Holy Cow

September 12, 2006 | 50 comments
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A friend of mine is a dedicated genealogist. At one point she was using a will to reconstruct a family tree and came across this sentence:

I bequeath unto my daughter Daisy the cow.

She sealed Daisy to her parents. Further research revealed several references to this family, none of which included a daughter named Daisy. Perplexed, she returned to her original source of information . . . and realized that the sentence would read rather differently if it had included a comma. Additional research showed that she had, in fact, sealed a cow to this family.

Let this be a lesson to you all: sloppy writing can have eternal consequences.

50 Responses to Holy Cow

  1. Rosalynde Welch on September 12, 2006 at 10:36 am

    LOL, Julie! “Eats Shoots and Leaves” Mormon style. But where would the comma go to alleviate the confusion?

  2. A. Nonny Mouse on September 12, 2006 at 10:53 am

    I’m no english major but wouldn’t writing the sentence like this:

    I bequeath unto my daughter, Daisy, the cow.

    have meant that the daughter was named Daisy? The lack of commas means for sure that it was “Daisy the cow.” Right?

  3. A. Nonny Mouse on September 12, 2006 at 10:54 am

    I’m no english major but wouldn’t writing the sentence like this:

    To wit: that should have read, “I’m no English major…”

  4. Julie M. Smith on September 12, 2006 at 10:56 am

    I was thinking that

    I bequeath unto my daughter Daisy, the cow.

    would have clarified.

  5. Rosalynde Welch on September 12, 2006 at 11:01 am

    Nonny, I was an English major but I am not at all confident that gives me an advantage determining in comma placement! I think you’re right, though, that two commas would be necessary to specify Daisy as the modifier of “my daughter.” Those pesky direct and indirect objects…

  6. Julie M. Smith on September 12, 2006 at 11:04 am

    I think the problem is that one assumes that a daughter is more likely to be given a proper name than a cow is in this context. (Of course, that’s in hindsight. I imagine the concerned parties reading the will were completely clear on what it meant.)

  7. Rosalynde Welch on September 12, 2006 at 11:04 am

    “I bequeath, unto my daughter Daisy, the cow” would be awkward but might also work, I think.

  8. Connor Boyack on September 12, 2006 at 11:08 am

    That just made my day.

  9. RoastedTomatoes on September 12, 2006 at 11:13 am

    In my view, a better solution to this sentence is: “I bequeath unto my daugher the cow, Daisy.”

    Through mistake (as in your story) or misbehavior, animals have received a variety of holy ordinances. There was an episode in my mission in which a set of missionaries had conspired to baptize, confirm, and produce membership records for the “Chivo” (i.e., Goat) family — at the address “vacant lot across the street from the chapel.” Investigation during a mission-wide project to prune nonexistent, deceased, and unwitting members from the church roles showed that the only beings living in that field were, in fact, a group of goats. We talked to a couple of people who lived next to the lot, and they told us that they remembered the day the Mormons had wrestled the goats into the river.

  10. Nate Oman on September 12, 2006 at 11:17 am

    RT: It seems to me that your solution doesn’t really solve the problem. It might be read as bequething to the daughter that happens to be a cow Daisy (of unknown species).

    Of course the original reading of the will may be correct and this is simply a bequeth of the cow to a non-existent daughter named Daisy. (There is nothing logically impossible about writing a will that attempts to bequeth property to a nonexistent person.) If so, who got the cow in the absence of a daughter named Daisy?

  11. RoastedTomatoes on September 12, 2006 at 11:23 am

    Nate:

    How about: “I bequeath the cow, Daisy, unto my daughter.”

  12. Frank McIntyre on September 12, 2006 at 11:23 am

    “If so, who got the cow in the absence of a daughter named Daisy?”

    My understanding of Mormon law is that Mahana remains the residual claimant on all cows.

  13. john f. on September 12, 2006 at 11:27 am

    re 10: Nate, you know better than any of us that it would go through the table of consanguinity in intestate succession.

