How do you spell Nietzsche?’

November 14, 1997

Uncle Rupert turned 98 recently. Considering what I’ve told you about him, his longevity may come as something of a surprise. It’s even more surprising when you consider that he comes from a family that considers lard an indispensable ingredient, if not a food group in itself. But you only know half the story. Uncle Rupert may well be the bravest man I know because he’s out risking his life on a daily basis. Sure, we all know about his groundbreaking trip to Europe, his research on kudzu, and his award-winning air conditioning repair, but these pale in comparison with the many daring feats of bravery Uncle Rupert has performed over the years.

His career as a risk-taker began with a bang, literally, when he designed what many still consider to be the most effective car-theft deterrent using only some gum, a coat hangar, and a shotgun. The fact that he installed it in his brother’s police car, and the ensuing publicity, made him something of a celebrity, and the similar device he installed in his home and then forgot about started him on a long and auspicious career as a combination daredevil and inventor, as well as giving him that distinctive hairstyle. All through the years, though, he’s never lost touch with the simple things: gasoline, fertilizer, small firearms, lawnmowers, live chickens… If Uncle Rupert were familiar with Nietzsche, his motto might be, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger." However, as a true individual, he invented a motto that fits him perfectly: "Huh. I wonder what this’ll do." Enjoy this week’s life-enhancing offering.


When I visit the cinema, I like to have some popcorn to munch. (I get the child-size container, because the small one is nearly the size of the large one, but that’s a topic for another day.) The popcorn is especially tasty with a topping of imitation butter-flavored lipids (usually just called "butter"). The trouble is, I never seem to get the correct amount of butter. No matter how carefully I choose my words, I get a different amount than I wish. Here are some examples from recent weeks.

Me: I’d like a child-sized popcorn with more than a little butter.
(Result: I get a lot of butter.)

Me: Could I get a child-sized popcorn?
Clerk: Would you like butter on that?
Me: Yes, I’d like a little butter. Thanks.
(Result: I get three drops of butter.)

Me: I’d also like a child-sized popcorn. And I need to get more than a little butter, but not a lot.
Clerk: Let me check with the manager.

Me: I’d like a child-sized popcorn with twelve milliliters of butter, please.
Clerk: Huh?

Me: Could I get a child-sized popcorn? And when you put butter on it, imagine the most butter anyone has ever wanted, and give me 60% of that.
Clerk: You want butter up to _here_? (Pointing three-quarters of the way up the side of the popcorn cup.)
Me: No, just a little butter will be fine.

Me: I need just some butter on that. Not like a lot, you understand, but just a few squirts.
Clerk: No problem.
(Result: Texaco wants drilling rights in the cup.)

Me: I’d like a child-sized popcorn with five squirts of butter, please.
Clerk: How much is a squirt?
Me: You know, one press of the plunger on the butter machine.
Clerk: What’s a plunger?
Me: That knob on top of the butter machine.
Clerk: That doesn’t come off.
Me: I don’t want the plunger. I want you to push it five times.
Clerk: I have to charge extra for that much butter.
Me: How much butter can I get without paying extra?
Clerk: A lot. An awful lot.
Me: Well, I don’t want that much. Just five squirts.
Clerk: I don’t think we have that much butter.
Me: Can I have it just a medium amount of butter, then?
Clerk: Okay.
(Result: I get seven squirts of butter. But the clerk forgot to charge me for my drink, so that’s a plus.)

Me: Could you fill the cup about one-third full, then put half a squirt of butter into it? Then do the next third the same way, then the top third.
Clerk: I can’t put butter onto only part of the cup. It gets onto all the rest of the popcorn. I can sell you two cups, though, and only put butter into one of them.
Me: How about if you make two cups that are half full. Put a lot of butter into one cup, and no butter in the other. Then mix the two together into one cup and give it to me.
Clerk: I’ll have to charge you extra for two cups.

Me: How about if I come back there and show you exactly how much butter I want?
Clerk: Sorry, sir, but it’s dangerous back here.

Me: On a scale of one to ten, the amount of butter I want is a six.
Clerk: Gotcha.
(Result: I get more butter than I’ve ever seen in my life.)

Me: Just this much butter. [Holding my thumb and forefinger one centimeter apart.]
(Result: At the bottom of the cup is a one-centimeter layer of butter.)

Me: Is there some kind of scale I can use to specify how much butter I want? You know, like the Beaufort scale or the Richter scale?
Clerk: I don’t think so.
Me: Dang. Well, just give me a light hailstorm of butter with no crop damage.
Clerk: Huh?

Me: I don’t want to get too much butter, but I want a lot. How about if I tell you when to stop?
Clerk: Okay. Tell me when it’s enough. [Fills a cup about one-third full of popcorn, starts pumping butter.]
Me: Stop! That’s enough!
Clerk: Don’t you want more popcorn than that?

Me: Could I get just a medium amount of butter?
Clerk: You mean, on some popcorn?
Me: Yes. I want a child-sized cup, please.
Clerk: We don’t have butter.
Me: You don’t?
Clerk: It’s this artificially butter-flavored coconut oil.
Me: That’s what I want.
Clerk: It’s not good for you, you know.
Me: Butter’s not very good for you, either.
Clerk: But we don’t have butter.
Me: Okay, I’ll have just a little of whatever you call it, then.
Clerk: But it’s not really butter.

Me: Box of Junior Mints, please.
Clerk: That’ll be $3.75. Do you want butter?

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