Viaduct or Why a Duck?


(August 24, 2023) By Howard Diamond

To set the stage before we begin, a VIADUCT by definition is a long elevated roadway usually consisting of a series of short spans supported on arches, piers or columns. This structure typically carries a railroad, mostly freight, across a valley or other low ground. Basically the difference between a bridge and a viaduct is that a bridge ensures travel from one place to another over an obstacle or any size body of water. Whereas a viaduct creates paths through various natural features such as valleys and ravines. And a duck is a bird that is classified as waterfowl. Now let’s tune in to the Marx brothers.

Marx Brothers, “Why a Duck”

Here, the scene picks up with Groucho and Chico discussing items around a table in an exchange loosely based on a comedy film starring the Marx Brothers titled, “The Cocoanuts” (1929). Groucho succeeds in spotting a viaduct on a sand covered map spread out on the table before them. “Here’s a little peninsula and here’s a viaduct leading over to the mainland”. Next to him is Chico playing a gentleman with poor English skills asks, “Why a duck“? Groucho responds, “I’m alright. How are you“? Now repeating, “Here’s a little peninsula. Here’s the local viaduct that leads over to the mainland“. They both point to the map in front of them as Chico asks again, “Why a duck?”

Both brothers banter between barbs, but get nowhere. A frustrated Groucho explains about the viaduct again, “viaduct … it leads to the mainland. Bewildered Chico finally inquired, “Viaduct, why no chicken?” A partially befuddled Groucho now responds, “I don’t know why no chicken. I’m a stranger here myself. All I know is that it’s a viaduct. You try to cross over there a chicken you’ll find out why a duck.”

All five of the Marx Brothers do not create a basketball team, but are five brothers, each one a comedian. In order of their birth, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo displayed their offbeat, hilarious and screwball comedies from 1903 to 1976. During that time period, one or more of them were performing somewhere and we were probably better off with having their shenanigans then not. Whether the quintet was on stage, screen or the radio, and even television, they were highly entertaining.  About the only thing they accomplished in any assemblage of orders was dying. They died in succession as they were hatched. Yes, like a viaduct (duck) is hatched. Ha, Ha, Ha, very funny. Punny?

Many people dealing with mental health issues have problems interpreting, reciting and remembering what others say. A host of different factors could derail the thought process and make tasks more challenging.  When someone hears a phrase that is slightly off center, our minds drift in another direction, which can be left alone incorrectly or altered enough for precise clarity. There is what is actually said and its direct meaning of vague plus ambiguous thoughts and actions can occur. At times, our brain needs clarification, whether it be right or wrong, this often leads to confusion for all concerned. Sometimes when the mind needs simplicity, it asks for other human beings to get involved.

In other situations, command of the language is vital. When a foreigner comes to a new city or town or as big as a new country and does not comprehend, (like above), we ought to explain the best we are able. Maybe have a translator nearby or perhaps the other person has an ability to assist with the actual conversations . The United Nations General Counsel always meets with all participants wearing headphones with pumped in dialog in native languages, so memberships have an easier time understanding. 

However, communication, tone and actual meanings are often lost in translation. When there is no one to help, we do what we can displaying a myriad of pointing and plenty of gestures to help communicate our thoughts and words. However, trying a form of body language to move is definitely not a good idea. An example of this is attempting to play games like Charades is hard, if not futile. From television shows like Star Trek, Generations“, “Resistance is Futile“, often uttered by many of the Borg characters to assimilate change.  Not being able to figure out words while acting them out became almost impossible to enjoy satisfying rounds of Charades.

Modern times lead to modern measures. In these times in the 21st Century, people use cell phones, mini handheld computers and even one’s wristwatch to aid in translating words and phrases from other languages and even some dialects, too. It might not be an exact match, but it can come close. Sometimes it moves the conversations forward, but it can and does make it difficult for context and meanings. 

Many individuals are either hard of hearing or totally deaf which makes it difficult to develop effective and efficient speaking or interpretive skills. Another issue is when individuals hardly speak or do not speak at all. This is when pointing, gesturing and intense body language can be extremely beneficial for interpretation and successful interactions amongst all of us.

Currently, I am reading (on-line) about a teenage fourteen year old boy walking around town who deals with a form of autism. AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD) is a developmental condition involving persistent challenges with social communications, restrictive interests and repetitive behavior. It is not a mental health issue. He is non-verbal, but with the support of his mother he is able to communicate somewhat and is able to appreciate music and outdoor activities. What he can do is bob his head around and try to point to stuff. His mother instructs him to do a chore or two and for the most part completes the task effectively and efficiently. Unfortunately, he is never left alone, and is often put in situations that he cannot be accomplish successfully.

Others that cope with mental health issues are likely to receive training/therapy to improve abilities to function better in society. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are two that are commonly used for similar conditions and situations. There are techniques that are used in both, but are also quite different. For further information, please look up each of them.

As one can tell, “The more things change, the more things stay the same”, a proverb originally noted by a French writer, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. It was written in French, back in 1849. Almost 175 years later, these words still ring very, very true. Positive thinking, exercise and continuing to laugh are crucial for all human development and progress. Hopefully, these suggestions can lead towards both physical health plus mental health improvements. Our well-being can surely benefit from this type of boost.

Take care and I will see all in the NewsBlogs and Newsletters.

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