Monday, April 9, 2012

The Mysterious Distance Between a Snail and a Walnut

I grew up in a family that loved to play with words, in both conventional and unconventional ways. My parents always worked crossword puzzles and unscrambled the word jumble in the daily newspaper (today at age 90, they still do). They also played word games with me when we went on road trips in my childhood.  One game started with a tag line or theme, such as “Born Free.” Then anyone could contribute a related clue for the others to figure out. For example, someone would say “How does a sheep feel when it has escaped with all its wool?” Answer: “Shorn Free.” “Now that we’ve just crossed the border out of Kansas, we are...” Answer: “Corn Free.” And so on, until every possibility had been exhausted. Points for cleverness!
I still love word games. I play Bookworm on the computer almost every day, and go to a great deal of trouble to create the longest, most interesting words I can. My favorite game with words, though, is one that dates back to my early 20’s, maybe earlier. 
Somehow, somewhere, it occurred to some friend(s) and me to replace the word “love” with the word “lunch.” Song titles alone improve immediately. Here are a few examples:
“Prisoner of Lunch”
“(Money) Can’t Buy Me Lunch”
“All You Need is Lunch”
“Everlasting Lunch”
“You Can’t Hurry Lunch”
You will notice that this word substitution only works when “love” is being used as a noun. “She Lunches You” is not acceptable. However, there are two rare variations on the love/lunch theme that may sometimes be used. The first is when “lovin’” becomes “luncheon,” as in “All My Luncheon (I Will Give To You).” The second, even rarer variation is the replacement of “love me” with “lunchmeat,” as in “Lunchmeat Tender” - but not "Lunchmeat Do," ugh. Please use good judgment when attempting these rather tricky variations.
Lyrics can be even more fun than titles. Here is a sample. If you know the song, sing it. 
from “Fanny (Be Tender With My Lunch),” by The Bee Gees 
Be tender with my lunch; 
You know how easy it is to hurt me 
Fanny, be tender with my lunch, 
'Cause it's all that I've got 
And my lunch won't desert me 
Once you have mastered the love/lunch substitution, you may begin replacing the word “heart” with “hamster.” Some classic song titles are:

“How Can You Mend a Broken Hamster?”
“Stop Dragging My Hamster Around”
“Everybody’s Got a Hungry Hamster”
and a nice combo:
“Put a Little Lunch In Your Hamster”
A quick lyric example from “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” by Yes:
Owner of a lonely hamster
Owner of a lonely hamster
Much better than - a
Owner of a broken hamster
Owner of a lonely hamster
Finally, the words “walnut” and “snail” may be used to replace “woman” and “man.”  Song title examples:
“When A Snail Loves a Walnut”
“She’s Always a Walnut to Me”
“Stand By Your Snail”
“Ballad of a Thin Snail”
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Walnut”
A sample lyric from U2’s  “A Snail and A Walnut”:
I could never take a chance 
Of losing lunch to find romance 
In the mysterious distance 
Between a snail and a walnut 
No I could never take a chance 
‘Cos I could never understand 
The mysterious distance 
Between a snail and a walnut
Mysterious, indeed!
There is no need to limit yourself to the world of music ... lunch, hamsters, walnuts and snails are everywhere.  Who hasn’t heard these common sayings?
I wear my hamster on my sleeve.
All’s fair in lunch and war.
No snail is an island.
Frailty, thy name is walnut.
We find many fine examples in movies:

And books:

A quick look through the self-help section of Barnes and Noble produced these gems:

I hope you are inspired to go forth into the world in search of lunch, hamster, walnut, and snail. Bring your favorite discoveries back and share them here, I would love to see them.
And always remember:
“Lunch makes the world go round.”
Or is it “cold hands, warm hamster?”


  1. Oops, I can't comment without an identity. Let's see if I can remember the password for my old lj account.

    Anyway, I've seen "arse" suggested as a substitute for "heart" in the same manner; hence, e.g., "Arse Of Stone", "Listen To Your Arse", "There Must Be An Angel Playing With My Arse", and many more such similar examples of High Culture. Apparently reading Harry Potter with "wand" replaced throughout with "wang" is a real winner as well.

    Finally, _The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter_ reminds me of your brother's longstanding game of developing pun-based titles, to be inferred based on a description of the resulting book. In this case it's the story of a prostitute who reforms and embarks on a new aboveboard career as a professional football player: _The Tart Is A Lonely Punter_. I assume you've long known about this game (my impression is that it was born during meetings at Dun & Bradstreet in the early 1970s) but I don't know for sure.


  2. What about replacing the noun with "ferret"? A game you taught me, and that has to end at "Tender is the Ferret" because nothing else is as good.