Musico-literary footnote

Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee weren’t actually interchangeable; “Tweedle-dum” was Handel, while Tweedle-dee was a now-obscure contemporary named Bononcini.

Mike O’Hare is right to say that poker and craps are not Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

But then neither were Tweedledum and Tweedledee, except to a versifier with a tin ear for music. Here’s the original epigram:

Some say, compar’d to Bononcini

That Mynheer Handel’s but a Ninny

Others aver, that he to Handel

Is scarcely fit to hold a Candle

Strange all this Difference should be

‘Twixt Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee!

Now, I’ve never heard, or for that matter heard of, Bononcini. (My taste runs to the pre-Baroque, from Hildegard to Tallis and Byrd.) Perhaps his towering genius remains to be rediscovered. But the point of the epigram is that his music and Handel’s were more or less indistinguishable. I rather doubt it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: