Talk:Readability

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Don't forget about Ned!

Don't forget one of the common phrases from the great American philosopher Casey Stengel, "I'm not Ned from the Third Reader!" Or maybe it's "OF the Third Reader".... (His other great phrase, "I didn't just fall off the turnip truck!") Who, or what, was the Third Reader? Hayford Peirce 20:43, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

The reference is to Lazy Ned who wouldn't pull his sled uphill. The Third Reader is McGuffey's Third Reader (a different Ned appears in some of the other Readers). I would suppose it is the 1879 edition and that Mr. Stengel went to school on the McGuffey Readers. I recall reading Henry Steele Commager's intro to the 1962 Signet Classic reprint of the Fifth Reader in which he lamented the fact that the passing of the Readers had deprived Americans of a set of common images. Time was (apparently) when a reference such as Stengel's would have been instantly understood by almost all Americans. No more. James F. Perry 21:26, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the info! Casey was born in 1890, so would have been in grade school around 1900. As you say, there were once a whole bunch of common references (and assumptions) throughout American culture. My own first reader in the first grade was about "Alice and Jerry", as I recall, which was the Avis to Hertz's "Dick and Jane" or some such -- I think most kids for a couple of decades learned to read from one or the other.... Hayford Peirce 21:39, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Actually, as it turns out, it is story number VI from the Fourth Reader (1879 edition). It is short enough, so here it is, in full:

"'Tis royal fun," cried lazy Ned,
"To coast upon my fine, new sled,
And beat the other boys;
But then, I can not bear to climb
The tiresome hill, for every time
It more and more annoys."

So, while his schoolmates glided by,
And gladly tugged uphill, to try
Another merry race,
Too indolent to share their plays,
Ned was compelled to stand and gaze,
While shivering in his place.

Thus, he would never take the pains
To seek the prize that labor gains,
Until the time had passed;
For, all his life, he dreaded still
The silly bugbear of uphill,
And died a dunce at last.

The moral world of the McGuffey Readers is quite unambiguous. Virtue is never its own reward, and vice is never left unpunished. And both must have their worldly component. The rewards and punishments are often immediate, but if not, they are at least certain and, quite often, outsized, with very little, if anything, left to the imagination. And the die is cast early! James F. Perry 02:12, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes, the Vics were great for morality and lessons, that's fer sure. Thanks! I too have done a little research, and apparently Casey was generally quoted as saying "Ned IN the Third Reader", and when he would say something such as "That guy of mine out there in left field is not Ned in the Third Reader," he meant to say that the guy was not naive or gullible or a hick or a bumpkin. There are probably other interpretations.... Hayford Peirce 02:40, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Hmmmm! Maybe there is a Ned in the Third reader as well. More research needed. James F. Perry 03:51, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Before more research is warranted, we have to remember that Casey was notably garrulous, the inventor of "Stengelese", not a professor of American idiom, and a man whose highest educational level was that of studying dentistry -- he flunked out because he was left-handed and dentistry at the time wasn't equipped to deal with lefties. So Casey might well have conflated one or more "Readers", hehe.... Hayford Peirce 04:02, 22 October 2010 (UTC)