It appears the news about O’Reilly Editor-in-Chief Frank Willison’s death is now public. There will be many eulogies about this wonderful, warm man, but I thought I’d share a few lighter Frank stories. I worked in the same Cambridge office with Frank for a little more than a year, and I bent his ear on many occasions about totally unwork-related issues.
On one occasion, I was complaining about how difficult is to spell in English (my native tongue). In Spanish, words are spelled as they are pronounced. What the hell were our English grammarians thinking? Frank said “In English, spelling is etymological, not phonetic.” After staring blankly at him for a few minutes, he explained English spelling indicates which alien language a word was pinched from. That’s why, for instance, “comb”, “tomb” and “bomb” don’t rhyme. (Frank had a giant OED in his office and often consulted it before sending email, a habit I should adopt).
Frank’s lunch time screeds were legendary. Sometimes, he would be denouncing Big Soda’s conspiracy to add high fructose sugar to all our beverages. Sometimes, he’d be warning us against the danger of using airplane toilets in flight (because you could get sucked out of the plane with your pants around your ankles; not a pretty way to go!). Other times, he’d be talking up a storm about baseball (not one of my favorite topics, but he often had something amusing to say).
My words are a feeble replacement for him. Do yourself a favor and read a few of his Frankly Speaking articles.