NOVEMBER
1998

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

11-26-98

A Cockroach Philosopher Called "Archie"

Don Marquis, newspaper columnist for the "New York Sun Times” in the early 1900s, is best known for his creation of a cockroach named Archie. According to the columnist, one morning in 1916 he discovered a paper in his typewriter that contained free verse material. Each morning, Marquis would find additional verse, again signed Archie. Finally, by accident, the writer discovered a cockroach jumping off the carriage of his typewriter and landing head first on the keys to produce the verse.

The verse is neither punctuated or capitalized since the cockroach poet could not hold down the shift key while head butting the letter keys.  But Archie created some memorable verse. His comments on all phases of life have made Archie-and his friend mehitabel the cat-a classic in American literature.

No aspect of human behavior was above the caustic wit of Archie. Some of the most succinct commentary is contained in his maxims.

On living a healthy life:

            live so that you
            can stick out your tongue
            at the insurance
            doctor

On a positive outlook:

            if you get gloomy just
            take an hour off and sit
            and think how
            much better this world
            is than hell
            of course it won't cheer
            you up much if
            you expect to go there

On general attitude:

            don't cuss the climate
            it probably doesn't like you
            any better
            than you like it

On tolerance for the younger generation:

            many a man spanks his
            children for
            things his own
            father should have
            spanked out of him

On human conceit:

            insects have
            their own point
            of view about
            civilization a man
            thinks he amounts
            to a great deal
            but to a
            flea or a
            mosquito a
            human being is
            merely something
            good to eat

And on looking on the bright side:

            there is always
            something to be thankful
            for you would not
            think that a cockroach
            had much ground
            for optimism
            but as the fishing season
            opens up i grow
            more and more
            cheerful at the thought
            that nobody ever got
            the notion of using
            cockroaches for bait

Hey, if a cockroach can find grounds for being thankful, it ought to be easy for we humans. Then again, cockroaches have had 350 million years to perfect their philosophy of life. Humans, according to Archie, are still groping when it comes to things like government and happiness!

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox