Instrumental Column  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   December/January 2006

Instrumental Column   


Great piece and thank you for something I had not yet seen in the copious coverage of the New York Times/Judy Miller story: pointing out that it was Howell Raines who put her WMD articles on the front page ("Who's in Charge?" Web special). Surely, he's got to share some of the blame for her transgressions.

One cavil (and I'm sure you've already heard this from many others): It isn't a clarinet. From the song "Anatole of Paris" in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," as written by Sylvia Fine and sung by her husband, Danny Kaye: "And the oboe it is clearly understood / Is an ill wind that no one blows good."

Mort Sheinman
New York, New York

Rem Rieder responds:
While I've heard the line used frequently (and accurately in my view but not in Managing Editor Lori Robertson's) about the clarinet, props to astute reader Sheinman for knowing the Sylvia Fine/Danny Kaye ditty. Here's what the language mavens who put out Random House's "Word of the Day" have to say about this pressing matter:

"This play on words is variously said to be about the clarinet, the French horn, or the oboe. It has been attributed to among others Duke Ellington, Ogden Nash, Sir Thomas Beacham, Danny Kaye, and Danny Kaye's wife, Sylvia Fine, who wrote the songs for all his movies. In truth, it was probably around before any of them. But whoever said it first, the words that ring in my ears were sung in 1947 by Danny Kaye in the movie 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty': 'And the oboe it is clearly understood / Is an ill wind that no one blows good.'"

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