The Littlest Presidential Biography

Project Gutenberg has an RSS feed of new and updated titles. I check it sometimes; you never know what’s going to turn up. The best title I’ve seen recently is Lives of the Presidents Told in Words of One Syllable, by Jean S. Remy. “Wow,” I thought. “This is the kind of historical reference you could give a Fox News commentator!”

I thought Jean had given herself (himself? Was s/he French?) quite a challenge—like writing a novel without the letter E. I mean, “president” itself has three syllables. So does “Washington.” “Lincoln” has two. Maybe Jean was just very informal. She would call Washington “Wash,” and Lincoln “Link,” and the President would be “The Prez.” Just like drinking buddies. (I dunno how things were in 1900, but that’s what people look for in a President these days, right?)

But the actual book looks like this:

At this act Eng-land was up and in arms, and sent o-ver great ships and ma-ny men to help fight the French. The first step that Eng-land took was to send men to warn the French a-way from the Eng-lish forts in Penn-syl-va-ni-a; and Wash-ing-ton, who knew bet-ter than a-ny one else the rough wild woods, and who was a friend of the In-di-ans, led a lit-tle band of sev-en men through the dense, dark woods and o-ver riv-ers filled with float-ing ice, up to the French lines. He told the chief man of the French troops just what the Eng-lish said, but this French man would not give up one inch of ground that he had won from the In-di-ans, and gave Wash-ing-ton a note to take back with him, in which he said as much.

Jean didn’t use words of one syllable—she stuck hyphens in polysyllabic words and redefined them as multiple single-syllable words. Man, that’s cheating.

Bonus Fun Fact!

On the whole, Jack-son’s term was a good one for the land; and so well did the peo-ple like him, that he is the on-ly pres-i-dent of whom it has been said that he was bet-ter liked when he went out of of-fice than when he went in.

I am not totally sure this is a compliment.