February 18, 2011

From Kipling to the Coen Brothers: Twains That Never Meet (and some that do)...


“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”
       Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
       British poet, short story writer and novelist 
       This is the opening line of Kipling’s poem “The Ballad of East and West,” which was first published in 1889 and is one of Kipling’s popular Barrack-Room Ballads poems.
The famous first line made the old English word twain, which means “two,” familiar to most people. It also evolved into a proverbial saying and variable word formula used to suggest that two different types of people or things cannot co-exist or find common ground. Ironically, the actual point of Kipling’s poem is that two intelligent and honorable people from different cultures can understand and respect one another. In the poem, that’s the lesson learned by two men from vastly different backgrounds — a wild Scottish Chieftain named Kamal and the privileged son of a British Colonel. The moral of the story is embodied in the first four lines, which are also repeated at the end of the poem:
       “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
       Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
       But there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth,
       When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!”


“We must remember that art is art. Still, on the other hand, water is water, isn’t it? And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like apple sauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.” 
       Captain Spaulding (played by Groucho Marx) 
Effectively confusing art connoisseur Roscoe W. Chandler (actor Louis Sorin) in the classic Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers (1930)


Moe: “Spread out and remember, ducks is ducks and cash is king.”
Curly: “And never the twain shall meet.”
       In the Three Stooges film
A Ducking They Did Go (1939)


“Feminine is feminine, masculine is masculine, and ne’er the twain shall meet. The woman warrior triumphs not by being a successful woman in a male world (the exception which proves the rule or the token which solidifies convention), nor by transcending gender difference in androgynous equality, but by passing as a man, denying her biological sex altogether...Passing as a male, the woman warrior would refuse her body the power to determine her identity.”
       Michael O’Donovan-Anderson
       Assistant professor of philosophy at Stonehill College
       In his book
The Incorporated Self: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Embodiment (1996)


“As Christians we don’t have to simply stand aside and say, Well, science is about the material and religion about the spiritual, and ne’er the twain shall meet. Instead, we can rejoice as Christians in the ethical meaning behind what evolutionary biologists are increasingly finding.”
       Joan Roughgarden
       Professor of geophysics and biological sciences at Stanford University
       In her book
Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist (2006)


“Today, society is integrated, but music is segregated. You have country here, R&B here and never the twain shall meet.”
       Rock musician Huey Lewis  
       Commenting on the challenge of today’s segmented music market,
in an interview posted on the American Songwriter site, February 9, 2011


“In the old days, there were ales and there were lagers. Ales were flavorful. Lagers were smooth. And never the twain did meet. Until Genesee Cream Ale. And then the twain met head on to form an American Original with the flavor of an ale and the smoothness of a lager.”
       Promotional blurb on the
Genesee Cream Ale website


“Once upon a time, there were people who enjoyed quoting from classic literary texts, and people who enjoyed getting tattoos, and rarely the twain did meet. But tattoos have gone mainstream, and the result is a paradox of the digital age: Nowadays, nothing demonstrates a commitment to literature better than words inked on skin.”
       Journalist Mark Lewis 
       In a
post about “literary tattoos” on the Forbes.com website, August 13, 2009


“Cowdogs and coyotes don’t mix. We’re natural enemies, born on different sides of the law, and as the old saying goes, “Never the twangs shall meet.” Exactly what a ‘twang’ is, I never figgered out.”
       Hank the Cowdog
       Philosophizing in the 1998 children’s book
Murder in the Middle Pasture (#4 in the Hank the Cowdog series), written by John R. Erickson


“There’s what’s right and there’s what’s right and never the twain shall meet.”
       H.I. McDunnough (actor Nicolas Cage)
       Philosophizing in the 1987 Coen Brothers’ movie
Raising Arizona (1987)

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