“Lost: Pet dog. One eye, one ear, three legs. Answers to the name ‘Lucky.'”
I could not but think of this old joke when I came across the monument of Cary Howard in Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, today (figure 1).
JULY 10, 1883,
SEPT 6, 1898.
The juxtaposition of Howard’s anything-but-lucky early death at age 15 with the lucky four-leaf clover struck me as humorous in a sort of mordant way and put me in mind of the joke above. I suppose I’ve seen some three-leaf clovers with harps on monuments celebrating Irish origins, but never a four-leaf clover.
Who puts a four-leaf clover on a tombstone? Is it defiant? Whistling in the dark?
Perhaps, you say, it may be a malapropism, but maybe it was a hypocorism for Howard: “you’re my lil’ four-leaf clover.” Maybe you’re right.