Robert A. Heinlein wrote a book called THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS and with it brought into the world TANSTAAFL, which stands for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” A few years later one of his disciples, Larry Niven, invented Ringworld, and with it the curse word “tanj,” which stands for “There ain’t no justice.” Hitchhiking, or “Hikehitching” as I’ve switcherooed it, doesn’t ever involve a free ride. Hikehitching costs time, dignity, and personal safety. I only did it once, and only because I was desperate to see my then-girlfriend. It was rugged and took forever, just to get from Glendale, Arizona to Tucson.

Here are the words to the acrostic (an explanation will follow):

Honk of Horn–hiroi, neh
Hostel? je te plumerai
Ipse dixit with Yoplait
If a lenser like Belloqc
Kidnaps vista’d lake or loch
Kudos to the eye-rich bloke
Eyeing endless roads, it’s clear
Enter prize eg Tangiers

“Hiroi, neh” is a Japanese phrase meaning, approximately, “That’s harsh, isn’t it?” I learned the phrase from the then-girlfriend I was hikehitching to.

A hostel is a cheap accommodation often used by hikehitchers.

“Je te plumerai” is a French Canadian phrase meaning, approximately, “I will pluck you.” It’s in the unbelievably violent song “Allouette.”

“Ipse dixit” is a Latin phrase meaning, approximately, “The thing speaks for itself.”

Yoplait is a brand name for a soupy yogurt, usually fruit-enhanced.

John Ernest Joseph Bellocq was a pioneering American photographer who took pictures of opium dens in New Orleans’ Chinatown, and prostitutes in New Orleans’ Storyville. He was quite the lid-lifter. The movie PRETTY BABY fictionalizes some of his exploits.

A loch is like a lake but localized. (I sure love building sentences like that.)

Kudos means “praise.” It is singular, but is as badly misusaged as “au jus.”

“Enter prize” is a cheap punnification of “enterprise.”

“Eg” is an abbreviation of “exempli gratia,” a Latin phrase meaning, approximately, “for example.”

Tangiers is an exotic place referred to by Bob Dylan in his song “If You See Her, Say Hello.”

I drew several hikehitchers, iconic, supernatural, conventional, ironically unneeding of transport (eg the passenger in the speeding car), messianic, and hickish (the cowboy in lower left). Not only do all of us, as Dylan has it, “Gotta serve somebody,” but we all want some kind of ride.

  1. I used to really enjoy hitchhiking, both as a rider and as a driver. I got lewd suggestions only once; a rather pitiful guy who wanted me to go with him to his cabin in the woods… The main cost was usually conversation. Did a lot of hitch hiking one summer in Israel, in those innocent days before tourists became targets for terrorists.
    One day, seemingly overnight, the hitch hikers all disappeared. Some kind of tipping point, I suspect.

    These days, my daughter calls up a shared ride service with the university on the Internet, registers the trip date and destination, shares the fuel bill. If she gets along with the driver, she gets a ride straight to our house. If not, I do the taxi to the highway pit stop. Less adventurous but definitively safer.

    I can’t say I really understand the whole acrostic, even with your excellent notes, but no matter, it resonates nicely and evokes what were, for me, pleasant and innocent times…

    Michel Lamontagne

    Yeah, Alouette is a bit bloody, ain’t it? Rock a By Baby is also a pretty tough song and Jack and Jill had a rough life!

    Does anyone use TANSTAAFL in real life? I would be really tickled if they did…

    • Michel, TANSTAAFL did enjoy an early-70’s vogue at science fiction conventions, as I recall.

      I hope the attempt to understand this dense acrostic didn’t stress you out too much. Finding and fitting a set of words on the often Procrustean acrostic template necessarily means occurrence of incomprehensibility. It’s the nature of the beast.

      As always, your comment is intelligent, entertaining, and heartwarming. I thank you, my friend!

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