Posted by: Brad Nixon | September 7, 2010

Back to School: Our Special Plagiarism Issue!

School is starting again across the United States, except in those places in which it a) never stops due to a year-round calendar or b) may never start again because the citizens won’t approve operating expenses for their schools, preferring to spend money on their young people in the courts and jails after they turn into criminals or drug addicts or Libertarians or whatever else it is that young people without an education become.

In order to help the myriad students of every grade level who will turn to the Web to help them plagiarize research papers, book reports and history essays, and perhaps the odd master’s thesis, I am providing a download of everything I know that’ll be useful to the typical enterprising student to plagiarize. I’ll try to stick to my usual max of 2000 words or so. 2000 words-worth of knowledge, should at least qualify them to run for governor of California or be a Wall Street regulator.

Magna Carta: 1066: First collective bargaining agreement, meaning the barons collected more swords than the king had handy. Never say “THE Magna Carta.” It’s Latin: no articles. Saved work in carving on stone.

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. First line: “Call me Ishmael.” Ship: Pequod. Final score: Whale 1, Ahab 0. Ishmael makes it. Extra credit: refer to this as a central theme of Western Civilization: Man vs. Nature (for once, Nature wins).

William Shakespeare, Elizabethan English dramatist and poet; or might be Francis Bacon, Richard DeVere, Christopher Marlow or maybe Ambrose Bierce.

Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776; Articles of Confederation, 1777 or 1781, depending; Constitution of the United States, 1787: widely invoked by people who haven’t read it.

Quadratic equation: a square + b square = c square. Don’t ask me any more about this.

i before e except after c. And sometimes Y.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: he didn’t have an address there. He was only there for a few hours. His address was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The letter is “A.”

Julius Caesar (see Shakespeare). Caesar gets it. Brutus is ironic. Later, Antony gets Cleopatra and they both buy it, too, but you won’t have to read that play.

Latin, rare language that outlived all its speakers; useful phrases: Arma virumque cano. Veni, vidi vici. Alea jacta est. caveat emptor. That’s enough. The first one is Virgil. The next two are Caesar. The 4th is for New Orleans in dealing with Corps of Engineers. Modern languages derived from Latin called “Romance” languages because you have to conjugate verbs in Latin. IMPORTANT: NOT spoken by Latinos.

French: language spoken in France and written in restaurants. Have your girlfriend order for you.

Isaac Newton. English physicist and genius. If asked about, DON’T talk about the apple and gravity. Say, “Oh yes, Newton’s Opticks, (Newton was a terrible speller) in which he expounded the principles of the refraction of light.” Impresses any teacher. Or try, “Ah yes, entropy, the second law of thermodynamics.” Then change subject. Do not confuse with Izaak Walton, who lived at the same time and wrote “The Compleat Angler.” Not a genius, and couldn’t spell, either.

German Composers: Bach 1685, Mozart 1756, Beethoven 1770, Brahms 1833. Mozart rejected being called “Boo-Boo,” despite appeals to be the 4th “B.”

California: former Spanish-speaking colony abandoned to United States but gradually being reclaimed.

Louisiana Purchase: refers to thousands of disaster relief trailers, never delivered. Also billions of dollars of Army Corps of Engineer projects, never delivered in working order.

Logarithms: Avoid. Change subject with joke: Ask instructor, “What’s the indefinite integral of 1/CABIN?” She’ll laugh and say, “Very good. A natural log CABIN!” This will imply that you know logarithms so well that you can toy with them. Quickly transfer to phys ed.

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Wittgenstein: Very impressive book title when you need one. Then change the subject. Quickly. Do not use in phys ed class.

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington. Pictures on U.S. currency.

Australia. 6th Continent. Formed just before creation of Antarctica, the 7th. Former British prison colony. Now a combination beach resort and mining town.

Asia: the largest continent. Also known as The Far East, except in California, where it’s to the west, but not the Far West, which IS California. Also known as Near East or Middle East. Has most of the world’s most important islands except for Miami Beach, including Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, China, North Korea.

Russia. Ancient kingdom ruled by Czars or Tsars or Tzars. Now a criminal enterprise attempting to prove that communism really might’ve been a good idea after all. See Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, etc. etc.

It’s: Obsolete form of its.

There, their, they’re: Interchangable words to indicate those people over in that other place.

Grammar, syntax: Outdated concepts that governed English usage before the Web or Fox News.

Paradise Lost by John Milton, blind English poet: Naturally, it’s lost for a guy who couldn’t see. Avoid reading Paradise Lost by expressing enthusiasm for Il Penseroso or L’Allegro. LOTS shorter. Don’t worry, they’re in English. Contemporary of Newton and Walton. Also a poor speller, though better than Newton.

