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Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Luckily, 3rd grade test idea too late for me


February 10. 2013 4:25PM

Whew, did I dodge a bullet in third grade.

Not all legislative bills become law in Concord, home to the third-largest English speaking deliberative body in the world, so-called. But the one some solon (more on that in a minute) dreamed up last week would have sunk me, for sure. Come to think of it, it may have sunk more than a few members of the General Court, too.

State Rep. Joseph Pitre of Farmington wants to make kids pass a test to get out of the third grade, and another one to escape the sixth.

This and other ideas being proposed by the current Legislature have so stunned the elected that a committee has been proposed to deal with them. Always a good idea, the committee. It's a great place to send bad ideas.

A camel, one wag once said, is a horse designed by a committee. This committee has gotten bigger and bigger and may be bigger still before this column gets into print. At last look, it had grown to about 40 members.

If they had a test when I was in third grade, I might still be there. As it was, I narrowly escaped because my Aunt Eileen, who was my teacher that year, wanted me advanced the heck out of her class.

It's true. She even went to my mother and suggested a DOUBLE promotion, saying that I should really be in the fifth grade, not the third. I see now what she was up to. She not only wanted me gone, she wanted to make sure that if I were subsequently moved back, it would only be to the fourth grade, not hers.

My mother, of course, had a passing understanding of my mental acumen. No dice, she told my aunt.

So there I sat, in Henry W. Moore School, until the end of the school year whereupon my aunt-teacher kindly arranged what today would be called a "social promotion" for me.

And then I fell into newspapering where I learned such neat terms as "solon" and "wag," neither of which gets much use these days.

Mr. Solon was apparently an ancient Greek of the legislative persuasion. Today, I'm guessing Chris Spirou would be his equivalent. Anyway, the meaning of the term was Greek to me, and to most newspaper readers. But it was easier to write a headline with a small word like solon rather than a longer word such as legislator or representative.

"Solons pass bill" would be a typical headline that gave the reader precious little information but filled the alloted space, nicely.

And "wag?" I haven't a clue. But if you dip into the old files of any newspaper or magazine, you will likely find references to "one wag" or an "office wag" saying some supposedly witty thing.

If you could go back and do the forensics, I bet half the time the "wag" in question was in fact the author of the supposedly witty thing. And since some weren't so witty, the "wag" remains anonymous.

Write to Joe McQuaid at

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