‘Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout our place of residence, kinetic activity was not in evidence among possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent knows as Mus musculus.
Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood-burning caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.
The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebrums.
My conjugal partner and I, attired in our nocturnal head coverings, were about to take slumbrous advantage of the hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion of the grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt compelled to arise with alacrity from my place of repose for the purpose of ascertaining the precise source thereof.
Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing this fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without, reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself — thus permitting my incredulous optical sensory organs to behold a miniature airborne runnered conveyance drawn by eight diminutive specimens of the genus Rangifer, piloted by a minuscule aged chauffer so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated caller.
With his ungulate motive power travelling at what may possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than patriotic alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen — “Now Dasher, now Dancer …” et al. — guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the 32 cloven pedal extremities.
As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was performing a 180-degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved — with utmost celerity and via a downward leap — entry by way of the smoke passage.
He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebony residue from the oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on the walls thereof. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in a commodious cloth receptacle.
His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging amiability. The capillaries of his malar regions and nasal appurtenance were engorged with blood that suffused the subcutaneous layers, the former approximating the coloration of Albion’s floral emblem, the latter that of the Prunus avium, or sweet cherry.
His amusing sub- and supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their ambient hirsute facial adornment appeared like small tabular and columnar crystals of frozen water. Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smoking piece whose gray fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of holly. His visage was wider than it was high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container.
He was, in short, neither more nor less than an obese, jocund, superannuated gnome, the optical perception of whom rendered me visibly frolicsome despite every effort to refrain from so being.
By rapidly lowering and then raising one eyelid and rotating his head slightly to one side, he indicated that trepidation on my part was groundless. Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned appended hosiery with various articles of merchandise extracted from a dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about-face, placed a single manual digit in lateral juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith affected his egress by renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage.
He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: “Ecstatic yuletide to the plenary constituency, and to that selfsame assemblage, my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn!”
“A tomahawk is what if you go to sleep and suddenly wake up without your hair, there is an Indian with.”
— University of Texas El Burro, 1969, from A Century of College Humor
What’s unusual about this limerick?
There was a young lady of Riga,
Who went for a ride on a tiger,
They came back from their ride
With the lady inside
And a smile on the face of the tiger.
It remains a limerick when translated into Latin:
Puella Rigensis ridebat,
Quam tigris in tergo vehebat,
Risusque cum tigre manebat.
Ronald Knox found that the same is true of this one:
There was a young man of Devizes,
Whose ears were of different sizes;
The one that was small
Was no use at all,
But the other won several prizes.
Visas erat; huic geminarum
Dispar modus auricularum:
Minor haec nihili;
Iam fecerat altera clarum.
Peculiarly English limericks:
There was a young lady named Wemyss,
Who, it semyss, was troubled with dremyss.
She would wake in the night,
And, in terrible fright,
Shake the bemyss of the house with her scremyss.
A pretty school-mistress named Beauchamp,
Said, “These awful boys, how shall I teauchamp?
For they will not behave,
Although I look grave
And with tears in my eyes I beseauchamp.”
There was a professor of Caius
Who measured six feet round the knaius;
He went down to Harwich
Nineteen in a carwich,
And found it a terrible squaius.
There lived a young lady named Geoghegan,
The name is apparently Peoghegan,
She’ll be changing it solquhoun
For that of Colquhoun,
But the date is at present a veoghegan. (W.S. Webb)
An author, by name Gilbert St. John,
Remarked to me once, “Honest t. John,
You really can’t quote
That story I wrote:
My copyright you are infrt. John.” (P.L. Mannock)
See This Sceptred Isle.
Reviews of a test pattern on Netflix:
- “Not as good as the book. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen the whole thing. I hope ‘Downscaling 2998fps: Too Down, Too Scaler’ is better.”
- “This is truly some of the best acting I’ve ever seen Keanu Reeves do. Hands down.”
- “Not since Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist has there been such a grim exploration of nihilism, peppered with gratuitous exploitation as ‘Test Pattern: Downscaling 2997fps 10Min.’ I found it beautiful and filthy with a soundtrack that puts Frozen‘s ‘Let it Go’ to shame.”
- “I had not seen any of the previous test patterns, and I was afraid I would not ‘get’ this one. Boy was I wrong! Talk about exciting! Going in my list. I’ll be watching this one again!”
