Pathopoeia ( path-o-poy’-a): A general term for speech that moves hearers emotionally, especially as the speaker attempts to elicit an emotional response by way of demonstrating his/her own feelings (exuscitatio). Melanchthon explains that this effect is achieved by making reference to any of a variety of pathetic circumstances: the time, one’s gender, age, location, etc.

There’s nothing like a picture of a kid on crutches to get them to stuff money in the donation jar! And the bigger the jar the better! You can fit $300 in one of these giant pickle jars. You gotta’ give your fund a name. “Timmy” is a really good name for the kid on the jar. It reminds the rubes of the kid on “Lassie” who should’ve been in a wheelchair. You can try “Timmy’s Legs,” but I’ve found “Timmy’s Withered Legs” or “Cripple Timmy” or “Poor Little Timmy” work much better to rake in the bucks. Make sure to stand by the jar looking bereft and making eye contact to pull people in. Even though Timmy is fake, and the picture is photoshopped, it is important to have a story to tearfully tell, in case somebody ask what’s wrong with him.

You can make up a fake medical condition like “Leggonomia,” or “Rigatony’s Disease,” or “Spindle Legs.” This will help confirm the rube’s confidence in what you’re pushing. But probably, the story is the clincher. Try this: “I love my little boy Timmy with all my heart, but his legs bring me great sadness. We would go for walks in the park and he started falling down. We loved family square dance night on Sundays at church and he started falling down. Then, he started falling down just walking across the living room. [start crying here] We took Timmy to the doctor, he ran tests and determined Timmy has Leggonomia, an incurable disease of the legs that leaves him only 2 more years to live. We hugged and cried when the doctor told us that. Now, we are raising money to pay for Timmy’s end of life care, preceded by a trip to Kew Garden in England. Timmy loves flowers and his kitty cat Blinker too. He loves me and his mom too. I read him his favorite bedtime story every night: “The Little Engine that Could.” He thinks he’s that little engine, but I know he isn’t [cry again].

The story’s a little long, but it usually pulls a fiver for the jar, and that’s what we’re looking for: a fiver for the jar. I ran the Timmy scam for ten years after I graduated from high school. All my friends went off to college and became brokers, and lawyers, government employees, and politicians, and everything you can think of. I’ve stuck with Timmy all these years, but I’ve been running into past donors too frequently lately. When they say, “Hey, he’s supposed to be dead” I say “Yes you’re right, but with expensive therapy, combined with new drugs, Timmy’s condition is holding. He’s miserable, but he’s alive, thanks to people like you.” That usually nets a fiver, and that’s what we’re after.

When I learned you don’t need to be dying in order to appeal to peoples’ pity as an incentive to forking over a fiver, I decided to be the “victim” myself. I wracked my brain for a malady or a kind of personal tragedy requiring cash. First, I tried the stolen bird nest collection. People laughed at me. Then I tried the brain injury from the Iraq war gambit. That was a non-starter. The VA has great free healthcare, which I found out on my first try, when my mark threatened to call the police. I finally hit on incontinence. I would wet my pants and hold out a styrofoam cup. I would say “Please give what you can so I can get my bladder corrected.” Then, one late Autumn afternoon, a guy walked up to me and asked in a low growl, “How’s Timmy, scumbag?” I was ready for this: “Dead.” I said. “Bullshit! We both know there was no Timmy—you know it, and l know it: You’re full of shit!” Anticipating this, I had had a small brass urn engraved “Beloved Timmy, 2010-2020” and had taken a picture of it that I carried with me. “Here, look at this,” I said to the angry skeptic. He looked. His face softened and he pulled out a fiver and stuffed in my cup. “Good luck with your bladder,” he said as he walked away.

I’m getting tired of peeing my pants for a living. I was thinking of shitting my pants instead, but that’s too messy. Instead, I’m going to ghost-write sob stories for people in trouble who’re guilty, but don’t want to take the blame. I will be a fake defense attorney. Timmy will be my guiding light. Poor Timmy.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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