Snow: To dream the American dream

September 15, 2012 

Perhaps the most over-worked expression during this political campaign has been “the American dream.” Almost every orator during the ongoing orgy of political promises has promised it.

Pray tell, dear readers, what is the American dream? Is it a personal wish list that differs with every individual?

For example, on a recent cable news interview, a man who had bought a $750,000 house was about to lose it because he couldn’t muster the mortgage payments. Was to own a mansion in socially superior suburbia his American dream?

To someone out of a job for a year or more, would work at a fast food outlet flipping hamburgers all day be his American dream?”

I asked a learned friend to define “the”American dream.

“I dare not,” he replied. “The ‘dream’ might have been born as one result of the nightmare of poverty during the Depression or the aspirations of immigrants. It has probably changed often with the times and passing generations.

“The post-WWII dream would have been drastically different from the dreams of the Sixties and Seventies. To me, the expression is an empty throw-away phrase used in political and other speeches, ill-defined on purpose, hoping the poor listeners will breathe their own meanings into it on the way to a feel-good moment.”

If you have an American dream of your own, go for it, but don’t depend on election-year politicians to make it come true.

He never said it

Speaking classic campaign promises, all my life I thought Herbert Hoover, in his 1928 campaign for the presidency, gave the American people the hope of “a chicken in every pot.”

Rambling around on the internet, I discovered that although the GOP campaign promised “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage,” Hoover did not coin the expression.

In fact, several sources, including old reliable Bartlett’s, the Bible of who said what and when, cites the original source as Henry IV of France. Back in the 17th century he is said to have wished that each of his peasant citizens would enjoy “a chicken in his pot every Sunday.”

Squirrel cure

I knew there had to be a genius out there somewhere who could outsmart our state mammal. She is Sepi Prichard of Raleigh.

“Mr. Snow, we have stopped filling the bird feeder and are now planning to put the bird seed out in the middle of Millbrook Road. Birds will fly over the cars. Squirrels will run right into or under the cars! And it is not against the law. Or if it is, don’t tell me about it !”

Hoe in the house

I recently mentioned one of my mother’s house rules: “Don’t bring a hoe in the house” and wondered about its origin.

Bob Lewis of Cary thinks the edict sprang from a pre-Civil War practice of cooking hoe cakes, a mixture of cornmeal, water and lard on the blade of a hoe held over a cookfire. The thin cakes were a mainstay meal for slaves and poor whites of that time.

Maybe so, but I like the answer once provided by my late friend, Nell Styron of Raleigh.

“A.C.,” she once said. “You just misunderstood your sweet mother who in her Southern accent was saying, ‘Don’t bring a whore in the house.’ With all those sons, her rule was certainly applicable.”

Word fest

After watching portions of two political conventions replete with long-winded orations, the following anonymous lines come to mind:

There was a man of verbosity

Who loved words with a savage ferocity.

While waxing profound,

He fell to the ground,

Overwhelmed by his pomposity.

Quiz time

An out-of-town friend called to ask my wife to name the seven deadly sins, since her preacher is going to sermonize on them for the next few weeks.

“I doubt I can name them all,” my wife said, and added jokingly, “I sometimes confuse them with the names of the Seven Dwarfs.”

I flunked on both lists. In case you’re interested, here goes:

The dwarfs: Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy

The sins: Pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lust.

Surprisingly, pride is the deadliest of the seven..

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service