybe ye’d like me to read ye something out iv this here fable in slang. Well, thin, listen to th’ pro-fissor: ‘Such habits not on’y tended to develop the motor cortex itsilf,’ he says, ‘but thrained th’ tactile an’ th’ kin — th’ kin — I’ll spell it f’r ye — k-i-n-a-e-st-h-e-t-i-c — pronounce anny way ye plaze — senses an’ linked up their cortical areas in bonds iv more intimate assocyations withth’ visyool cortex —’”

“What kind iv a language is that?” Mr. Hennessy interrupted.

“It’s scientific language,” said Mr. Dooley. “I’ve been thryin’ to wurruk it out mesilf with th’ aid iv a ditchnry, but I cudden’t put it together till Dock O’Leary, who’s great at these puzzle pitchers, come in. Fr’m what he said I guess that th’ pro-fissor that wrote it meant to say that th’ raison man is betther thin th’ other animals is because iv what’s in his head. I suspicted as much befure an’ have often said so. But nobody has iver ast me to go befure a larned society an’ have me chest dhraped with medals f’r sayin’ it. I cudden’t fill up me time on th’ program. All I cud say wud be: ‘Fellow pro-fissors, th’ thing that give ye an’, me a shade over th’ squrl an’ th’ grasshopper is that we have more marrow in th’ bean. Thankin’ ye again f’r ye’er kind attintion, I will now lave ye while ye thranslate this almost onfathomable thought into a language that on’y a dhrug clerk can undherstand.’

“Fr’m what Dock O’Leary says, this here profissor has seen Darwin an’ histed him a couple iv billyon years. If ye’d like to hear about it I’ll tell ye. Well, thin, it was this way: Some time befure th’ big fire, whin I was wurrukin’ f’r Mullaney, th’ conthractor, dhrivin’ a team, a fellow be th’ name iv Darwin come along an’ made a monkey iv man. He showed that th’ principal diff’rence between us an’ th’ little frinds iv Italy was that we had lost our tails. We had to lave th’ old entailed estates an’ th’ ancesthral bamboo threes where our fam’ly had spint so many happy millyons iv years an’ come down to earth an’ be men. Our first ancestor had his tail docked, an’, havin’ lost this here member which was at wanst his manes iv rapid thransit an’ his aisy chair, th’ old gintleman cud no longer swing fr’m th’ branch iv th’ three an’ amuse th’ childher be pickin’ things off thim, but had to go to wurruk. In ordher to apply f’r a job he was forced to larn to walk an’ to talk. He manicured his front feet an’ made hands iv thim, an’, so he cud win th’ affections iv th’ fair, he was compelled to shed his comfortable an’ nachral hairy coat an’ buy clothes. Th’ fam’ly all took afther th’ old man an’ improved on him through th’ cinchries, till to-day ye have th’ magnificent jooks ye see all ar-round ye, dhressed up in quare garmints, puttin’ on supeeryor airs, wearin’ crowns, runnin’ f’r office, killin’ each other, dancin’ th’ turkey throt, an’ gin’rally behavin’ so foolish that whin th’ father iv a fam’ly iv monkeys sees a human bein’ comin’ along in th’ woods he calls out: ‘Mother, bring th’ little wans to th’ end iv this branch. Here comes wan iv our poor relations who has to wurruk f’r a livin’. He wud’ve been just as well off as we ar-re if his fam’ly hadn’t squandered their tails. Dhrop a cocynut on his head an’ see him jump. Ain’t he the funny sight?’

“I can well remimber how hot ivrybody was agan Darwin on account iv what he wrote. Nobody had been very proud iv Adam as an ancesthor, but still ye cud put up with him if ye took into account that he was dalin’ with new problems an’ was th’ first married man. But it hurted a good manny proud people to think that but f’r th’ luck iv th’ game they might all be up in Lincoln park makin’ faces through th’ glass at little boys an’ girls. So Darwin was excymunicated fr’m manny a church that he’d niver been in, an’ expelled fr’m th’ Knights iv Pythias, an’ gin’rally threated as he desarved f’r a long time. But afther awhile people begun to take more kindly to th’ idee an’ to say: ‘Well, annyhow, it’s more comfortable to feel that we’re a slight improvement on a monkey thin such a fallin’ off fr’m th’ angels. F’r awhile it looked as though we weren’t holdin’ our own. But now it looks as if we are on our way,’ an’ thought no more about it. An’ th’ monkeys had no access to th’ press, so they cudden’t write in kickin’ letthers signed ‘Indignant Monkey’ or th’ like iv that.

“But this pro-fissor has gone further thin Darwin in pursooin’ our lineege down to its disgraceful start. He has run acrost a lot iv old town records, marredge certyficates, birth registhers, an’ so on an’ has discovered that our original proginitor, th’ boy that give us our push tords respectability, th’ first mimber iv th’ fam’ly that moved uptown, th’ survivor iv th’ Fort Dearborn massacree, th’ pilgrim father that came out iv th’ jungle, th’ foundher iv th’ fam’ly fortune was — what d’ye think? Ye’ll niver guess if I give ye a thousand guesses. It was th’ jumpin’ shrew iv South America. It’s as I tell ye. Here ye see it in black an’ white befure ye’er eyes: ‘Man descinded fr’m th’ jumpin’ shrew.’ Hence our sunny dispositions an’ th’ presint campaign. I niver cud undherstand why if mankind come down fr’m th’ monkey we weren’t more janyal. But now I know. It’s th’ old shrew blood that still coorses through our veins that makes us so cross with each other.

“Yes, sir; this la-ad with th’ aid iv a microscope, a knife, an’ perhaps a dhream book has thraced us back to this inthrestin’ little crather. Prob’ly ye niver see a jumpin’ shrew. Ye wudden’t? There ar-re very few jumpin’ shrews in this neighborhood. But back in th’ old estate in South Africa they ar-re numerous an’ highly respicted. Manny iv th’ mimbers iv th’ original branch iv our fam’ly still live in th’ homes iv our ancistors an’ keep up th’ thraditional customs like th’ old fam’lies iv Boston. This scientific dock gives us a plazin’ pitcher iv their lives. ‘These three shrews,’ says he, ‘ar-re small squrl like animals which feed on insects an’ fruit. Whin feedin’ they often set on their haunches, holdin’ their food, afther th’ manner iv squrls, in their front paws.’ There, Hinnissy, ye have a view iv ye’ersilf as ye were befure th’ flood. Ye’ve often told me ye were descinded fr’m th’ kings iv Ireland, an’ manny is th’ time I’ve wondhered how ye’d look in a soot iv ir’n an’ bull skin, settin’ on a horse, holdin’ on to th’ mane with wan hand an’ to a spear with th’ other. But I injye more th’ thought iv ye still further back, perched on th’ branch iv a three makin’ a light lunch iv a peanut an’ an ant. Some day I’m goin’ to take a stepladdher an’ go to South Africa an’ visit these relations iv ye’ers an’ mine. An’ why not? If a man be the name iv Jones will spind money thryin’ to prove that he’s descinded fr’m a cillibrated holdup man iv th’ same name in th’ reign iv Queen Elizabeth why shudden’t he look up his rilitives, th’ jumpin’ shrews iv South Africa, an’ be took over th’ fam’ly risidence be a caretaker, f’r a shillin’, an’ see where th’ ol’ jook died defindin’ his threasures iv huckleberries an’ weevils against th’ night attack iv th’ ant eater an’ th’ banded armydillo? Tell me why. An’ why, now that this prof has thraced out th’ line, shuden’t we resume th’ fam’ly name? Be rights we’d all be called jumpin’ shrews. There’s a chance f’r a hyphen there that manny a mimber iv th’ stock exchange wud welcome.

“But I don’t think this here prof wint far enough in lookin’ f’r our start. Th’ jumpin’ shrews ar-re all right enough, but what come befure them? Accordin’ to this article it’s har’ly thirty billyon years since this gallant little fellow first hopped up a three. Ar-re we to f’rget our arlier ancestors? What about th’ patient lobster, th’ ca’m eyesther, th’ cheerful jelly fish, an’ back through th’ cinchries th’ first onobtrusive microbe, an’ befure that th’ vigeytables, an’ befure thim th’ mud at th’ bottom iv th’ sea? Rash, upstart jumpin’ shrew, d’ye niver ralize that it’s an own cousin ye’re atin’ fried on th’ beefsteak an’ maybe a shovelful iv th’ original stock ye’re hurlin’ into th’ barrow to give a ride down to th’ dump?

“But don’t feel bad about it. There’s always wan encouragin’ thing about th’ sad scientific facts that comes out ivry week in th’ pa-apers. They’re usually not thrue. I know there niver was a Dooley that lived in a three, because I niver see wan that cud climb a three. An’ annyhow I don’t care. Divvle th’ bit iv attintion I give to a fellow lookin’ at a glass iv wather through an eyeglass an’ guessin’ what happened in South Africa eighty-three billyon years ago. Mind ye, I don’t blame this dock f’r thryin’ to make us all — th’ Dooleys, an’ th’ Honezollerns, an’ th’ Vere de Veres — members iv th’ same fam’ly. His name is Smith. But if he’d f’rget about th’ origin iv th’ race an’ tell us not where man comes fr’m but where he’s goin’ to I’d take an intherpeter aroun’ an’ listen to him.”

“These men ar-re inimies iv religion,” said Mr. Hennessy.

“P’raps,” said Mr. Dooley. “But they’ll niver be dangerous ontil some wan comes along an’ thranslates their lectures into English. An’ I don’t think there’s a chance that cud be done.”

(Mr. Dooley on Making a Will and Other Necessary Evils)