Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Annoying But True"

Stick-ler – originally referring to the Stickler family, who bore a well-known reputation for scrupulous, factual accuracy, especially concerning matters that are trivial, boring and frustratingly irrelevant; now referring to anyone who behaves that way and drives people nuts.

Stickler:  I’ll bet you think you know how many presidents there’ve been.

A Normal Person:  44.






Well which is it – right or wrong?

It’s “Right – you’re wrong.”

How many presidents have there been?




Did one of them drop out?


Was one disqualified?  They found out Martin Van Buren was born in Belgium?


I don’t understand.  Isn’t Obama the 44th president?

Actually, he’s the 43rd.

I thought George W. was the 43rd.  And his Dad was the 41st.  That’s what they called each other – “43” and “41.”

They should have called each other “42” and “40.”


Because they were.

Then why do we – and by “we” I mean everyone except you – think there’ve been 44 presidents?

Because the people who are responsible in these matters have always counted one president twice.

By mistake?


They just liked him?


Was it Taft, who weighed, like, three hundred and twenty pounds, so he was big enough to be two presidents?


Then why did they count the same person twice?

Because he served two terms as president.

A lot of presidents did.  I looked it up once.  Eleven presidents served two terms, and FDR served four.  If you counted that way – let’s see, forty-three, plus eleven, plus FDR’s three other terms – that would be 57 presidents.

Well that’s just silly.

So is 43.

It’s not  You see, one president – Grover Cleveland – served two terms, but they weren’t two consecutive terms.  There was another president in between – Benjamin Harrison – and then Cleveland came back.

So they counted him as two presidents?


The same guy – two presidents. 


“I’m here.  I’m gone.  I’m back.  I’m another president.”

I was the 22nd and now I’m the 24th.

The same human being.  Counted twice.


That’s odd.

It’s what they did.

The White House staff, did they think he was a different guy?

I don’t imagine so.  He looked the same.  Only four years older.

Did they make little jokes, like, “You know, you’re a lot nicer than the guy who was here two presidents ago.”

I really wouldn’t know.

Do they hang two presidential portraits of the same person?  One with a little less hair?

I’m not sure.  I do however have a Mouse Pad with the presidential portraits on it.  You know how many there are?


The Mouse Pad got it right!

So then there were, in fact, only forty-three presidents.

Forty-three different entities, yes. 

Most people think there’ve been forty-four.

Those people aren’t counting presidents, though they think they are.  They’re actually counting presidencies.


A presidency being defined as one or two consecutive terms, or in one case four terms,  plus one president who served two terms but not in a row, who has traditionally been counted as two presidents, when it, more accurately, should be considered two presidencies.  Of course, if you were to count each presidential term individually, that would be


presidencies.  Yes.

Forty-three presidents.  Fifty-seven presidencies.

Or forty-four presidents, if you incorrectly count a president who served two non-consecutive terms as two presidents.

Which is what most people do.

Without knowing why.


You really think so?

Absolutely.  If you’re a Stickler!


Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam said...

Sam Jephcott

Gnasche said...

I'm absolutely a stickler. Yesterday I corrected someone who said "verbage", because it's getting so widespread these days. I had an audience, so I threw in "champing at the bit" as a trivial note, since I know it's too late to save that one.

Max Clarke said...

There's a need for the stickler, if you mean somebody who is details-obsessed.

You need somebody who'll proofread a contract, you need somebody who can balance the books to the penny, it's important to know if the nurse is going to give the right amount of a drug in a shot. You need somebody who can build something according to the blueprint.

Fine, but we know who sticklers really are. They are the prigs, the martinets. They use inaccuracies to show how smart they are. They seize upon somebody's misuse of an expression to demonstrate their superiority. They care more about the rules than the substance. They treat you as if you are their class pupil.

You don't meet a lot of happy sticklers, do you? They're happy maybe before or after, but as they perform their stickler function, stress surrounds their demeanor.

They are God's little enforcers. Don't need 'em.

Gary said...

That's pretty interesting...the etymology of stickler, along with the Pres. count. Your presentation made it more interesting than just another round of Trivial Pursuit. I've occasionally wondered if being a stickler is a form of OCD? Maybe OCD Lite? I find that I have sticklerish leanings, at times, tho I am capable of stopping it before becoming annoying, today's post notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

I think there was one guy who was president for like a week or something. He was like a placeholder until the real guy was elected. I dunno, I'm too lazy to look it up again but I read it somewhere sometime in between looking for articles on Kim Kardashian.