Constitutional Monarchy: England’s form of government. It means that the royalty all have fine constitutions and everyone else has had to endure seven decades of austerity to support them.

Canada: Mild, vague country north of United States. Increasingly colder the farther north you go, although this is being alleviated by a consolidated worldwide effort.

Bhutan, Nepal, Kashmir, Tibet: Former countries in central Asia with unique, ancient cultures and vast mountain ranges. China decided it was simpler to eliminate unique, ancient cultures and leave the mountains to keep India and Pakistan occupied with their own problems.

bicameral legislature: U. S. legislative form of government. That either means they can talk a long time without taking a drink of water, or it means that there are two houses of the legislature and the electorate periodically burns down one house or the other while they live in the other one.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer: memorize the first lines for instant credit: “Whan that Aprille with its shoures soote/The drought of March hath perced to the roote.” Chaucer, like Shakespeare stole all his stories from earlier writers like Petrarch, which you can try to use as a defense for your own plagiarism. It won’t work, but you can try it.

Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid by Homer, Greek (first two) and Virgil, Roman ( in Latin): Old poems about mythical wars. Key figures: Iliad: Helen of Troy, Achilles and Hector; Odyssey: Odysseus and Penelope; Aeneid: Aeneus and Dido. Easy.

universal suffrage: the principal that every citizen is entitled to a vote. Applies throughout United States except in Florida, Ohio and Chicago.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: Spanish novel-like tale from early 1600s about a man who is delusional and imagines himself to be a hero from ancient tales of knights. Has faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza. Major episode: tilting (jousting) at windmills, which Quixote imagines are giants. For extra credit, refer to this as a central theme of Western Civilization and/or attempts to reign in predatory financial institutions.

Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin: European scientists condemned by the church for being right.

William Faulkner: American screenplay writer who also published some books in a quaint Southern style. Books seem long at first, but they only have a few sentences.

Albert Einstein: E=mc squared. I know that E stands for “energy.” See further suggestions under “logarithm.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, American novelist: Attempted to live more extravagant life than the wildest one he could invent on paper. Died trying.

Fyodor Dostoevsky: Russian novelist inadvertently responsible for Jean Paul Sartre. Not his fault.

George and T.S. Eliot: Not related. George was an English novelist named Mary Anne Evans and T.S. was an American poet posing as an Englishman.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, English historian, mid-1700s. Important to get the title of his book correct: it’s NOT “Rise and Fall.” Better speller than Milton, Newton, etc.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: German writer and poet. Contemporary of Mozart and often argued with him about who had the rights to the name “Wolfgang.”

Uncertainty Principle, Werner Heisenberg, 20th Century German theoretical physicist: states that the harder you try to define one thing, the more difficult it becomes to define a related quantity. For extra credit, refer to this as a central theme of Western Civilization.

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, 20th Century French novelist: once you read the second book you’ll understand why you had to read the first book, except you may not make it through the first book. Can’t start on the second book, because it only makes sense if you’ve read the first book.

Ulysses by James Joyce, 20th Century Irish novelist: Say you’ve read it. Refer to Molly’s soliloquy at the end as very sexy. Your teacher hasn’t read it. You’ll skate.

Ernest Hemingway, American novelist: wrote terse stuff.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, German-speaking Czech novelist: Gregor Samsa awakens to discover he’s turned into a giant cockroach. Not nearly as exciting as it sounds. Cockroaches have miserable lives in this book and it’s really about having vicious parents. For extra credit, refer to this as a central theme of Western Civilization.

Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo and Karl Marx: early 20th Century brother team of vaudeville and film comedians. Karl also did some writing.

Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher: uppity but miserably unhappy iconoclast, invented idea of ubermensch, which did not help anyone at all, especially after brainless Nazis got Germans to believe their own perverse wack-a-doodle notion of the idea.

Adolf Hitler, Germany; Josef Stalin, Russia; Mao Tse-Tung, China: 20th century dictators and mass murderers. All three attempted to run all aspects of their society and institute all-controlling entities focused on exterminating large parts of their own populations. Mao won the competition, killing 30 million of his own nation. Hitler and Mao both wrote books. Mao sold more copies but had much bigger potential audience even after 30 million of them were dead.

1984 by George Orwell, English novelist and critic: see previous entry, including contemporary China, at least.

Leo Tolstoy: Russian novelist responsible for everything else except Sartre. Pick any page in any book. Describe as major theme of Western Civilization.

