The road to riches is lined with just nine words


Slogging through the whelming flood of teaching and correcting student essays, I have come to two realizations. First, instructing others is not the road to riches. Second, and more importantly, daily reading the writing of people who overuse gerunds affects you.


If you read this blog, and if you do I both thank you and feel your pain, you know that in spite of having failed to get rich by my never-popular Dog and a Half word kit, I am still searching for the road that leads to riches. In my quest I have wandered down the wrong road more than once. Years ago, I rashly took the road to itches; another time, I crashed through the gate closing the road to stitches. After that I stumbled down an incline onto the road to ditches, which led me through a spooky forest marked “The Road to Witches.” At least that’s what I thought the sign said. Someone had scratched out the “w” and tried to write another letter.



So the other day when I read that William Faulkner, moldering in his grave these past 50 years, has directed his heirs to go after Woody Allen for putting Faulkner’s words in the actor’s mouth, my gast was flabbered, that is to say, I was flabbergasted. This pay-to-say lawsuit is over a nine-word quote. Two short sentences for a total of nine words. If that isn’t flabbergastery, I don’t know what is. Really, you expect me to believe that Faulkner could write sentences that short? If I were the dead Hemingway, I would be directing my heirs to see if I actually wrote those sentences. Faulkner, who wrote a 1,288 word sentence in one of his books (rhymes with Abs and Arms, Abs and Arms) was not exactly known for his brevity. If you have read any of his other works, such as Alight in a Gust, As I Die Lying, Arose for Emily, or The Sound in the Flurry, you know what I mean.

And what are these nine words that you must pay to say? To avoid lawsuits, I’ll give you a couple of hints.

  • The paste is never dried. It’s not even paste. (Remove one “e” from each sentence. Take out the “ri” and push an “a” between the “e” and “d.”)
  • The p*st is never dead. It’s not even p*st. (Buy a vowel. I suggest “a.”)


Do you see where this is going? If your words are copyrighted, or even copywronged, you can sue people and get money. If you write a blog, a book, a letter, a to-do list, an electric bill (think the date and your name!), and then put that little copyright mark on it, you can become rich! You may be able to sue for even fewer than nine words. Eight words, seven words, six words, whee! This may be the last semester I teach.


Mark my words, folks, (but only if you find any errors, and please use green ink because that’s what we use at school to soothe the students who have been traumatized by years of red ink splattered across their papers, making every assignment they’ve ever written look like one more bloody battlefield in their war against the English language, a language they mangle, wrangle, and tangle on their tongues every day, slicing and dicing with their verbal swords, threatening to murder their own mother tongue — she who gave them voice, nurtured, cooed and wooed them! — until they give form to those words, incarnate them into curves and lines, lettering them onto paper, where they lie in rows like soldiers in trenches, fighting a losing battle against the teacher, who enters the fray, scarred but not deterred, weary but not defeated, ready to fight through the long, lonely hours of the night, unflinching in the face of that barrage of words that scatters meaning helter-skelter, but does not, yea, cannot conquer the ink-marked soldier, armed with just a pen, marching forth, gathering the wounded words, mending them if possible, but if not, circling them in a green shroud to be carried away), if other dead people follow this trend, we will all have to start paying when we quote them.


You can quote me on that. In fact, I hope you do.


(Note to Faulkner’s estate: In no way, shape, or form am I trying to disgorge your profits to engorge my own. All quotes and book titles appearing in this post are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, moldering or fully moldered in his or her grave in Oxford, Mississippi, having litigious heirs or not, is purely coincidental.)

32 thoughts on “The road to riches is lined with just nine words

  1. poetprodigy7

    Your expression of incredulity over Faulkner’s ability to write a short sentence had me chuckling over the memory of a similar comment I made a few years ago.

    When I was finishing my masters I was teaching a composition course, and several of my fellow grad students and I were discussing our own coursework selections for the spring. When someone asked me why I’d chosen not to take the William Faulkner course being offered, I replied, “because I’m teaching freshmen composition. I’ve got enough run-on sentences to be getting on with, thanks.”

