Fat Chance


By: Kenda


*Fat Chance is a continuation of If A Cow Could Laugh.  If A Cow Could Laugh is posted in the Humor section of Kenda’s Emergency Library.






     “Looks like you’re pretty busy there, Johnny.”




     “Whatta ya’ writing?”


     “Just some more questions.”




     “Yeah, you know. Questions about life.”




     “Hey, where are ya’ goin’?”


     “To the dorm.”




     “Because I remember what happened the last time you were contemplating life’s questions.”


     “What happened?”


     “I got stuck trying to answer them.”


     “Yeah, and you didn’t do such a good job of it either, did ya’?”


     “I did just fine.”


     “Then why are you in such a hurry to get to the dorm?”


     “I’m not.”


     “But you just said--”


     “Never mind what I said.  Two can play at this game.”


     “Roy, it’s not a game. This is serious stuff. Stuff more people should spend time thinkin’ about.”


     “Uh huh.”


     “Why’d you say ‘uh huh’ like that?”


     “Like how?”


     “Like you’re not really interested in life’s questions?”


     “I said ‘uh huh’ because I was pouring myself a cup of coffee.”


     “Oh. Well, ‘uh huh,’ to you, too then.  Pour me a cup and sit down here at the table. Let’s see if we can get this done before the engine comes back.”


     “Get what done?”


     “Answer life’s questions, Roy.  Geez, what have we been talkin’ about ever since you walked into the room?”


     “It’s hard to say.”


     “What’s that supposed to mean?”


     “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”


     “Good, ‘cause we need to get started.”


     “I can hardly wait.”




     “I said...sure, that’d be great.”


     “That’s what I thought you said.  Okay, question number one.  Why is the third hand on a watch called the second hand?”


     “That’s easy. Because it records each second as it passes.”


     “Yeah, but think of explaining that to your kids. I mean, you tell the kids that a watch has three hands, right?”




     “And then you identify each hand by calling ‘em the ‘big hand’ the ‘little hand’ and the ‘second hand.’ Now how confusing is that?”


     “Doesn’t seem too confusing to me.”


     “Roy, it’s confusing. The ‘big hand’ is first, ya’ see. Then the ‘little hand’ is second. Then the ‘second hand’ is third, which means the little hand should really be the second hand, and the second hand should really be the third hand.  It makes a lot more sense that way.”


     “Maybe to eight-year-olds and John Gage it does, but I think the rest of us have a pretty good understanding of it.”


     “So, you don’t think I have much of a chance of getting people to call it the ‘third hand’ huh?”


     “Let’s put it this way, I’d say it’s a pretty slim chance.”


     “I’m glad you said that.”


     “You are?”


     “Sure. ‘Cause that brings me to my next question.”


     “I just had to open my big mouth.”




     “Never mind.”


     “Okay, if you insist. So anyway, question two.  Why does ‘slim chance’ and ‘fat chance’ mean the same thing?”


     “I...well...I...because...well, they...I--”


     “It’s weird, isn’t it? ‘Cause if Chet says to me, “Gage, the Phantom’s gonna get you for that,” I usually say, “Fat chance, Kelly.” Only sometimes I say, “Slim chance, Kelly,” and they both mean the same thing, except ‘fat’ and ‘slim’ don’t mean the same thing at all.”


     “Usually you say, “Shut up, Chet,” or you just overlook his threats all together, and then later you tell me that he’s stupid.”


     “Nah, not always. Sometimes I say, “Fat chance,” and sometimes I say, “Slim chance,” but from now on I’m just gonna stick with “Shut up, Chet,” and have it done with.”


     “I’m sure Cap will appreciate that.”


     “Ya’ think?”


     “I think.”


     “Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.  Anyway, you mentioned overlook.”


     “I did?”


     “Yep.  You said that sometimes I overlook Chet’s threats all together, which brings me to question number three.”


     “And that is?”


     “How come overlook and oversee mean opposite things?”


     “I don’t...well, because when you overlook something you...you know, you don’t see it.  But when you oversee something, you...well, you direct it, or act as an inspector.”


     “Which is exactly my point.”


     “It is?”


     “Yeah.  When you look at something you see it, right?”




     “And when you see something, you have to look at it, right?”



     “So how can overlook and oversee mean opposite things?  Shouldn’t they mean the same thing?”


     “I don’t know if they should or not.  All I know is that they don’t.”


