Paul Greenberg

What's happening to all the bobwhite quail Arkansas used to have? It's a question that has stumped many a sportsman, bird-watcher and environmentalist in the Natural State, not to mention a mere newspaper columnist like me. But the other day I was informed I've been using the wrong term for the bird. And that the bobwhite quail, contrary to my innocent editorial assumption and the common Arkansas vernacular, is not a bobwhite quail at all.

Yes, the bobwhite quail may look like a quail, sound like a quail, even be a quail, but it is not a bobwhite quail because there is no such thing. And I now have the testimony of a Certified Wildlife Biologist to prove it -- in writing and complete with signature, officious tone and bureaucratic exactitude.

To quote Mr. Jerry W. Davis, C.W.B., of Hot Springs, Arkansas, in a letter to the editor we ran the other day, referring to a bobwhite quail as a bobwhite quail is not only incorrect but "detracts from the responsibility to educate the public by providing correct information."

That's telling us. Mr. Davis' letter to the editor was the kind that makes a fella want to stand up and cheer, like a hard right-to-the-body in a heavyweight title bout at Madison Square Garden, one of those that used to be covered round-by-round by the legendary Bill Corum (color commentary) and Don Dunphy (blow-by-blow) in radio's golden age. A Knock-Out Punch! I can still hear the crowd noises, resounding all the way from my long-ago boyhood, which was largely spent glued to the old Zenith in the breakfast room. (Exciting as the Friday night fights may have been as seen from ringside, they were a lot better on radio.)

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This is scarcely the first time I've been accused, and thoroughly convicted, of linguistic malpractice. Years ago, I made the common mistake of referring to those little pin oak leaves that fall by the bushel in, appropriately enough, the fall, as, yes, pin oak leaves. You know the ones if you're from around here. They get into every corner, cranny and crack of your house, or even person. They may look like, behave like, and generally proliferate like pin oak leaves, but they're really something else, as I was promptly informed by a tree-ologist of some certified sort. Just what they really are, we've now forgotten, but those pin oak leaves are definitely not pin oak leaves, and we were duly rebuked.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.