Daily Express, Thursday, October 22, 1903

Poem 20

(By P. G. Wodehouse)



I observed Augustus Edward, 1
My young nephew, going bedward,
And he said, “I’ve got a problem
Which I’d like you to explore,”
While I wondered what the boy meant—
Problems give me keen enjoyment—
He inquired: “Why does our Parrot
Say ‘Your food will cost you more!’ 

“ ’Pon my honour,” I admitted,
“I’m considered ready-witted,
And on any other topic
I could talk from ten to four,
Talk profoundly, aye and neatly,
But you’ve got me here completely:
I’ve no notion why the Parrot
Says ‘Your food will cost you more!’

“I could win a high position
In a weekly competition;
Any prop. devised by Euclid 2
I would undertake to floor:
Words like ‘fuchsia’ I could spell you; 3
But I really cannot tell you
What on earth’s the hidden meaning
Of ‘Your food will cost you more!’

“I’m a clever sort of person.
Riddles are my main diversion.
Why a miller wears a white hat,
When a door is not a door,
I could solve without assistance.
But there’s no one in existence
Who can plumb that dark conundrum, 4
Why ‘Your food will cost you more!’ ”



This does not seem to be an allusion to a particular person, merely a name chosen because it fits the poem’s metre.


Prop: proposition. Euclid’s Elements is constructed in the form of propositions, which are then proved.


This only makes sense if it is recognised that ‘fuchsia’ is not pronounced phonetically, but as something resembling “fewshya”.


Among the meanings ascribed to ‘conundrum’ in the Oxford English Dictionary are “A riddle in the form of a question the answer to which involves a pun or play on words” and “Any puzzling question or problem”. While a riddle such as “When is a door not a door?” is an example of the first meaning, it is the second meaning that is intended here.