Something that you beat people with.

Worse than a cat-o'-nine-tails.

The most evil, hideous punishment imaginable.

A limp bit of starchy stuff about 12" long.

For some reason, people (usually those over fifty or otherwise old-fashioned) would threaten their kids with "I'm going to beat you with a wet noodle if you don't do X!", with the understanding that said beating would involve something much more painful than a simple noodle. Also used by elementary school teachers to threaten their students, but without the actual threat of corporal punishment.

My grandfather (he's 85) uses this figure of speech still. Maybe he has a jar of Super-Jumbo Spaghetti Noodles, three feet long and an inch in diameter, soaking in a bath of pure capascin so that they'd burn when they struck you...

Back in the day, before the advent of roller ball pens, carbon paper, typerwriters or even email.... when writing was not only cursive but various companies sold courses in penmanship. 

In fact, not only was penmanship taught in schools, but there were even schools of penmanship, both by correspondance or actual brick and mortar schools, run by master penmen, who had guilds and methods of teaching and everything.

In fact, you can purchase books on Spencerian hand on Amazon and go through the workbooks to learn old-school penmanship. There, naturally, in the age of the Internet, are also new schools and new enthusiasts of penmanship cropping up.

One of the things people love about looking at penmanship of the old school isn't just the beauty of seeing flowing letters, letters written not just for the practical transmission of information but as expressions - and artistic ones, of the flow of letters into phonics and phonics into words, and words into sentences and sentences into fully fledged ideas. It's that the line weight changes - as letters curve when writing c's and o's, the line thickens on one side, leading to a hair-thin line suddenly sweeping into a three-millimeter swath of ink. Ornamental flourishes on letters and the drawing of back-lines on k's, l's and f's going from razor thin wisps to beautiful elongated thick lines and back.

And watching someone write like this on YouTube is deeply hypnotic.

That was really where dip pens shone, but for a while you could get a fountain pen that had a flexible enough nib to really open when pressure was applied to the barrel of the pen. It was the flex of the nib that allowed the pen to have such variation - as the nib opened up under pressure, the pen flowed more ink to fill between the tines of the nib. A good pen, as stated before, could go from almost nothing to almost a calligraphic-weight line. The colloquial expression for a pen that had the ability to write with this is a "wet noodle".

And you have to buy them at great expense from specialist antiquarians at this point.

Oh, there are some that are advertised as having flex, from the Noodler's Konrad to the Namiki Falcon. But in order to get the writing to work like in the days of yore, you had to go beyond simply flexing the tines apart, the tines had to arch. And to do this required gold nibs, cast not stamped, that were actually not only tempered but worked and reworked by hand by craftsmen with specialised tooling.

Which is why you will never see them again. Gold has skyrocketed in price, for starters. And with the public being satisfied with a throwaway tube with a roller ball that costs less than a dollar, in what possible way could anyone justify investing the manpower to make and test and re-adjust a nib by hand, even if the tooling and expertise were still available, which they no longer are?

This generation of children will never learn to write in cursive. Their children may never learn the skill of creating letters by hand, in fact should computers get to the next level, physically typing will turn into a dying art.

I know that when I sit down with my own fountain pens, loving the smooth flow of the nib over paper, watching a deeper and richer ink than mass produced pens will ever flow staining the sheet upon which I write, I have to slow down, and sometimes my hand's muscle memory falters and I omit a letter, so out of practice am I with a pen. My hand tires easily and I remember why being a small child in a classroom can be so hard on little fingers. People who still write are becoming increasingly more of a niche market.

A fountain pen used to be a prized possession of considerable expense, but now many are opting to buy the Pilot Metropolitain or an inexpensive Lamy should they forget it at the bank, if they even wish to bother with a fountain pen at all. In theory a niche market might look into researching doing a better flex pen with composite materials, but people are increasingly balking at the costs that would have to be recouped with higher prices - and given those that made these and the toolings they used are long gone - it's not going to happen.

And even if I was to ever find a pen in an antique shop with such a nib, there's no guarantee as to its condition or whether or not it's salvageable - even if I could find an expert to rehab it properly.

So the Wet Noodle will have to be, like other relics no longer available - something only in my wishful thinking.



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