- “I turned it off at 01:17:18. Pretty obvious where this thing was going. Really sad to see that cyan has resorted to doing test pattern work, another hue that started out with so much potential. The circle with the spinning colors showed promise and that ‘bleep’ sound was kinda clever.”
- “What happened Netflix? A year or two ago your test patterns were good clean fun. Yes, you might attract more subscribers with this kind of material, but at what cost? You’re better than this Netflix!”
Reviews of a gallon of milk on Amazon:
- “Unfortunately, after a terrible night’s sleep, I have concluded that this product is not suitable for use as a pillow.”
- “This is a fine milk, but the product line appears to be limited in available colors. I could only find white.”
- “I cannot say that Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gal, 128 fl. oz. was entirely responsible for my winning the Sveriges Riksbank Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. However, I would be remiss in not mentioning it.”
- “Has anyone else tried pouring this stuff over dry cereal? A-W-E-S-O-M-E!”
- “Bought it for my cousin who had cancer, item never arrived and my cousin died.”
- “You know, if you click on the different image views, it looks like it’s coming to GET you…”
- “WANTED: Somebody to buy milk on the internets with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we drink it. Must bring your own weapons and be able to crawl through a series of tubes. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
See Beach Reading.
Jokes from the Dust Bowl:
The drought was so bad that when one man was hit on the head with a rain drop, he was so overcome that two buckets of sand had to be thrown in his face to revive him. Housewives supposedly scoured pans clean by holding them up to a keyhole for sandblasting, and sportsmen allegedly shot ground squirrels overhead as the animals tunneled upward through the dust for air. Some farmers claimed that they planted their crops by throwing seed into the air as their fields blew past and that birds flew backwards to keep the sand out of their eyes.
In 1935 Dalhart Texan editor John McCarty founded a Last Man’s Club in which each member took an oath: “In the absence of an act of God, serious family injury, or some other emergency, I pledge to stay here as the last man and to do everything I can to help other last men remain in this country. We promise to stay here till hell freezes over and skate out on the ice.”
As a joke he proposed to build a huge hotel amid the dunes north of Dalhart where tourists would pay “fancy prices” for the privilege of witnessing the “noble grandeur an imposing beauty of a Panhandle sandstorm.” “We’ve got the greatest country in the world if we can just get a few kinks straightened out,” he wrote. “Let’s keep boosting our country.” About 100 people joined the club; more said they wanted to do so but acknowledged they were afraid they’d have to leave.
(From R. Douglas Hurt’s The Dust Bowl: An Agricultural and Social History, 1981.)
By Colorado classics teacher Jeremy Boor:
MP3, lyrics, and chords are on his website.
slow, But if it breaks it comes down up goes elevator The so.
— Yale Record, 1900-1919
Auric and I played all that Satie had written for the piano; one of us would play with him what he composed for four hands. Once, after we had played Morceau en forme de poire, I asked our hero, whom we called mon bon Maître, why he gave such a title, Pieces in the shape of a pear, to this ravishing music. He answered with a twinkle in his eyes: ‘You do know that I visit Debussy quite often; I admire him immensely and he seems to think much of whatever talent I may have. Nevertheless, one day when I showed him a piece I had just composed, he remarked, “Satie, you never had two greater admirers than Ravel and myself; many of your early works had a great influence on our writing. … Now, as a true friend may I warn you that from time to time there is in your art a certain lack of form.” All I did,’ added Satie, ‘was to write Morceau en forme de poire. I brought them to Debussy who asked, “Why such a title?” Why? simply, mon cher ami, because you cannot criticize my Pieces in the shape of a pear. If they are en forme de poire they cannot be shapeless.’
— Vladimir Golschmann, “Golschmann Remembers Erik Satie,” High Fidelity/Musical America, August 1972
Let us begin by saying we have nothing but the deepest aversion
Against casting an aspersion
On the beautiful works of Ogden Nash.
In fact we might say we go for his stuff like a vegetarian goes for his succotash.
But the thing that swerves us
From downright admiration is the length of his lines which sometimes look more like paragraphs than lines — frankly it unnerves us.
