A Ballad of Abbreviations
The American’s a hustler, for he says so,
And surely the American must know.
He will prove to you with figures why it pays so
Beginning with his boyhood long ago.
When the slow-maturing anecdote is ripest
He’ll dictate it like a Board of Trade Report,
And because he has no time to call a typist,
He calls her a Stenographer for short.
He is never known to loiter or malinger,
He rushes, for he knows he has “a date”;
He is always on the spot and full of ginger,
Which is why he is invariably late.
When he guesses that it’s getting even later,
His vocabulary’s vehement and swift,
And he yells for what he calls the Elevator,
A slab abbreviation for a lift.
Then nothing can be nattier or nicer
For those who like a light and rapid style,
Than to trifle with a work of Mr. Dreiser
As it comes along in waggons by the mile.
He has taught us what a swift selective art meant
By description of his dinners and all that,
And his dwelling, which he says is an Apartment,
Because he cannot stop to say a flat.
We may whisper of his while precipitation,
That its speed is rather longer than a span,
But there really is a definite occasion
When he does not use the longest word he can.
When he substitutes, I freely make admission,
One shorter and much easier to spell;
If you ask him what he thinks of Prohibition
He may tell you quite succinctly it is Hell.
-G. K. Chesterton, “A Ballad of Abbreviations,” in G. K. Chesterton Collected Works Volume X Collected Poetry Part 1 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 426-427.