Here is a “comment” from Paul Staines’s lie-emporium:

Deep in the sewers under London lurk the great albino crocodiles, decendents of escapees from zoos & private collectors of the 19th & 20th centuries. We join two of them as they bask in the phospherent glow of a lost tunnel far below Chancery Lane. One is a magnificent creature, the faint light reflecting from its massive, rounded form. The second a far less imposing beast, its patchy scales stretched across protruding ribs & sunken belly.

The smaller looks up at the larger.

“I don’t understand it” he croaks, “We’re the same age, we came from the same clutch of eggs. Yet you’re three times my size.”

“Maybe it’s your diet.” booms the larger, “What are you eating?”

“Same as you. Lawyers. Plenty of ‘em & no one misses a few.”

“How are you catching ‘em?”

“Oh, I usually lurk under a manhole cover by Lincolns Inn. Catch that unmistakeable musty smell of mature legal quarto passing, I’m springing out, snagging one by the bespoke suiting & dragging him down. Shake the shit outa him & swallow.”

“Ah! I see your problem right there. Shake the shit out of a lawyer & what are you left with? Nothing but the lips & a briefcase.”

Not bad, not bad at all. In point of fact, well above the usual level of wit for those benighted circles of lower cyber-ordure.

Except, the grandparents of that gem have been around for some long time.

Uptown drain

Back on 10th February 1935 the New York Times reported:


Youths Shoveling Snow into Manhole See the Animal Churning in Icy Water

Several lads were clearing snow off East 123rd St by shovelling the stuff down a manhole. This disturbed the alligator below; which somehow the lads managed to haul to the surface.

This was a mistake.

A seven-foot alligator doesn’t take to being annoyed. It took a jerk and at snap at them.

This, too, was a mistake.

Lads from East Harlem then and now take a dim view of being snapped at. Particularly when they are equipped with snow-shovels. The alligator was then beaten to death.

In this condition the lads lugged their prize to a nearby garage, put it on the scales, where it weighed in at 125lbs.

The explanation the NYT came up with was a ship from Florida had brought the creature north, where it had escaped into the storm sewer.

Even snappier stuff

There the story would have rested, except the Superintendent of Sewers, Teddy May, received reports from his workers of a colony of alligators. May was, with some reason, incredulous:

“I says to myself, them guys been drinking in there.”

He banned any reports of alligator infestation from reports, had inspectors on the look-out for illicit boozing on City-employed time, and finally went to look for himself:

“I’ll go down there and prove to youse guys that there ain’t no alligators in my sewers.”

Down there he found young, two-foot-long alligators living in the side-channels. So a subterranean reptile extinction program was initiated, using rat-poison, flushing and even shooting.

Again, there matters might have rested, except in 1959 Robert Daley wrote about New York’s nether parts in The World Beneath the City, taking much of his stuff from the informative (and possibly imaginative) Superintendent May.

Hence the “alligators in the sewers” urban myth.

There’s silver in them that drains!

An issue of The Marijuana Newsletter [sic], dated 30 January 1965, had a story that hash seeds, flushed down the toilet in expectation of a drugs bust, were growing in the sewers. Through lack of light, the plants lacked chlorophyll, and so were “Manhattan Silver”.

That myth needed further embroidery, so some wit acknowledged the existence of the alligators as a threat to potential harvesters, and came up with a work-around. Take one bottle of hooch. CAst it down the sewer. This will have the bums from Skid Row diving down after the bottle. The alligators will be distracted by the easy meat; and harvesting is thus rendered safe. John Alego felt moved to include that story in Fifty Years among the New Words: A Dictionary of Neologisms, 1941-1991.

Lion food

For many years there existed a file, jargon.txt, on the MIT network. It had begun as a compendium of computer terminology, developed into computerese, and ended up as a repository for the strange mindset that goes with geek-geniuses.

Here we find the progenitor of the lawyer laff at the top of this post:

lion food: n.

[IBM] Middle management or HQ staff (or, by extension, administrative drones in general). From an old joke about two lions who, escaping from the zoo, split up to increase their chances but agree to meet after 2 months. When they finally meet, one is skinny and the other overweight. The thin one says: “How did you manage? I ate a human just once and they turned out a small army to chase me — guns, nets, it was terrible. Since then I’ve been reduced to eating mice, insects, even grass.” The fat one replies: “Well, I hid near an IBM office and ate a manager a day. And nobody even noticed!”


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Filed under Guido Fawkes, human waste, Law, New York City, New York Times, Paul Staines, Quotations, reading

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