Academic Preface: While a comprehensive history of lists has concerned both historians and beer-swilling bloggers for a long, long time (since before lunch, actually), only the latter group has come up with any answers. This is probably because historians have more important things to, like searching for their spectacles.
The first list used by mankind was in the year CLMVIV (hint to aspiring historians: Using Roman numerals is always an excellent idea, as it lends a learnèd look and eliminates research), when emperor Julius Caesar kept forgetting which countries he had already conquered. On many mornings during the year so authentically noted (above) in Roman numerals (hint to aspiring historians: Go ahead, show off). Julius would get out of beds and order the ransacking of his own lands. His armies would burn their own buildings, loot their own treasures, and then Julius would capture and imprison the leader (himself, that is) and order him (himself, that is) executed in the most horrible ways.
This proved embarrassing for the other Roman nobles. (And, incidentally, led to the terrible misunderstanding with Brutus in the town of Ides; reference – see: Act MCVV of that play by William Something). When they commissioned a court scribe named Et Cetera to find a solution, he decided to etch the names of conquered countries on the backs of the emperor’s concubines as a memory aid.
The very first list ever thus read: Estes Tutu – Bonumbump! – Mondii (in the Aramic language. Hint to aspiring historians: Always use dead languages for quotations like these, since they cannot be edited or doubted), which translates to English as The Entire – Shoulderblade! – World.
This worked for a while and there was peace in Aramic-speaking parts of Roman, until the morning when Julius cleverly asked which countries he hadn’t conquered. Cetera needed to add two entries to his etchings, but concubine backs were smaller at the time (this is an established anthropological fact), and the list would include what historians call “the cute little baby Roman numerals i) and ii) “, which most beer-swilling bloggers agree is absurd. They’re not even numbers, Idiots! They’re letters on my keyboard! And keyboards probably hadn’t been invented yet. (Hint to aspiring historians: Sometimes, you have to research preposterous statements like that one. But I don’t.)
Instead, Cetera made the entries on a filthy yoga, which read:
(translated from Aramic):
“i) the big snowy place way up there where they wear funny fur hats and play ice hockey well until they choke in the playoffs,
ii) just past that wet place where we keep dropping our coins, on the other side of our wall where those fierce little blue people scream a lot
etc” (his initials)
This became the first recorded human list, which survived until wash-day on a Friday in that year authentically cited above in Roman numerals, which is why historians haven’t found it yet.
Also, they can’t find their spectacles.
* * *
5) We Will Not, Can Not, Shall Not Kowtow and Yield to Brevity When Flowery and Lengthy Phraseology is Readily At Hand
Lists are popular on web-sites today because people’s attention span has shrunk to something or other that I was reading last week but never finished because it was too long, and I wouldn’t remember anyways. But it was a very short attention span. Like that of a goldfish. Or bread-box. Or even shorter; A house cat maybe. So lists are popular because they’re short. At Chortles©, we don’t like that.
4) Lists Were Designed for Conquerors Only
As we have learned today, lists were originally designed as an imperialist tool for colonization. They also represent a cruel abuse of both concubines (i.e women) and ancient languages.
These concepts are abhorrent to progressive, enlightened civilizations of today. And ours. They must be abolished. (Lists, that is; Not civilizations.)
Besides, none of the modern surfers of the web are ever going to conquer anything, except maybe the Zargoozian galaxy in a video game, or – one hopes – their fear of gainful employment.
3) Except for Grocery Lists, That Is. But…..
Grocery lists are essential to our national economies. Without them, we would never remember to buy incidental stuff like vegetables, paper towels, mustard, dish detergent, toilet paper, or cat food. This would put a lot of people in those industries out of work, which is bad. It would also mean starvation for many house cats, which isn’t.
But a grocery list should never include the stuff we always need, known as The Five B’s. (Beer, bread, butter, bacon, beer.) These, after all, are the reasons we went to the store in the first place. Nobody, after all, goes into a car dealership and then checks a list to see what he came for: “Let’s see here…..uhm….yes, an automobile. With – just a sec – an engine, some doors… and a key and….uhmmm…oh yes: tires.”
2) We Don’t Talk In Lists. Yet.
A good list is short and concise, unlike this one. But the Internet should not be filled with them, simply because they do not reflect how humans express themselves. (With the exception, maybe, of Putin.) Consider your lover playfully asking what you’d like to do, and you answer in list form: “One: Slowly remove your clothing. Two: Mount you. Three: Engage in co-operative pelvic thrusting. Four: Get a beer. Five: Watch the end of the game.”
You’d not be getting much hoochie-kootchie.
Nor would anger be well conveyed by saying “One: Shut. Two: the. Three: goddamned. Four: hell. Five: up.”
No, no, no. Let’s write the way we speak.
1) Lists Are Killing Our Language.
Lists are to language as crutches are to tap-dancing. (See how lists stunt the brain? One little list I’ve made, and already my comparisons are way dumber than usual.) It is an established etymological (which may, actually, be the study of insects. I’ll have to check) fact that words are lost to English by both over and under-use. The beginning of the Bible, for example, effectively killed begetting, which is why nobody does it anymore. Similarly, boring dead guys like Chaucer, Byron, and that William guy threw around so many haths and doths and thees and thys that these fine words gathped and verily did dieth.
There is now ample evidence that lists are causing the same fate to befall the numbers one through ten. (Don’t ask; this is supposed to be a short list. But I do have proof, especially among entomologists, which may actually be the study of words. I’ll have to check.)
Meanwhile, under-use has murdered such fine words as Gazooks, Flappers, quintessential, and hooters. We never read them anymore. And lists, or course, similarly threaten the existence of semi-colons, commas, indentation and words such as plus, and, nevertheless, for, nor, but, yet, continuing and phrases like on the other hand and but we should remember that.
1.2) Imagine the Triumph of List-Lovers
It will all be over when Ms. Browning’s sweet poem is presented as such:
“How do I love thee? Let me (list) the ways.
- Depth, breadth, height.
- Level of every day’s.
- Sun, Candle-light.
- Lost saints, breath.