CAT 1998 Question Paper


The highest priced words are ghost-written by gagmen who furnish the raw material for comedy over the air and on the screen. They have a word-lore all their own, which they practise for five to fifteen hundred dollars a week, or fifteen dollars a gag at piece rates. That's sizable rate for confounding acrimony with matrimony, or extracting attar of roses from the other.

Quite apart from the dollar sign on it, gagmen's word-lore is worth a close look, if you are given to the popular American pastime of playing with words — or if you're part of the 40 per cent who make their living in the word trade. Gag writers' tricks with words point up the fact that we have two distinct levels of language: familiar, ordinary words that everybody knows; and more elaborate words that don't turn up so often, but many of which we need to know if we are to feel at home in listening and reading today.

To be sure gagmen play hob with the big words, making not sense but fun of them. They keep on confusing bigotry with bigamy, illiterate with illegitimate, monotony with monogamy, osculation with oscillation. They trade on the fact that for many of their listeners, these fancy terms linger in a twilight zone of meaning. It’s their deliberate intent to make everybody feel cozy at hearing big words, jumbled up or smacked down. After all, such words loom up over-size in ordinary talk, so no wonder they get the bulldozer treatment from the gagmen.

Their wrecking technique incidentally reveals our language as full of tricky words, some with 19 different meanings, others which sound alike but differ in sense. To ring good punning changes, gag writers have to know their way around in the language. They don't get paid for ignorance, only for simulating it.

Their trade is a hard one, and they regard it as serious business. They never laugh at each other's jokes; rarely at their own. Like comediennes, they are usually melancholy men in private life.

Fertile invention and ingenious fancy are required to clean up ‘blue’ burlesque gags for radio use. These shady gags are theoretically taboo on the air. However, a gag writer who can leave a faint trace of bluing when he launders the joke is all the more admired — and more highly paid. A gag that keeps the blue tinge is called a ‘double intender’, gag-land jargon for double entendre. The double meaning makes the joke funny at two levels. Children and other innocents hearing the crack for the first time take it literally, laughing at the surface humour; listeners who remember the original as they heard it in vaudeville or burlesque, laugh at the artfulness with which the blue tinge is disguised.

Another name for a double meaning of this sort is ‘insinuendo’. This is a portmanteau word or ‘combo’, as the gagmen would label it, thus abbreviating combination. By telescoping insinuation and innuendo, they get insinuendo, on the principle of blend words brought into vogue by Lewis Caroll. ‘Shock logic’ is another favourite with gag writers. Supposedly a speciality of women comediennes, it is illogical logic more easily illustrated than defined. A high school girl has to turn down a boy's proposal, she writes:

Dear Jerry, I'm sorry, but I can't get engaged to you. My mother thinks I am too young to be engaged and besides, I'm already engaged to another boy. Yours regretfully. Guess who.

Gag writers' lingo is consistently funnier than their gags. It should interest the slang-fancier. And like much vivid jargon developed in specialised trades and sports, a few of the terms are making their way into general use. Gimmick, for instance, in the sense either of a trick devised or the point of a joke, is creeping into the vocabulary of columnists and feature writers.

Even apart from the trade lingo, gagmen's manoeuvres are of real concern to anyone who follows words with a fully awakened interest. For the very fact that gag writers often use a long and unusual word as the hinge of a joke, or as a peg for situation comedy, tells us something quite significant: they are well aware of the limitations of the average vocabulary and are quite willing to cash in on its shortcomings.

When Fred Allens' joke-smiths work out a fishing routine, they have Allen referring to the bait in his most arch and solemn tones: "I presume you mean the legless invertebrate." This is the old minstrel trick, using a long fancy term, instead of calling a worm a worm. Chico Marx can stretch a pun over 500 feet of film, making it funnier all the time, as he did when he rendered, "Why a duck?"

And even the high-brow radio writers have taken advantage of gagmen's technique. You might never expect to hear on the air such words as lepidopterist and entymologist. Both occur in a very famous radio play by Norman Corvine, ‘My client Curly’, about an unusual caterpillar which would dance to the tune ‘yes, sir, she's my baby’ but remained inert to all other music. The dancing caterpillar was given a real New York buildup, which involved calling in the experts on butterflies and insects which travel under the learned names above. Corvine made mild fun of the fancy professional titles, at the same time explaining them unobtrusively.

