THE KING'S NEW DICTIONARY
( An Adult Fairy Tale )
Once upon a time in the medieval kingdom of Foffdan, the King had a dream. And lo, in the dream, a great wizard appeared before him and cautioned, “You have been a goodly counsellor to your subjects over the years, However no-one in the kingdom is wise enough to succeed you. There is an urgent need for a Dictionary of Regulations to guide future kings of Foffdan in their decisions once you are gone.”
Next morning, the king called his his chief Advisor, Bakerty to discuss his plan to prepare a Dictionary of Regulations. “Hmph,” said Bakerty, his jowels shaking, “it can't be done.”
Then the King called for his enthusiastic young Idea Man, who appeared shortly afterwards, trailing behind him, ashes and shredded pipe tobacco. “We'll have to arrange a meeting of the knights,” observed the Idea Man enthusiastically, since as usual, he had no idea whatever to do, and stooped embarassedly to pick up a toy train that had fallen from his pocket.
Accordingly a meeting of The Conversion Table ( so named as the knights joining it were converted from K2 to K3 pay classification ) was convened in Chamber 101.
“I've got a joke” said Sir Berald Forest, Knight of the Hoods. “If it isn't in The Funnybone Digest,” frowned the solemn Earle of Carle, “it doesn't exist.”
“You've never seen anything like these pictures” panted Sir Noel Hornykwin” and nudged the bored Sir Lyall of Ikson, who brushed him away with an indignant turn of his wrist.
“Silence” said the King, striking the table. “We are here to discuus a project in which we can take great personal pride, and which will be of immense importance to the future of Foffdan. I want you to compile a dictionary of all my regulations and decisions. I will edit the draft for syntax, hyphens, and punctuation. The dictionary will provide the precedents forevermore for the great decisions of our Country.”
The King waxed eloquent at great length, and one by one, the knights fell asleep.
Next day, the knights gathered to begin work on the dictionary. Tubby, the King's Chief
Records Clerk, who could not bend over to get into the file cabinet reported that all copies of the King's regulations and decisions were missing. A search of the castle failed to turn up any unauthorized persons on whom to place the blame.The knights were dismayed. They dared not tell the King.
“I have a suggestion,” said young Lord of Garybert, fresh from business school. “Let's sit in our offices surrounded by papers and scribble memos furiously back and forth to each other. I've only thirty-five years to retirement and it's all pensionable time.”
“No,” considered Sir Berald, “the King is certain to ask to examine our work to ensure we have used the correct Oxford Dictionary spelling.”
“I've got it” creid the always resourceful Lord Mask-Arrow. “Well prepare a dictionary for the King, but there will be nothing in it. We'll tell him it was written with invisible ink to safeguard its contents. We'll present the King with a meaningless formula to bring out the ink and imply he naturally understands it becuase he is the King. And not wanting to appear a fool, the King will guard the formula to the end of his days, as will all the Kings that succeed him, and no-one will be any the wiser.”
“He'll go for that,” rejoiced the Knights and adjourned for an hour coffee break.
There were tears in his eyes as the King accepted the impressive volume, bound in red leather with gold print. He had heard of the wonderful work that had gone into the dictionary, and soon opened the accompanying envelope to examine the secret formula. He frowned as he read it, and puffed slowly on his pipe, then dissappeared in the direction of the greenhouse, housing the scrupulously-maintained royal ferns.
Some time later, the King returned with various jars and bottles, and consulting the formula proceeded to mix their contents in a large beaker, underwhich he placed a cork coaster to catch the drips.. Once satisfied the formula had been prepared to specification, he he opened the dictionary to its first page and began to cover it with the mixture, using a broad green brush.
Meanwhile the Knights shuffled about nervously. Two suddenly remembered the Chariot Pool to which they belonged was about to leave and hurried out.
The King did not notice them leave. He was too busy being infuriated. Nor did the remaining knights notice their comrades' departure. They were too busy being astounded. The printing on the first page had appeared. The King had found five hyphens and two semi-colons missing, three misplaced subordinate clauses, four redundant adjectives and most inexcusably, a regulation he denied as being his own. He began a lecture. It was a long oration on punctuation and syntax, the knights' duty to their country, their pay increases and job security, their attendance, their attitude and the neatness of their waste baskets. Never had the King appeared more brilliant. Never had the knights felt so crushed and humiliated.
The King announced a revision of the Dictionary would be undertaken immediately and there would be no vacations until it was completed. The knights agreed without a whimper, and at last report were still revising.