The Regional Review

Volume III - Nos. 4 & 5

October-November, 1939

The Regional Review

Vol. III October, 1939 Number 4


The Review acknowledges with appreciation the many friendly comments with which its readers received the illustrative sketches provided last month by Associate Engineer Tyler B. Kiener. It also seizes this occasion to reconvey editorially to Mr. Kiener the thanks which already have been expressed personally to him.


Devious and diverting are the editorial by-paths into which The Review is led each month in its pleasant duty of assembling the contributions of its unregimented staff of spare-time writers. The journalistic spur trails may lead to a photograph, to a map, or to some other device likely to illuminate the text. This month they converged on a footnote (see page 5) to Arthur the Rat.

Joseph S. Hall, Columbia University fellow who provided the arrestingly excellent story of his survey of native speech in the Great Smoky Mountains, pointed out that the brief saga of rodential Arthur is one of the handiest phonetic yardsticks that can be used in measuring the speech of Americans. It tends to betray whether one grew up on a Bostonian "a" or a Cotton States "r," because it contains all essential sounds, just as the typist's sentence, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," includes all letters of the alphabet.

Phonologically intrigued, The Review telephoned to the juvenile departments of libraries and book stores; but no one knew the Arthurian legend. A kindly lady volunteer inquired of all members of her family and found none who had followed Arthur's career. Another, equally fine, when asked whether she knew the story of Arthur the Rat, smelled a mouse and replied chillily: "Certainly not, Sir! And I should deem it appropriate for you to discontinue any further queries of that character insofar as they may relate to me." A male acquaintance, questioned in the corridor and scenting a new one, drew into a corner and whispered "No, I haven't heard it. What is it?"

In editorial desperation, The Review wrote to Mr. Hall for a copy and it arrived by air mail. He explained: "The story is a reduced version of Grip the Rat, which is well known to students of American speech. . . There are many transcriptions of it. . . I do not know its origin or how it came to be used in connection with phonetic investigations."

A pall of gloom soon settled over The Review's small but earnestly milling staff. For the tale of indecisive Arthur is a stark tragedy in which probity, loyalty and firmness of purpose come to naught while gross injustice prevails. Because, when fearless Arthur refused to heed the hasty counsel of excited friends and abandon to the vagaries of fortune the revered hearthstone of his ancestors, an entire barn fell down on him.

The depressing episode leaves The Review doubly uncertain whether it should accept the moral and cancel its lease, or stand staunchly by its traditions against the threats of all whomsoever. --H.R.A.


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Date: 04-Jul-2002