There are many similar occasions where any one working with words can turn gagmen's trade secrets to account. Just what words do they think outside the familiar range? How do they pick the words that they ‘kick around’? It is not hard to find out.

Question 161

In gag writers' trade

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Question 162

When the writer says, "They don't get paid for ignorance, only for simulating it," he means to say

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Question 163

Gag writers have influenced

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From ancient times, men have believed that, under certain peculiar circumstances, life could arise spontaneously: from the ooze of rivers could come eels and from the entrails of dead bulls, bees; worms from mud, and maggots from dead meat. This belief was held by Aristotle, Newton and Descartes, among many others, and apparently the great William Harvey too. The weight of centuries gradually disintegrated men's beliefs in the spontaneous origin of maggots and mice, but the doctrine of spontaneous generation clung tenaciously to the question of bacterial origin.

In association with Buffon, the Irish Jesuit priest John Needham declared that he could bring about at will the creation of living microbes in heat-sterilised broths, and presumably, in propitiation, theorised that God did not create living things directly but bade the earth and water to bring them forth. In his Dictionaire Philosophique, Voltaire reflected that it was odd to read of Father Needham's claim while atheists conversely should deny a Creator yet attribute to themselves the power of creating eels. But, wrote Thomas Huxley, 'The great tragedy of science — the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact — which is so constantly being enacted under the eyes of philosophers, was played, almost immediately, for the benefit of Buffon and Needham.

The Italian Abbé Spallanzani did an experiment. He showed that a broth sealed from the air while boiling never develops bacterial growths and hence never decomposes. To Needham's objection that Spallanzani had ruined his broths and the air above them by excessive boiling, the Abbé replied by breaking the seals of his flasks. Air rushed in and bacterial growth began! But the essential conflict remained. Whatever Spallanzani and his followers did to remove seeds and contaminants was regarded by the spontaneous generationists as damaging to the 'vital force' from whence comes new life.

Thus, doubt remained, and into the controversy came the Titanic figure of Louis Pasteur. Believing that a solution to this problem was essential to the development of his theories concerning the role of bacteria in nature, Pasteur freely acknowledged the possibility that living bacteria very well might be arising anew from inanimate matter. To him, the research problem was largely a technical one: to repeat the work of those who claimed to have observed bacterial entry. For the one that contended that life did not enter from the outside, the proof had to go to the question of possible contamination. Pasteur worked logically. He found during the experiments that after prolonged boiling, a broth would ferment only when air was admitted to it. Therefore, he contended, either air contained a factor necessary for the spontaneous generation of life or viable germs were borne in by the air and seeded in the sterile nutrient broth. Pasteur designed ingenious flasks whose long S-shaped necks could be left open. Air was trapped in the sinuous glass tube. Broths boiled in these flask tubes remained sterile. When their necks were snapped to admit ordinary air, bacterial growth would then commence — but not in every case. An occasional flask would remain sterile presumably because the bacterial population of the air is unevenly distributed. The forces of spontaneous generation would not be so erratic. Continuous scepticism drove Pasteur almost to fanatical efforts to control the ingredients of his experiments to destroy the doubts of the most sceptical. He ranged from the mountain air of Montanvert, which he showed to be almost sterile, to those deep, clear wells whose waters had been rendered germfree by slow filtration through sandy soil. The latter discovery led to the familiar porcelain filters of the bacteriology laboratory. With pores small enough to exclude bacteria, solutions allowed to percolate through them could be reliably sterilised.

The argument raged on and soon spilled beyond the boundaries of science to become a burning religious and philosophical question of the day. For many, Pasteur's conclusions caused conflict because they seemed simultaneously to support the Biblical account of creation while denying a variety of other philosophical systems. The public was soon caught up in the crossfire of a vigorous series of public lectures and demonstrations by leading exponents of both views, novelists, clergymen, their adjuncts and friends. Perhaps the most famous of these evenings in the theatre — competing perhaps with a great debate between Huxley and Bishop Wiberforce for elegance of rhetoric — was Pasteur's public lecture at the Sorbonne on April 7, 1864. Having shown his audience the swan necked flasks containing sterile broths, he concluded, "And, therefore, gentlemen, I could point to that liquid and say to you, I have taken my drop of water from the immensity of creation, and I have taken it full of the elements appropriated to the development of inferior beings. And I wait, I watch, I question it! — begging it to recommence for me the beautiful spectacle of the first creation. But it is dumb, dumb since these experiments were begun several years ago; It is dumb because I have kept it from the only thing man does not know how to produce: from the germs that float in the air, from life, for life is a germ and a germ is life. Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow of this simple experiment." And it is not. Today these same flasks stand immutable: they are still free of microbial life.

