Cindy McCainA really ridiculous typo from the nation’s most important newspaper The New York Times on page A22 of the Los Angeles edition. Here’s the quote:

But Mrs. McCain is clearly not interested in having her husband take a beating at the expense of his family or enduring accusations about his briery temperament.

“Briery?” What the hell is that? Is that a word? Could it mean “thorny,” as in a brier patch? Nah. I think it’s just a really bad misspelling of the word fiery.

Well, my favorite dictionary tells me there actually is a word briery! The root word brier is defined as “a prickly plant or shrub,” so it could actually make sense. Is the NYT being super clever and willfully obscure? Impressive!

Briery McCainStrangely enough, there’s a 2nd definition of brier which is “the woody root of which is used for making tobacco pipes.” Okay, I remember those pipes. My father even tried to sell them at some point in an ill-fated mail-order business scheme. The attic was filled with unsold pipes, boxes of tobacco packets, and some pretty impressive preprinted sales materials. My Dad took on the persona of fictional “Lou B. Meyer,” not a great name in the world of sedentary pipe-smoking. In fact, I’m picturing a fat, cigar-chomping 1930s show-biz mogul for some reason… In any case, isn’t a guy named “Lou” not to be trusted at all?

This 2nd definition has no adjectival variant. So I guess it would be untoward to take a leisurely drag and utter, “Hmm, this pipe is a little too briery for my tastes. I’m more of a Meerschaum man myself.”

Even stranger, there’s the other brier, which is spelled briar. I recall this because of some cartoon character who was associated with the Briar Patch. Was it Br’er Rabbit? What was Br’er Rabbit? Some of these things are just on the thin edge of memory. A friend of mine recently jogged something loose in my subconscious about a cartoon character named Odie Cologne. I obsessively watched this character in my young childhood, but it was laying inert at the very bottom of my soul until now. I certainly couldn’t tell what the context was until she told me. It was a show called The King Leonardo Show, later called The King and Odie. It ran from 1960 to 1963. She was asking me if I recalled Mr. Wizard, which rang a bell but is such a generic name, I imagined there have been hundreds of Mr. Wizards throughout television history.

When she showed me the images, especially Tooter Turtle (I didn’t remember his name) I almost got sick. It was like I was slammed back into age 4, sitting on the cold black-and-white checkered tiling in my basement in Colonia, NJ. It was such a precise and deep memory, that it effected me physiologically, causing me to shudder. I saw the pictures of Leonardo and Odie and remembered exactly their voices, clear as a bell in my mind. The images of the detective, the cop in the tiny helicopter, the elephant who could fly by dint of his rotating tail… go to this web page to see what I’m talking about. My stomach is hurting right now looking at those images, but it is an ecstatic pain, bittersweet that I had forgotten these cartoon friends but have now recovered them. Impossible!

Where were we? Oh, yes. The Briar Patch. So Wikipedia tells us the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South was based on three Br’er Rabbit folklore stories, one called The Briar Patch. So perhaps they showed that movie on TV when I was a kid. Who knows?

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