An aposiopesis, eh?

Russell Baker

April 07, 1993|By Russell Baker

WE ARE not amused," said Queen Victoria. She only said it to send Prince Albert right up the wall. "You know I can't stand it when you lay that royal we on me," said Prince Albert.

"It is not our fault, dear Albert, that we are a royal we whilst you, being a mere prince consort, are but an I," observed Queen Victoria.

Poor vexed Albert knew what un-amused her. It was baseball. Prince Albert's passion for baseball was a royal scandal. It had shocked drawing rooms from Belgravia to Cowes, where the regatta was held, as Queen Victoria had to remind Prince Albert every time she said, "You and we must rise and go to Cowes now."

"Cowes?" Prince Albert invariably asked with a witty twinkle. "Isn't that where the milk comes from?" In extenuation, it must be remembered that though the prince was German he lacked his countrymen's natural sense of humor. Queen Victoria, who were famous for being un-amuseable, always failed to perceive that Prince Albert was pulling her legs. "Cowes, my dear singular Prince Consort," she always replied, "is where the regatta is held."

Right now, however, Cowes was but one of many places where the scandal of Prince Albert's baseball passion was shocking drawing rooms. Others, besides Belgravia, included Mayfair, South Kensington, North Islington, East Waslington and West Willington.

Rumor had it that the prince was itching to throw out the first ball, an honor historically reserved for the president. So baseball-besotted was the prince, went the rumor, that he had let it be known he would settle for throwing out the second ball.

Queen Victoria were often irritated by the prince's un-English tastes, but this baseball passion had begun to get under her skins. When she first told Albert it would disgrace the crown for him to throw out the second ball, a terrible row ensued.

"The queen are not so quick to talk of disgrace when the Prince is being humiliated by children all over the empire," groused Albert, though it wasn't grouse season.

"Be good enough not to bore us again with complaints about that child's joke about Prince Albert in a can," said Queen Victoria, unable in spite of herself to suppress a smile at this popular sport. The smile was occasioned by the memory of having once secretly played the joke herselves.

Disguised as a lady-in-waiting, she had entered a tobacconist's shop in Piccadilly and asked, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" "Yes, indeed," said the shopkeeper. "Well, let him out," she said and ran from the shop giggling.

"We were extremely amused," she confided to her diaries.

Now, however, this baseball nuisance had to be dealt with. Just this morning a leading newspaper had asked if she objected to publishing a column by the prince on the spiritual essence of baseball.

As usual, she were not amused and told Prince Albert she weren't, while holding his column at arm's length. She knew what he was up to, all right. By filling op-ed pages with ridiculous gush about baseball's balletic beauty and symbolic meaning for constitutional monarchy, as well as its mythological significance, Albert thought he could get himself invited to throw out the second ball.

"We shall give it to you straight from the shoulders," she said. "We have read your column and commanded its suppression on artistic grounds: to wit, its Philistine attempt to perpetuate the absurd notion that baseball is a metaphor. Our patience is exhausted with journalistic hacks waxing lyrical about baseball being a metaphor. We should be humiliated were our dear Albert to be exposed as one of them."

"Hacks don't wax," said Prince Albert from well up the wall where Her Plural Royalness had sent him, for he was waxing wroth. "Hacks simply avoid writing things editors won't publish. That's why I wrote that baseball is a metaphor, not a simile, a personification, a hyperbole, a metonymy or an aposiopesis. If I wrote that baseball is an aposiopesis, I'd never be invited to throw out the second ball."

Queen Victoria's heart waxed soft. "Come down, our dear, and we shall name a concert hall after you."

Prince Albert smiled with guile. "How about making it a baseball park?" he waxed.

Russell Baker is a columnist for the New York Times.

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