[As a young man befuddled by my time at Harvard, I imagined these were "Cliffe Notes," short for "Radcliffe Notes." Google informs me that they were originally CliffsNotes, named for the man, Cliff Hillegass, who originated them.]
I am only 85 pages into Irving Finkel's The Ark Before Noah, but I am enjoying it so much that I feel the need to issue the first of what will undoubtedly be several interim reports. I do not think I have ever laughed out loud so much while reading a serious work [although the time I tried to read Hegel's Philosophy of History comes close.] My delight at Finkel's wit and the clarity of his exposition is heightened by the fact that this is a subject -- Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets -- about which I knew absolutely nothing before opening his book.
There are countless wonderful passages I could quote at length, but that would be de trop, as they say in these parts, so I will content myself with this footnote to a passage in which Finkel is introducing the reader to the ancient Sumerians of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers [hence Mesopotamia] whose capital city, Ur, was located in what is now Iraq.
"During the last invasion of Iraq, a high-flown American official, interviewed on the radio about damage to archeological sites on which military installations had been imposed, referred to this city as 'Umm,' evidently confusing one convention for 'I can't think what to say' with another."