  14. john f. on September 12, 2006 at 11:36 am

    Or, failing that, I guess one would need to see the rest of the will to see the disposition of other personalty and chattels.

  15. Julie M. Smith on September 12, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Frank wins.

  16. Kevin Barney on September 12, 2006 at 11:45 am

    Frank, you ugly!

    When I first read the line, that the cow was Daisy seemed the obvious reading to me, and I didn’t even consider a daughter named Daisy until I read the rest of the post.

  17. Rosalynde Welch on September 12, 2006 at 11:46 am

    Well if we’re allowed to rearrange the furniture: “I bequeath Daisy the cow to my daughter.” No need for commas at all if you get the objects in the right place, you see!

  18. Rosalynde Welch on September 12, 2006 at 11:48 am

    LOL, Frank! Economists shouldn’t be allowed to be funny; it makes it so much harder to hate them when you need to.

  19. Frank McIntyre on September 12, 2006 at 11:56 am

    “Economists shouldn’t be allowed to be funny; it makes it so much harder to hate them when you need to.”

    Sorry. I’ll try to make up for it with atrocious spelling and bad grammer.

  20. CE Eric on September 12, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    To go back to the original story, and the point of the enthusiastic geneologist:

    A former Relief Society President of ours tells of reading in old family journals about how much a part of the family Ben and Betty were (I don’t remember the names, so Ben and Betty will do). Day after day, the journals described how difficult the crossing was, but Ben and Betty made the day go by so much better. Sometimes the entries would talk about the good moods these two wonderful family members were, or talk about feats of strength they employed to get the wagon unstuck, and so on. The geneologist checked the temple work, saw that neither Ben nor Betty was sealed to the family, submitted the proper paperwork, and did the proper ordinances. Shortly after that, the journals mentioned how sad the family was that Ben and Betty finally succombed to exposure–the best wagon team a family could hope for.

  21. Tatiana on September 12, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    I totally would love to be sealed to my cats! =) They are truly part of my family. The only worry is if they can understand the situation enough to consent. I suppose if we do it posthumously, though, all that will be taken care of, as it is for the human dead. They will get to choose. (Please understand that this isn’t disrespectful of sacred ordinances, but simply reflects my lifelong feelings that animals are also people. They are my children.)

  22. Kiskilili on September 12, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    Yes! I want to be sealed to my cats too! It makes me sad to think I may never see them in the next life.

  23. bbell on September 12, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    I like this post. its funny.

    #21 and 22 seem sad to me.

  24. DKL on September 12, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    Funny post. I wonder if there are eternal consequences to eating something that you are sealed to for time and all eternity. Come to think of it, I’ve had meal’s bad enough that it feels like I’ve been sealed to them for time and all eternity. I wonder if there’s any similarity.

  25. Mark Butler on September 12, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    I would not call it sealing, but I am quite convinced of the idea that pets and other favored animals will be resurrected and furthermore that we will be able to enjoy their company in the celestial glory.

    See Rev 4:9, D&C 77:2-3, 88:25.

  26. greenfrog on September 12, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    Funny post. I wonder if there are eternal consequences to eating something that you are sealed to for time and all eternity. Come to think of it, I’ve had meal’s bad enough that it feels like I’ve been sealed to them for time and all eternity. I wonder if there’s any similarity.

    This comment suggests a key role in LDS doctrine for the concept of purgatory.

  27. Frank McIntyre on September 12, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    DKL,

    Speaking of food: we tried the brownies. They were quite good. The household consensus, though, was that Ghiradelli was a little better. No accounting for tastes, I guess.

  28. WillF on September 12, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Is this the same moocow that met the nicens little boy named baby tuckoo?

  29. DKL on September 12, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    Frank, thanks for the report. When you say, “No accounting for tastes” are you referring to yours or to mine?

  30. Russell Arben Fox on September 12, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    “I would not call it sealing, but I am quite convinced of the idea that pets and other favored animals will be resurrected and furthermore that we will be able to enjoy their company in the celestial glory.”

    We had a cow once that I’m pretty sure has gone to Outer Darkness.

