Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Element

Time for another Stream of Consciousness Saturday!

Click the picture to play along!
Click the picture to play along!

Don’t forget, if you want to join in on the fun, click the picture above. That will take you to the blog of the lovely and talented Linda G. Hill, who will explain the rules on her site.

Today’s prompt: ELEMENT

Naturally, when you mention the word “element” to a writer, or anyone who’s written a college paper, the first thing they think of is The Elements of Style, by those two wacky dudes, Jud Strunk and Barry White.

No, I’m just kidding. It was originally written by William Strunk, Jr., a professor of English at Cornell University, in 1918, and was enhanced by his student, E. B. White, the author of such children’s classics as Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, starring Michael J. Fox as the voice of Stuart. It has been inflicted upon assigned as required reading to nearly everyone who’s ever taken an English class since 1959. Somehow, I missed having to read it; according to Geoffrey K. Pullam, who wrote the article “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice” for The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2009, I didn’t miss much. Your mileage may vary.

And speaking of White, brothers Maurice and Verdine White (from Chicago!) formed a band in the early 1970’s with their friend Philip Bailey and several others called Earth, Wind & Fire. The four elements of classical times were earth, air, fire, and water, and that’s where they got the name from. (Strunk and White are now spinning in their graves.) EW&F had a number of hits and are still at it, God bless them. Here’s one of them.

September is, or was, Back To School month. (Here the kids start in August, and get gypped out of a month of summer vacation.) In senior year of high school (40 years ago…), I took Chemistry. Yes, I know, you’re supposed to take Chemistry in junior year and Physics in senior year, but I did it backwards. Sue me. In Chemistry, one of the first things we learned about was the Periodic Table of Elements, most commonly attributed to Dmitri Mendeleev.

Source:, created by DePiep and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Source:, created by DePiep and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

I prefer Tom Lehrer’s version of the elements, myself.

Do any of you remember the show that used the phrase, “man against man, man against the elements” in its ads? I cannot rememnber its name. I do remember that my brothers and I used to say “man against man, man against the elephants.” Which, of course, brings me to my favorite joke when I was eight, and quite possibly my favorite fifty years later:

Q. Did you hear about the elephant with diarrhea?
A. It’s all over town!

And on that note… See you next week!

9 thoughts on “Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Element

  1. Ha! Cute and disgusting at the same time! (The joke that is.)
    Great post, John. Sorry I can’t help you with the show, though it does ring a distant bell…


  2. Wow. I forgot about “Elements of Style.” I have a copy around here somewhere, which I am sure I used often when I was in college. Maybe I should dig it out and see if it helps me with my blog?


  3. That little book, a pamphlet almost, by Strunk and White got me through graduate school. Thanks for mentioning it, it made my night.


  4. Another tour de force. Geez. Earth, Wind and Fire. I remember. Really funny and cute Tom Lehrer song. And I bought a copy of the elements of style when I was in college because it was recommended. But I have not read it very often. Maybe that shows in my writing. 🙂


  5. You’re right: The Elements of Style was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw Linda’s prompt, followed by the Periodic Table of Elements. Yikes! I better stay off the Reader until I respond to the prompt myself. We own more than one copy of The Elements of Style, but I somehow have never actually read it. I love the way you segued into Earth, Wind, and Fire — nicely done.


Comments are closed.