It is an interesting fact that despite the ringing declaration of Pasteur, the issue did not die completely. And although far from healthy, it is not yet dead. In his fascinating biography of Pasteur, Rene Dubos has traced the later developments which saw new eruptions of the controversy, new technical progress and criticism, and new energetic figures in the breach of the battle such as Bastion, for, and the immortal Tyndall, against, the doctrine of spontaneous generation. There was also new 'sorrow' for Pasteur as he read years later, in 1877, the last jottings of the great physiologist Claude Bernard and saw in them the 'mystical' suggestion that yeast may arise from grape juice. Even at this late date, Pasteur was stirred to new experiments again to prove to the dead Bernard and his followers the correctness of his position.

It seems to me that spontaneous generation is not only a possibility, but a completely reasonable possibility which should never be relinquished from scientific thought. Before men knew of bacteria, they accepted the doctrine of spontaneous generation as the 'only reasonable alternative' to a belief in supernatural creation. But today, as we look for satisfaction at the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, we must not forget that science has rationally concluded that life once did originate on earth by spontaneous generation. It was really Pasteur's evidence against spontaneous generation that for the first time brought the whole difficult question of the origin of life before the scientific world. In the above controversy, what was unreasonable was the parade of men who claimed to have 'proved' or who resolutely 'believed in' spontaneous generation on the face of proof — not that spontaneous generation cannot occur — but that their work was shot through with experimental error. The acceptable evidence also makes it clear that spontaneous generation, if it does not occur, must obviously be a highly improbable event under present conditions. Logic tells us that science can only prove an event improbable: it can never prove it impossible — and Gamow has appropriately remarked that nobody is really certain what would happen if a hermetically sealed can were opened after a couple of million years. Modern science agrees that it was highly improbable for life to have arisen in the pre-Cambrian seas, but it concluded, nevertheless, that there it did occur. With this, I think, Pasteur would agree.

Aside from their theoretical implications, these researchers had the great practical result of putting bacteriology on a solid footing. It was now clear how precisely careful one had to be to avoid bacterial contamination in the laboratory. We now knew what 'sterile' meant and we knew that there could be no such thing as 'partial sterilization'. The discovery of bacteria high in the upper atmosphere, in the mud of the deep sea bottom, in the waters of hot springs, and in the Arctic glaciers established bacterial ubiquity as almost absolute. In recognition of this Lord Lister introduced aseptic technique into the practice of surgery. It was the revolution in technique alone that made possible modern bacteriology and the subsequent research connecting bacteria to phenomena of human concern, research, which today is more prodigious than ever. We are just beginning to understand the relationship of bacteria to certain human diseases, to soil chemistry, nutrition, and the phenomenon of antibiosis, wherein a product of one organism (e.g. penicillin) is detrimental to another. It is not an exaggeration then to say that the emergence of the cell theory represents biology's most significant and fruitful advance. The realisation that all plants and animals are composed of cells which are essentially alike, that cells are all formed by the same fundamental division process, that the total organism is made up of activities and inter-relations of its individual cells, opened up horizons we have not even begun to approach. The cell is a microcosm of life, for in its origin, nature and continuity resides the entire problem of biology.

Question 164

Needham's theory that 'God did not create living things directly' was posited as

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Question 165

It can be inferred from the passage that

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Question 166

According to the passage,

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Question 167

Pasteur began his work on the basis of the contention that

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Question 168

The porcelain filters of the bacteriology laboratories owed their descent to

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Question 169

What according to the passage was Pasteur's declaration to the world?

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Question 170

What according to the writer, was the problem with the proponents of spontaneous generation?

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