    • Reading Faulkner is like wandering around in a forest without a path or compass. When you finally finish the book and get to higher ground you look back and think, “Oh, that’s where I was.” For all that, I do enjoy him, but from now on I’ll be careful about quoting him. 🙂

  2. I see where this law suit might be the final impetus to push creative minds towards txtspk completely, abandoning the English language to those already in the grave. Being already in the grave myself, I’m going to roll over, as soon as I finish this comment…

  3. Okay, I marked your words…I found the ‘ri’ and replaced it with an A and came up with daed, which made no sense to me at all, which was not surprising as I could not make much sense out of much of anything that you wrote today, that is until I read that he was from, or is in, or is that in-terned, in Oxford Mississippi, (that’s a lot of in’s, are there a lot of inns, in Oxford, Mississippi?) and I realized that you were speaking or rather writing phonetically and that the “past is day-ed.” How very clever of you..Oh, and thanks for gerund I’m going to use it in “words with friends” as soon as I get all of those letters.

  4. The image of Faulkner Moldering led me to Smoldering which in turn, led me to speculate if Holdering is the act of grasping something too long or merely a gerund for what an Attorney General does. The fact that (one more time) you’ve prompted me to even wonder this stuff gives me comfort though…at least I’ll have the satisfaction of having supplied my own damning evidence at a competency hearing that will inevitably be called in my honor at some point on down the road.
    While the jury is still out as to whether the Hearing will be a pay-for-view event or a made-for-public television fund-raising vehicle, I welcome you to yet another display of the wandering wonder that is me. Or was it you?
    Am so glad that in following your advice to publicly deny I read you, I’ve covertly (and successfully) converted the taboo exercise of anticipating your posts into my own personal pleasure. Well done oh word smith…but alas, I run on ;-D
    Thank you (again).

  5. I am afraid I am going to have to ask you to cease and desist from using words I have already used on my blog. As many as several of the words used here have already been claimed by myself. If you refuse to cease your disisting, I am afraid I will be forced to direct my heirs to commence legal procedings (as soon as they learn to read). Thank you for resolving this matter in a timely fashion.
    — The patriarch of a litigious brood.

    • As you can tell from the frequency of my posts, this semester’s schedule keeps me busy and tired. Only six more weeks, and next semester’s schedule looks like there’s more breathing room.

    • So glad you enjoyed the reading. I’m sure there’s some benefit to both heirs and lawyers in these cases. It seems excessive to me; maybe I would feel differently if I were an heir. I hope not.

  6. Very clever and entertaining as usual. Had some hair pulling with the word puzzle, but I’m okay now and feeling better about myself. I haven’t commented for a while, but I’ve been quietly reading behind the curtains and giggling in my gerunds.

  7. You would likely have been my very favorite teacher, provided you didn’t make me read Faulkner. I could never follow the plot or recall what was happening to whom. As much as I love to read, nope, no more Faulkner for me. He can probably sue me for that, too!

    • I recently re-read “As I Lay Dying.” I love the story, but it requires concentration to keep track of all the narrators. Some writers clear the path for you; Faulkner makes you clear your own, and there’s always so much underbrush.

  8. hello, ms. yearstricken… unfortunately, i read most of Faulkner’s works including Alight in a Gust, As I Die Lying, Arose for Emily, or The Sound in the Flurry. oh, you can bet i felt bad afterwards – each time, i promise. i think he wrote only one book that isn’t heartrending, the one about his uncle or some relative? that got him the Pulitzer or some mega-big time award. it should, it’s his only novel that doesn’t make one double over in pain…btw, i have a copy, too. been trying to read it more than 10 years. am nowhere near half, sadly… 😉

    • Like mothers who say, “Eat your vegetables; they’re good for you,” English teachers say, “Read Faulkner; it’s good for you.” Some people never acquire the taste; others choke it down. 🙂

      • ahaha, i remember that A Light in August made me want to crawl, eat soil and question the very essence of existence. but now that you very clearly pointed out the correct title, am much relaxed, ma’am. a matter of perspective, i guess. 😉 i love A Rose for Emily, though… 🙂

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