February 09, 2024

#08-835: Jeeves and Wooster

Bertie and Jeeves (Wikimedia)

Note: Like Holmes and Watson, Jeeves is a capable problem solver, and his follower Bertie writes the "adventures" down. But here, the follower is technically the boss!

Get Ready: How do you feel about servants? Are they "second-class" citizens, or are they equal to their bosses?

"Ask Jeeves"
Nearly 30 years ago--before Baidu and Google--one way to find information on the internet was to "Ask Jeeves." This Jeeves appeared as an elegantly-dressed man, like an older, balding James Bond, and almost always found you the answer you sought. ("Jeeves" is gone, but Ask.com continues.)

Jeeves had a literary namesake. He was based on a character created by the English author P. G. Wodehouse in a series of 35 short stories and 11 novels written between 1915 and 1974 about the redoubtable Reginald Jeeves, valet to a wealthy young gadabout named Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster.

The books are hilarious, filled with 1920s British slang. For example, instead of saying that a man became rich, Bertie--narrator of most of the stories--says he "had made quite an indecently large stack." He calls smart people "brainy coves," and when Jeeves does something well, he pronounces it "absolutely ripping!"

More than merely a servant, Jeeves is charged with keeping Bertie out of mischief, or of getting him out when he gets in. Often, this is in the form of engagements to be married to strong woman who try to trap Bertie for his money. Jeeves is ever resourceful, always finding a graceful way out.

But in their first-ever story, "Leave It to Jeeves," Jeeves's task is not to get Bertie out of a marriage, but to get his friend Bruce "Corky" Corcoran into one.

Corky is a starving (and not very talented) portrait artist in New York City (where Jeeves and Bertie, usually found in England, are visiting). Corky is dependent on his rich uncle Alexander Worple for support, but he has fallen in love with a show girl, Muriel Singer, and wants to marry her, but fears his uncle will not approve.

The uncle has written books on ornithology, and Jeeves suggests that Miss Singer write a children's book on the same subject and dedicate it to Uncle Alexander, to charm him.

But the plan backfires. The uncle likes Miss Singer so much that HE marries her! The heartbroken Corky is commissioned to paint a portrait of their first child, and it comes out so badly that Uncle Alex disowns him.

But once again, Jeeves saves the day. He points out that the painting of the baby would make the basis of a fine series of comics, and Corky becomes wealthy on his own--as a cartoonist!


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. backfires
  2. disowns
  3. gadabout
  4. hilarious
  5. indecently
  6. namesake
  7. ornithology
  8. redoubtable
  9. stack
  10. valet
  1. in an inappropriate way
  2. the study of birds
  3. very funny
  4. one that has the same name as another
  5. cuts off financially
  6. lazy, unserious, socially active person; slacker
  7. has the opposite result
  8. formidable; impressive
  9. a man's personal attendant
  10. large amount

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 9, 2024

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. e; 3. f; 4. c; 5. a; 6. d; 7. b; 8. h; 9. j; 10. i