Queen Victoria once remarked, with British understatement, "We are not amused." What was she not amused by? --Mark Terry, Kailua, Hawaii
Obviously it wasn't the Straight Dope, or the phrase you'd be quoting would be, "We are busting a gut," or words to that effect. Poor creature, she died 72 years too soon.
Victoria's comment is said to have been inspired by the Honorable Alexander Grantham (Alick) Yorke, one of her grooms-in-waiting. (A relative described him as an "elderly pansy." Flower lover, I guess.) The job of a groom-in-waiting, or anyway Alick's job, was to hang around the castle and be funny. As all wits know, however, you're funnier some days than others. On one of Alick's not-so-funny days, some say, he told a risque story to a German guest (Da war ein junger Mann von Nantucket . . ."), who laughed loudly, moving the queen to ask that the story be repeated. It was, and she wasn't. Amused, I mean. But she was not using the royal "we"; she was speaking for the affronted ladies of the court.
Another version has it that in one of the amateur theatricals Alick liked to organize at the palace he undertook to do an impression of Victoria, who failed to see the humor of it. Still others say the queen was disposed to say "We are not amused" whenever the conversation took a ribald turn. Hmm, maybe she wouldn't have thought the Straight Dope was that yuckworthy after all. We're talking about a woman whose other significant contribution to the quotation books was "I will be good," said as a young girl when told where she stood in the line of royal succession. Snappy, eh? The Straight Dope research department is glad Victoria alphabetically comes immediately before Gore Vidal, who, upon being asked what might have happened if Khrushchev and not Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963 said, "With history one can never be certain, but I think I can safely say that Aristotle Onassis would not have married Mrs. Khrushchev." Dunno about the rest of you, but I'm amused.
HOW TO TELL A PROFESSIONAL
Regarding your recent answer on what constitutes a professional, the term is defined in the National Labor Relations Act, copy enclosed. --Stephen Berger, Rockaway Park, New York
Had someone not ripped off my copy of Title 29, chapter seven, subchapter II of the United States Code, which contains the aforementioned definition, I would surely have cited it. But better late than never: A "professional employee" means "(a) any employee engaged in work (i) predominantly intellectual and varied in character as opposed to routine, mental, manual, mechanical, or physical work; (ii) involving the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment in its performance; (iii) of such a character that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time; (iv) requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired . . . in an institution of higher learning or a hospital, as distinguished from [the gutter]; or (b) [anyone who is training to become a professional]."
I'm sure this will be a big help to Cecil's original correspondent, who was getting nowhere with women who preferred "professionals." Now all he has to do is say, "The output I produce cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time," and they'll be all over him faster than you can say "skiing vacation in the Alps."
REASON TO GO ON LIVING
Cecil's latest collection of distilled wisdom, Return of the Straight Dope, is now arriving at bookstores. I won't say it's the most brilliant prose ever slapped between covers; I have, after all, written two previous books. But it's as fine a piece of literature as you're likely to see until the next one.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration/Slug Signorino.