Jean Paul Sarte, French philosopher and collaborateur, founder of Existentialism: got ax idea from Dostoevsky and ground it with everyone except Nazis.

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, American writer: Huck tries again to teach lesson from Civil War (see below). Didn’t take.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, English Novelist around 1800: Elizabeth Bennett tries to pretend haughty Mr. Darcy isn’t a total hunk. Plenty of film versions you can rent without having to read the book. I like the one with Keira Knightly. Austen was a contemporary of Goethe and Mozart, so did not use her middle name, Wolfgang.

persistent vegetative state: in medicine, a condition of patients with severe brain damage who were in a coma; in politics, the government of California.

Jayne Eyre/Wuthering Heights by Charlotte and Emily Bronte, English novelists: Man, I can never get this straight. I think Charlotte wrote Jane, Emily wrote Wuthering. There was another sister, too and I can never remember what she wrote. One of them wrote under the name Currer Bell, or maybe George Eliot. Anyway, Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester but is constantly moving around being mistreated at a variety of school teaching jobs and miserable families she lives with. It seems to me that eventually Rochester shows up and saves the day. Wuthering Heights is, I think, about thwarted lovers who never get together, unless it’s THAT one in which Mr. Rochester comes in off the moor and … well, there are plenty of film versions you can rent.

Wars: (in chronological order, not a complete list)

Peloponnesian: 431-404 BC, Athens vs. Sparta. This is NOT the earlier Greco-Persian War that included Thermopylae that was the subject of the animated film 300 so don’t get ’em mixed up because the teacher will mock you openly in class for watching movies instead of studying;

Punic: 3 wars from 264-146 B.C., Rome vs. Carthage. The last one had Hannibal driving elephants (called punics in Latin) over the Alps. Clever try, but he still lost;

Hundred Years’ War(s): 1337-1453. In France, which explains among other things why they can’t count: actually 116 years. Leave it to the French;

of the Roses, 1455-85 or so in England: York vs. Lancaster. Messy. Avoid if possible. Too many names, dynasties, 4th cousins, etc.;

U.S. Civil, 1861-65: Waged over a misunderstanding about the price of cotton. Southern states did not believe enslaving human beings had a price.

Spanish American, 1898: U.S. gained control of Cuba, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam to prove that they were not an imperialist nation. Teddy Roosevelt invented his own legend with the Rough Riders;

Franco American: wait, that’s a spaghetti sauce;

WWI: 1914-1918 (except for Americans, who only had it from 1917);

WWII: 1939-1945 (except for Americans, who only had it from 1941).

Korean, 1950-1953 (or 2010, depending on who’s counting);

Vietnam: 1963 or 1964 or ’65 or ’66 – 1974, depending on who’s talking (except for French, who had it earlier but gave it to America in exchange for right to host Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in Paris at a date to be named later);

Current: check your newspaper. There’s a new one every day.

Paleozoic Era, from 540 to 240 million years ago: divided into 8 periods: Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, Permian and Cheynian, during which life on earth was marked by violent strife followed by new evolution, except in Cheynian, during which evolution was was not permitted.

Types of Rock: Ignorant, Metallic, Sentimentary

Art, Music: subjects formerly taught in school. Eliminated to save money and in California, to lower property taxes thanks to Howard Jarvis and millions of other selfish idiots.

While we’ve tried to check dates and spellings when we felt like it, Under Western Skies, its editor and WordPress are not responsible for the grade of any test, examination, paper or report using any of this information, so you may want to check your work by looking over the shoulder of the smart girl in front of you.

© 2012 Brad Nixon



  1. Bravo – hilarious!
    i before e except after c, that is wierd.


  2. Wow, I didn’t realize how much I’ve forgotten since I was in school. Thanks for the refresher.


  3. Very good Brad — a real trip down memory lane., and fixed a few things for me (there I was thinking Kafka was Czech). I know of few people who’ve read Ulysses (or have claimed to), but I know of *nobody* who has read Finnegans Wake. I liked the logarythm joke.

    — Thanks, Mark


    • Ahoy there, chorley guy, mukks pleasurad. Let us swop hats and excheck a few strong verbs weak och either. I have read FW, but not much of it stuck!


      • Wow – you are in rare company then Brad! I have approached Finnegans Wake just the once, but retreated. 15 years on I may make another foray. I would almost claim to have read Ulysses – the problem being I read the disputed “corrected edition”.

        And thanks for the apt description of Australia – a nice accurate one-liner!


  4. Very clever! Enjoyed reading these and want to read more please.


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