EB White explains his dachshund's license status




That was lovely.


Agreed. Doesn’t seem very sarcastic at all. If that’s considered sarcastic, I can see why USA folk have a reputation for not getting irony. They’re all getting the wrong examples.


No flowery words or run-on sentences; he follows his own advice.


Uh, I beg to differ. That was sarcasm, not irony. The point of sarcasm is to ridicule, to belittle, whether by the use of irony, of faint praise, or other means.


I’d also like a license for my pet fish Eric. He’s an halibut.


I can’t imagine what it was I said that made you believe I thought it was irony. I thought it not sarcastic, is all I said. I then made an observation about a fairly well known, related, device.


It’s like raaain on your wedding day?


You may not have found it witty, or may not have found the sarcasm biting enough, but how else would you categorize the rhetorical device he uses when he notes that his dog doesn’t answer the phone?


I was a bit weirded out when it got to the part about canine incest.


Again, I’d have to ask what it is I wrote that would indicate I didn’t find it witty. Indeed my initial agreement with PatrickD explicitly states I found it lovely, which by no means precludes witty. I’ve no trouble at all characterising the bit about his dog not answering the phone as sarcasm, but it was the whole letter that was being described as arch/sarcastic. Arch, maybe. Nearly all of it. But sarcastic, no, Hardly at all. A small piece of synechdoche in Romeo and Juliet doesn’t turn the whole play into a comedy.


It’s license to do what, exactly? To be a dog? Is this like voter registration?


To operate the telephone.


It’s like a license plate for a car – if the dog is lost, or if it attacks a person, or whatever, it allows the owner to be identified.


Such was the point of my (snarky) question. People can arguably claim to own cars, since cars are machines. But the notion that a person can own another living thing is a very different sort of argument.

It’s interesting to see the disparity of when and why human law should be considered applicable to non-humans. For example issues people get terribly worked up and emotional about such as sex laws. If I can prove to my local police that a fifteen year old dog is screwing a two year old dog in my front yard - I’d expect their mockery rather than outrage. Likewise if a goat is getting down and funky with a pig. So much for those knee-jerk moralistic absolutes!


Not so much his advice about “omitting unnecessary words”, though. Whether or not you found his rant amusing, almost all of it was unnecessary (and probably counterproductive) from the standpoint of getting the relevant information across. Which would simply be “Minnie is registered in Maine [give license number]”.


Or, he simply had some time on his hands and simply wanted to have some fun. After all, he was a writer, and write he did.

“Some Dachshund”

Edit: Superfluous use of “simply”.

Second edit: Flowery word.


It never ceases to amaze me what a funny guy E.B. White was. As great as this letter was I still think his best is when he responds to critics who thought there was too much emphasis on death in Charlotte’s Web

I am working on a new book about a boa constrictor and a litter of hyenas. The boa constrictor swallows the babies one by one, and the mother hyena dies laughing.


I suppose you’re going to want one for a wretched demi-bee, half asleep upon your knee, as well.