Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Russian, Scandinavian, etc.
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XIV: Russian—Scandinavian—Miscellaneous
 
The Philosopher
By Ivan Khemnitser (1745–1784)
 
From the “Fables”

A CERTAIN rich man, who had heard it was an advantage to have been at school abroad, sent his son to study in foreign parts. The son, who was an utter fool, came back more stupid than ever, having been taught all sorts of elaborate explanations of the simplest things by a lot of academical windbags. He expressed himself only in scientific terms, so that no one understood him, and every one became very tired of him.
  1
  One day, while walking along a road, and gazing at the sky in speculating upon some problem of the universe to which the answer had never been found (because there was none), the young man stepped over the edge of a deep ditch. His father, who chanced to be near by, ran to get a rope. The son, however, sitting at the bottom of the ditch, began to meditate on the cause of his fall. He concluded that an earthquake had superinduced a momentary displacement of his corporeal axis, thus destroying his equilibrium, and, in obedience to the law of gravity as established by Newton, precipitating him downward until he encountered an immovable obstacle—namely, the bottom of the ditch.  2
  When his father arrived with the rope, the following dialogue took place between them:  3
  “I have brought a rope to pull you out with. There, now, hold on tight to that end, and don’t let go while I pull.”  4
  “A rope? Please inform me what a rope is before you pull.”  5
  “A rope is a thing to get people out of ditches with, when they have fallen in and can’t get out by themselves.”  6
  “But how is it that no mechanical device has been constructed for that purpose?”  7
  “That would take time; but you will not have to wait until then. Now, then——”  8
  “Time? Please explain first what you mean by time.”  9
  “Time is something that I am not going to waste on a fool like you. So you may stay where you are until I come back.”  10
  Upon which the man went off, and left his foolish son to himself.  11
  Now, would it not be a good thing if all eloquent windbags were gathered together and thrown into the ditch, to keep him company? Yes, surely. Only it would take a much larger ditch than that to hold them.  12
 
 
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