The Liberty of the Ad Lib

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Did you see what I did there?

“Liberty”…

“Ad Lib”…

Get it?

OK. I have to admit. It is a bit of a stretch. At least from a literal standpoint. The “lib” of “ad lib” doesn’t stand for “liberty.” It’s actually the short form of the Latin phrase ad libitum.

Ad libitum literally translates to “at one’s pleasure.” There’s no “liberty” in it at all. Our word “liberty” derives from the Latin word liber. In Latin, liber and libitum mean two different, albeit not wholly unrelated, things.

The Latin liber means “free” or “unrestricted.” You can easily see how we get “liberty” from Continue Reading “The Liberty of the Ad Lib”

Groucho Speaks! A Book Review of The Groucho Letters

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The_Best_Game_Ever_250Who’s the best comedic commentator too many people haven’t really seen? Long before Jon Stewart, ages prior to SNL’s Weekend Update, decades in advance of Johnny Carson and even years ahead of Bob Hope, the world had Groucho Marx. A biting satirist when needed, Groucho had an advantage over all these heirs: He had no pretentions about his own humble beginnings (vaudevillian slapstick can do that to anyone). How did Groucho achieve this while Stewart, SNL and, at times both Carson and Hope, fail the snideness test?

Many credit Irving Thalberg with the successful relaunch of the Marx Brothers. After a five year run with Paramount, the Marx Brothers left the studio over a disagreement. Thalberg picked up the act for MGM. Though their Paramount movies proved popular, those pictures lacked something. Thalberg knew what the films overlooked. Besides a traditional story line, Continue Reading “Groucho Speaks! A Book Review of The Groucho Letters