“Separation of church and state is the mandate, but how in the world does saying a prayer before class evoke the wrath of the ACLU?”

Some people, including me at times, have trouble with evoke and invoke. This writer got it right. To evoke is “to elicit, bring forth or produce.” Darr’s letter of resignation evoked memories of Tucker’s. To invoke is “to appeal to a deity or higher power for help, to call upon a source of authority or to conjure (a spirit) by incantation.” I invoked Fowler to support my position. 

Having recently discussed a well-known if not well-understood Harvardism, I thought it only fair to do the same for Yale. Well, actually, fairness has nothing to do with it. My curiosity was evoked by a newspaper quiz that asked readers to “Complete the quote to provide a [book] title: ‘Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree, damned. …’ “ I knew the answer, because  “From Here to Eternity,” by James Jones, is among my favorite novels. It was published in 1951. Jones got the title from an 1892 poem by Rudyard Kipling, “Gentlemen-Rankers.” A gentleman-ranker was “an enlisted soldier who may have been a former officer or a gentleman qualified through education and background to be a commissioned officer.”

The line also caught the ear of the Whiffenpoofs, a Yale singing group. In the early 1900s, the group began singing a musical version with somewhat revised lyrics — “gentlemen rankers” became “gentlemen songsters” and the song became known as the “The Whiffenpoof Song.”  It was the group’s trademark. (In the 1950s, there was a highly popular variety show on television hosted by Ed Sullivan. Once every season, it seems like, The Whiffenpoofs appeared on the program. Singing “The Whiffenpoof Song,” of course.)


Easing back near the point, what is a Whiffenpoof, anyway? It’s an imaginary beast, like a jackalope. The word was first used in a 1908 operetta, “Little Nemo,” by Victor Herbert.