OMAHA – A local pen is outraged after continually being recognized as stronger than even the most lethally piercing sword. So livid is the pen, in fact, that it filed a petition today to put the well-known phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword” to rest, claiming it to be inaccurate because a pen could never best a well-made, metal sword.
“The phrase is a metaphor for the written word’s ability to wield more power than unsystematic action, and is not to be taken literally,” said Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who coined the phrase in 1839.
“But I thought actions speak louder than words,” the pen shot back emphatically.
“Yeah, that Michel de Montaigne doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Look, it’s more of a testament to how eloquent words, ideas and opinions can outlast us all, holding the authority to influence others to take monumental action that can forever change the past, present and future. That in itself is incomparable to the fleeting and purely physical use of the sword, with which inflictions can heal in time,” said a matter-of-fact Bulwer-Lytton.
“Because I’m made from plastic and scrappy, shoddy pieces of metal,” said the pen. “I was created solely for promo use at this year’s Chili Cook-Off – face it, the most damage I can do is self-imposed damage to my dignity and mental well-being.”
“I just thought the phrase sounded nice in my play, ok?!” fired back a frustrated Bulwer-Lytton, beginning to stammer nervously. “Besides, I…I always got picked on as a kid from the tougher, more muscular kids. Blasted cricket players…,” he added, rolling his eyes.
“Kids don’t even know proper English these days, man!” shouted the pen defiantly. “They’re not writing on tablets of paper anymore; they’re on their phones or computers and you know what? They’re laughing at you. With acronyms. While playing video games in which they cut off their enemies’ heads. WITH SWORDS! LOL, good sir! LOL, indeed!”
In order to defend its own credibility and to get another double-edged side of the story, a sword was sought to sway accusations that its only skill was brute force. When asked what it thought of all the recent allegations, the sword paused, dumbfounded, and then scratched its hilt, which was decorated to resemble the Incredible Hulk.
“Uuuhhh,” it murmured blankly. “Can you repeat the question?”
The question was repeated, and a pause followed as the sword again lost its single train car of thought.
“Um. Does King Arthur’s sword know about this?” the sword finally asked pointedly.
Bulwer-Lytton blinked before explaining that the Excalibur was purely fictional.
“Get him on the phone, STAT!” demanded the sword.
“You don’t understand,” Bulwer-Lytton said. “That sword is nothing more than a myth.”
“My-th? What the truck’s a myth? Maybe I’m not a sword of many words, but I can still stick it to the man if need be,” said the sword bluntly, albeit also conceitedly as it studied its sheen in the reflection of the reporter’s camera. “Granted, I, too, am up to hilt with that phrase.”
“This isn’t a love handle, after all,” the sword snorted, gesturing toward its hilt before alighting upon a crude joke and laughing deeply. “Check out how hard I can thrust!”
And that settled the credibility issue.
Attention was then turned back to the pen, who upon being asked how the petition was coming along, gave a resigned sigh.
“I couldn’t even get 50 people to sign it. I ran out of ink 15 signatures in,” it admitted pitifully.
Ironically, no one could locate another pen that agreed with and was willing to stand behind the petition. In fact, at one time a ballpoint pen was actually seen shaking the promo pen vigorously, saying, “You’re not inking straight or you’d know you’re ruining this for everyone. This is all we’ve got!”
The pen eventually had to settle for using a #2 pencil, but little did it know it would soon be number two itself in the writing utensil category due to the pencil’s additional power to erase.
The petition died within the hour.
Meanwhile, sources say the sword just won a strongman contest involving the amount of bikini-clad women it could bench lift at once.
(Just for fun, I’ve included some instances from wikipedia.com where the phrase has been humorously used in the past)
- The motto appears in the school room illustration on page 168 of the first edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). The words “pen” and “is” are suspiciously close together leading some scholars to speculate that the illustrator, True Williams, deliberately chose the narrow spacing as a subtle obscene prank.
- In the 1989 film Batman, the insane criminal known as The Joker uses the phrase in a darkly literal sense, after wielding a fountain pen like a dart to wound a rival crime lord.
- British music photographer Kevin Cummins once shot The Smiths vocalist Morrissey in front of a handwritten “pen is mightier than the sword” poster in the background. The writing was styled so that the first two words appeared to be “penis”.
- A recurring GEICO commercial uses the phrase as a question, “Is the pen mightier than the sword?” It shows a ninja wielding and brandishing a sword with elite skills; an amateur defeats him by signing (with a pen) a package for a taser, with which he then shoots the sword-wielder.