  31. Capt. Obsidian on September 12, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    How about “Unto my daughter I bequeath the cow, Daisy.”

    Russell Arben Fox:
    “We had a cow once that I’m pretty sure has gone to Outer Darkness.”

    As has my in-laws’ former cat, nicknamed Satan.

  32. Mark B. on September 12, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Oh, the death of grammar!

    In that wonderful sentence from the old will, “Daisy” if the daughter’s name, is an appositive, and should be set off by commas:

    “. . . to my daughter, Daisy, the cow.”

    Without the commas, I’d read the name as the cow’s, not the daughter’s, and I think most probate courts would as well.

  33. Doc on September 12, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    “Funny post. I wonder if there are eternal consequences to eating something that you are sealed to for time and all eternity. Come to think of it, I’ve had meal’s bad enough that it feels like I’ve been sealed to them for time and all eternity. I wonder if there’s any similarity.

    This comment suggests a key role in LDS doctrine for the concept of purgatory”

    Yes, I believe bingatory and purgatory are settlement camps for bulemics in spirit prison.

  34. Alison Moore Smith on September 12, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    I’m with Kevin and Mark. Nice tidbit today, Julie.

  35. greenfrog on September 12, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Perhaps, but I’m reasonably confident that most probate courts would not exclude parol evidence offered to demonstrate the existence or non-existence of a daughter named Daisy.

  36. greenfrog on September 12, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    35 responding to 32

  37. Mark B. on September 12, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    Of course, greenfrog, and those same courts would likely not exclude parol evidence offered to demonstrate the same about a cow.

  38. Frank McIntyre on September 12, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    “When you say, “No accounting for tastesâ€? are you referring to yours or to mine?”

    I’m being vague. It’s a grammatical skill.

    Like when my son told me yesterday that the chair ran into his sister, as if the chair wandered around attacking four year olds of its own volition.

  39. Edje on September 12, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    Re: 30, 31, and original post: Some months ago my grandfather was regaling us with tales of his early years, mostly involving farm animals. Along the way he sidetracked onto the difficulties of genealogy and figuring out which of the names in the record belong to beasts and which to children (apparently the cow-sealing issue has come up more than once). He then returned to his animals with sudden (and rare) vehemence: “I don’t want to be sealed to Maud (the devil cow)! Promise me that when you are old and I am long dead that you won’t forget that Maud is an evil cow and not my long-lost sister that needs to be sealed to us!”

  40. gst on September 12, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    Cats aren’t people. They’re cats. That’s why they don’t wear pants.

  41. jjohnsen on September 12, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    Or have souls.

  42. gst on September 12, 2006 at 8:07 pm

    Sure, but the pants thing is conclusive.

  43. Doc on September 12, 2006 at 9:02 pm

    gst,
    I don’t think so. check out this-http://www.joybies.com/pagecat.html

  44. Doc on September 12, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    http://www.joybies.com/pagecat.html

    for some reason the hyperlink didn’t work. :(

  45. gst on September 13, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    I got nothing.

  46. JKC on September 13, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    I remember reading somewhere that Mark Twain named his housecats Famine, Pestilence, Satan, and Sin.

  47. Alison Moore Smith on September 13, 2006 at 2:05 pm
  48. Anita Wells on September 13, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    My cousin worked at the MTC doing computer programming things and used the family dog’s identity as a test case for something–they’re still getting calls trying to straighten out the situation with Wookie Cramer’s interest level in the church.

  49. Mike on September 13, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    A story circulated in my family about two younger “sisters,” born in early Pioneer times, who were sealed and appeared at the bottom of the family group sheet. No further information about their marriages or children or their deaths was known. Perhaps they died young crossing the plains.

    Later a journal was discovered which clarified that the two “sisters” were actually the oxen who pulled the wagon across the plains and they had mistakenly been sealed to the family in the temple.

    This story so closely resembles those above, #20 for example, that I wonder: are we distantly related or is this a common folk tale or a common mistake?

  50. Natalie on December 23, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    It should read…
    I bequeath unto my daughter, Daisy the cow.
    Now there is no ambiguity