     “I know that, too, which means we need to petition to have that changed.”


     “To have the definitions of overlook and oversee changed?”


     “Now you’re catchin’ on.”


     “And just who do we petition?  Webster’s Dictionary?”


     “I was thinkin’ of that. And speaking of Webster’s Dictionary--”


     “Oh no.”


     “Whatsa’ matter, Roy?  You got a headache or something?”


     “Or something.”


     “You kinda scared me there for a second when you laid your head on the table and groaned.”




     “No problem.  Now, as long as you’re feelin’ okay, here’s my next question. If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?”


     “The words?”


     “Yeah, where did he find them?”

     “They probably came out of his own head.”


     “Roy, no one can know every single word that’s in Webster’s Dictionary. That would be impossible.  I don’t care how smart the guy was. So if Mr. Webster wrote the first dictionary, and therefore didn’t have a dictionary to refer to, how did he write the first dictionary to begin with?”


     “Maybe people brought him words.”


     “Brought him words?”


     “Yeah, you know, like they wrote them down on paper and submitted them to him.”


     “You know something, Roy?”




     “You’re really not very good at this.”


     “Oh, I’m not, huh?  Then tell me, Johnny, how did Webster write the first dictionary?”


     “Beats me.  That’s why I listed that question on my paper. I’ll put a star by it and we’ll come back to it.”


     “I’ll certainly be looking forward to that.”


     “Glad to hear it, ‘cause I really want to answer that one sooner or later.  Okay, speaking of dictionaries--”


     “I thought we were done speaking of dictionaries.”


     “No, we’re only done with the first part of my question.  Here’s the second part.  If Webster misspelled a word in the dictionary, how would we ever know?”


     “That’s easy.  We’d know because it would be spelled wrong.”


     “Roy, the first edition of Webster’s Dictionary was published in 1828.”


     “Are you sure?”

     “Of course, I’m sure. Whatta ya’ think? I go around quotin’ facts I can’t back up?”




     “Well nothing. The first edition of Webster’s Dictionary was published in 1828.  So, if by chance some words in that dictionary were spelled wrong, then that means we’ve been spellin’ ‘em wrong for almost a hundred and fifty years now.  Do you really think any of us would know the difference?”


     “No, which is why that’s a stupid question.”


     “I don’t think it’s stupid. I worry about it sometimes.”


     “What? That you’re spelling a word wrong that according to Webster’s Dictionary is spelled right?”




     “Johnny, if no one knows, then what difference does it make?”

     “Roy, I’m surprised at you.”




“It’s an attitude like yours, that means we might have been spelling words wrong for over a century now.”


“Yeah, well we might not have been either, so I think you can quit losing sleep over it.”


     “Maybe, but I’m not finished with this issue yet. I’ve been studying the dictionary in my spare time and writing down words that seem suspicious.”


     “Words that seem suspicious?”


     “Yeah. Like paraphernalia, and baccalaureate, and gallimaufry.”


     “What’s so suspicious about those words?”


     “They just look funny, if you ask me.  Like Webster didn’t know how to spell them to begin with, so just threw in some extra letters.”


     “If nothing else, I’m sure the nurses at Rampart are thanking you for finding a new way to spend your spare time.”


     “What’s that supposed to mean?”


     “Oh nothing. Just that when you have time to start dating again, the eligible females at Rampart will now have the pleasure of going out with a man well-versed where words are concerned.”


     “Oh...oh yeah.  Good point. I’ll make sure they know that, too.”


     “I’m sure you will.”


     “Do you think it will turn women on to know I’ve been reading the dictionary in my spare time?”


     “Only if the woman is concerned that the dictionary might contain misspelled words.”


     “Don’t make fun of it, Roy.  I bet a lot of people would be concerned with that if they only gave it some thought.”


     “I’m sure a lot of people would. Now exactly where you’re going to find those people, I’m not sure, but good luck with your search.”


     “Hey, sit back down. We’re not finished yet.”


     “We’re not?”

     “No. ‘Cause talking about the dictionary got me to thinking about phonics.”


     “About phonics?”

     “Yeah. How come phonics isn’t spelled the way it sounds?”


     “It is.”


     “Okay then, spell it.”


     “Spell it?”

     “Yeah. Spell it.”


     “Okay.  That’s easy enough. P-h-o-n-i-c-s.”




     “That is not wrong!”


     “Yes, it is, ‘cause by definition the word phonics means, ‘a method of teaching beginning readers through the use of elementary phonetics.’ And phonetics means, ‘the study of the sounds of spoken language.’”


     “I’m impressed.”


     “Impressed with what?”


     “I didn’t know you could rattle off definitions like that.”


     “Roy, I’ve been spending my free time reading the dictionary. ‘A course I can rattle off definitions. I’ve gotten to be a pretty darn good speller, too.”


     “I’ll keep that in mind, in the event a patient ever challenges us to a spelling bee on the way to Rampart.”


     “So, speaking of spelling bees, and dictionaries, and phonics, my point is this.  Phonics is spelled wrong.”


     “How do you know?”


     “ ‘Cause if it was spelled like it sounds, then it’d be spelled F-o-n-i-x.  Fonix.”


     “No it wouldn’t be.”


     “Oh yeah? Prove it.”


     “First of all, ‘p’ and ‘h’ combined often sounds like ‘f’ so--”


     “According to who?”



     “See, you don’t know, do you? Which means you let your teachers brainwash ya’, Roy, plain and simple.  They brainwashed all of us.  But don’t worry, I’m gonna do something about it.”


     “I can assure you that what I’m worried about where you’re concerned, has nothing to do with phonics.”




     “Never mind.  You were saying that you’re going to do something about it. Do something about what?”


     “About the way phonics is misspelled in the dictionary.”


     “What are you gonna do?”


     “I thought you’d never ask.”


     “I never should have asked, but now that I have, lay it on me.”


     “I’m gonna write to the people at Webster’s and point out to ‘em that phonics is just one misspelled word of many in their dictionary.”


     “And you think they’ll change it, huh?”


     “Roy, these people publish a dictionary for cripes sake!  ‘A course they’ll change it.”


     “Uh huh.”


     “You say that like you don’t believe me.”


     “Let’s put it this way, I have my doubts.”


     “That’s okay, go ahead and have your doubts.  But when you have to go out and buy Chris and Jennifer a new dictionary, and spend hours tutoring them on the correct spelling of words they’ve been taught to misspell since they started school, then you’ll have John Gage to thank for that.”


     “If, on the off-chance that does happen, I don’t think, I, or any other parent in America, will be thanking you.”


     “Hey, look, just ‘cause my findings won’t be popular, doesn’t make me wrong, ya’ know.  A lot of noble men have had to risk popularity in order to do what’s right.”


     “Like who?”



     “Yeah. Like who?”


     “Roy, I’ve been studying the dictionary, not a history book. Geez, give a guy a break, will ya’? There’s only so many hours in a day, ya’ know.”


     “Yes, I know. And lately I get the feeling I spend too many of them with you.”


     “You’re a regular wise guy, ya’ know that?  Oh, and hey, speaking of wise guy, how come a wise guy and a wise man are opposite things?”


     “I don’t know.”


     “You don’t know?”




     “You mean you’re not even gonna try and give me an answer?”





     “Because no matter what I say, there will only be a slim chance that you’ll let this subject drop.”


     “Or you could say ‘fat chance’ and it would mean the same thing.”


     “I could, but I chose to say slim chance.”


     “And that’s interesting, too.  Why did you choose slim chance over fat chance?  I mean, did you grow up hearing slim chance used more often than fat chance?  Did you grow up not realizing that slim chance and fat chance mean the same thing, therefore you can use them interchangeably?  Did you--”


     “Fat chance that you’ll ever know.”


     “See! There! You used fat chance this time. How come...Roy?  Hey, Roy, where’re ya’ goin’?”


     “Slim chance of me telling you that.”


     “Roy...Roy, get back here!  Roy...” 


     “Hey, Gage, I just saw Roy running to the dorm with a look on his face that said he couldn’t get away from you fast enough. What’s up? You two have a fight or something?”


     “Fat chance of me telling you that, Kelly.  Fat chance of me telling you that.”



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Author’s Note: ‘Fat Chance’ was inspired by a list of light-hearted questions/sayings I received from a friend. Supposedly, these are questions George Carlin has used in his live shows. Whether they are Mr. Carlin’s original creations or not, I don’t know.  They aren’t my original creations, but I’ve had fun making use of them within my Emergency fan fiction.


Thanks, Audrey and Jane L., for the beta read.