The Pen is Mightier Than the Swordfish Actors Ed Helms and Jana Schmieding (Rutherford Falls) face off in a game of This, That, or the Other where the categories are: fountain pen companies, sword parts, and fish.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Swordfish

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.


Thanks, Jonathan. We're playing games with the stars of Peacock's comedy series "Rutherford Falls," Ed Helms and Jana Schmieding. Are you ready for another one?

JANA SCHMIEDING: Yeah, let's do it.



EISENBERG: All right. Cool. Hey, you're going to play one of our favorite games. It's called This, That or the Other. It's very simple. We're going to give you the name of something, and you just have to tell us which of three categories it belongs to. Jonathan Coulton, what are today's categories?

COULTON: Well, Ophira, today's theme is, the Pen is Mightier Than the Swordfish. And so every answer is either a company that makes fountain pens, a part of a sword or a kind of fish.

EISENBERG: OK, so that is all there is to it. Ed, this is for you - arowana.

HELMS: It's a grocery store in Los Angeles.


HELMS: I have never heard of this in a non-grocery store context. So I'm going to say - it sounds kind of fishy to me.

EISENBERG: It is fishy.

HELMS: All right.

EISENBERG: Well done. Yeah.


EISENBERG: It is also called the dragonfish for its majestic scales and whiskers.

HELMS: Well, I wish you'd said dragonfish because then it would have been a lot easier.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: Yeah, that would have made it clear.


SCHMIEDING: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Yeah. Is a dragonfish a sword or a pen?


COULTON: All right, Jana, here's one for you - quillon. Quillon - pen company, sword part or fish?

SCHMIEDING: I'm going to say - this seems like it might be a pen company, but I'm going to go with sword part.

COULTON: You are correct.


COULTON: Yeah, it is the technical name for the arm of a sword's crossguard. I don't even know what a crossguard is.

EISENBERG: Yeah, what is that?

SCHMIEDING: Don't know.

HELMS: What is...

COULTON: Don't know.

SCHMIEDING: It's the...

EISENBERG: Crossguard is a fish (laughter).

COULTON: Crossguard - yeah (laughter), crossguard is a fish. I think - so the sword has a...

HELMS: Hilt.

COULTON: Yeah, the thing that protects - you know, if you cross swords and it goes all the way down, you don't want it to slide all the way down and cut your hand off.


COULTON: So you have got a guard there to keep the sword from - I think that's the crossguard.

EISENBERG: Right. Before this, I - swords were like, sharp part, not sharp part. That's what I knew about them.

COULTON: (Laughter) That's right - pokey part, hold-y (ph) part.

EISENBERG: By the way, I accidentally bought my 5-year-old son a sword - a plastic sword. But (laughter) it is his favorite toy of all time.

COULTON: When you say accidentally, what do you mean exactly?

EISENBERG: So my son wants a ninja costume, and so I bought one online, as I do. And - but I thought I'll just give it to him, you know, some point in the future. You know, sometimes you just gather things so you can bring them out in a moment to be like, and a costume. And I didn't realize it came with a sword. I didn't really read it very well. And so just the sword shipped. And so I got this box, but I thought it was a planter for some plants that I had also ordered. And I was like, oh, my planter came. And I opened it up, and there was a plastic sword. And it was like - it was the - like, bait like I've seen no other. He literally just went, sword, grabbed it, and, like, ran. And that was it.


EISENBERG: That was it. Never to be seen again, the sword.

HELMS: Well, he probably was really disappointed it wasn't a planter.


COULTON: That's a good point.

EISENBERG: He was really looking forward to some more flowers.

COULTON: (Laughter).

HELMS: Some ninjas are assassins. Others enjoy herb gardens.

SCHMIEDING: Horticulture.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Horticulturists, that's right. All right, Ed - Stipula.

HELMS: Stipula.


HELMS: I - man, this could really go...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

HELMS: ...In any of the three categories quite well. I mean, I'm going to go with sword part.

EISENBERG: It does seem like it could be a sword part. But indeed, it is a fountain pen company. According to Britannica, the first practical fountain pen was made in 1884. Before then, writers had to dip their pens into an inkwell over and over again. So - but fountain pens, of course, have a reservoir of ink.


COULTON: Mmm hmm, mmm hmm.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

SCHMIEDING: That is some nerdy stuff right there.

EISENBERG: I know. I know. I know.

COULTON: Jana - sailor...


COULTON: ...Spelled in the traditional manner. Sailor - pen, sword - pen company, sword part or fish?

SCHMIEDING: Again, it could be all three. I feel like there probably is a sailor fish. But I'm going to go with pen company just to be unique.

COULTON: You are absolutely correct. It is a fountain pen company.

SCHMIEDING: God, I'm good. I'm good at this game.

COULTON: You really are weirdly good at this game, yeah. It's - and also according to Brittanica, pens can be traced back to calligraphy brushes used in China thousands of years ago. Metal pens are a relatively recent invention. Although a pen made of bronze was found in the ruins of Pompeii.

SCHMIEDING: Oh, wow. Boy.

EISENBERG: I know. That's a dark - like, oh. oh.



COULTON: Somebody was probably writing a letter.

EISENBERG: (Laughter). Well, once again, you both did fantastic. I think we know how that went, and I think it went extremely well. Ed Helms and...

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Ed Helms and Jana Schmieding star in the comedy series "Rutherford Falls." All 10 episodes are streaming now on Peacock. Thank you so much for joining us.

HELMS: Thanks for having us.

SCHMIEDING: Yes, thank you. That was fun.

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