In fact we have it from unreliable sources
That several people have narrowly missed death by asphyxiation while attempting to read aloud one of these book-length sentences in one breath, all of which forces
Us to request that Mr. Nash please stick to a line that can be written entirely on one page, for when we see one of these endless lines looming up over the edge of the next stanza, we have been known to turn the page and start something else; while on the other hand, when Mr. Nash sticks to a briefer line with definite rhythm,
— An unnamed college humor magazine, quoted in Richard Koppe et al., A Treasury of College Humor, 1950
Ernest Hemingway published this “blank verse” in his high school literary magazine in 1916:
Get it? David Morice followed up with this “punctuation poem” in Word Ways in February 2012:
% , & —
+ . ? /
+ $ [ \
It’s a limerick:
Percent comma ampersand dash
Plus period question mark slash
Quotation mark colon
Plus dollar sign bracket backslash
John asked Clara
A walk with him
And pick flowers.
But Clara’s brother
They picked flowers.
— North Carolina Boll Weevil, 1922
“How old are you?”
“I’m five. How old are you?”
“I’m either four or five. I don’t know which.”
“Do women bother you?”
— Anonymous, Colorado Flatiron, 1959
— Frederick W. Umminger Jr., Yale Record, 1959
I pass on to Eclipses. When the Moon (see above) gets between the Earth (see below) and the Sun (do what you like), the resulting phenomenon is called an Eclipse of the Sun. When the Sun gets between the Earth and the Moon there will be the devil to pay. It will be called the Eclipse of the Earth and is likely to be total.
— H.F. Ellis, So This Is Science!, 1932
At a dinner party, René Descartes’ wife posts him next to the shrimp table and tells him not to let the guests eat until an hour after midnight. When a guest reaches for a shrimp, Descartes stops him and says, “I think they’re for 1 a.m.”
René Descartes is sitting in a bar. The bartender asks him if he’d like another drink. He says, “I think not” — and vanishes.
“I think, therefore Descartes is.” — Saul Steinberg
There was a young student called Fred
Who was questioned on Descartes and said:
“It’s perfect clear
That I’m not really here,
For I haven’t a thought in my head.”
— V.R. Ormerod
In 1988 German artist Rosemarie Trockel offered a 210 x 160-centimeter linen panel on which the words cogito ergo sum had been knitted — by machine.
As telegraph lines began to appear along London’s railroads, they came to fascinate commuters. One wrote to the Illustrated London News to suggest that cornet lessons might now be given on the moving train.
“The medium of tuition will be the wires of the electric telegraph. On these, being five, notes will be fastened by non-conducting materials, and the pupils will play them as they travel. The andante movements will be placed close to the stations, where progress is slow, and the tunes will be so arranged as to finish at all the stoppages. These will be constantly changed, to extend the benefit to all classes: for instance, galoppes will be chosen for the express trains; sets of quadrilles for the stopping ones; and marches, or dirges, for the luggage trains. At the same time, the passengers, generally, will be diverted with agreeable harmony.”
Another commuter responded: “The great objection is, that the notes once passed could never be taken up again, and especially the high ones; for, before the pupil could get his lips to the necessary embouchure, he would be a mile beyond the bar. A non-musical friend, given to senseless ribaldry, suggests that fugues should be chosen for the music; because, as he says, those compositions never appear to have beginning, end, middle, or anything else, and may be commenced or left of anywhere with equal effect.”
He adds, “It would be better, sir, for you to confine yourself to practical improvements than ingenious but futile schemes. … After my entertainments given in the country, I am usually asked to supper by certain of the leading inhabitants, in gratitude for the amusement I have afforded them; and, from drinking healths, I rise next morning with a dizziness. And then, on my return to town, are the wires of the electric telegraph most dreadful. They go up and down, down and up, for miles and miles, until at last, seeing nothing else, I begin to think that they are stationary, and it is the carriage which is undulating; and this has such an effect, that I am as indisposed upon arriving at the terminus as if I had just crossed the Channel. A little care on the part of the directors can remedy this. Why cannot the wires be turned upright, like those of a piano?”
When Einstein was traveling to lecture in Spain,
He questioned a conductor again and again:
“It may be a while,”
He asked with a smile,
“But when does Madrid reach this train?”
A letter from “J. A. McM.,” West Lynn, Mass., to Mark Twain, April 17, 1907:
Apropos of your very entertaining little book on ‘English as she is Taught’ — the following true story fits in well — A teacher asked her class of boys to tell the difference between herself and a clock. A bright little urchin in the rear row raised his hand and said — ‘You have a face and the clock has a face, and you have got hands and the clock has got hands, and — and (reflecting) the clock has got a pendooleum and you aint.’
On the envelope Twain wrote, “Preserve this. Frame it. It is the second time in 40 years that a stranger has done me a courtesy & charged me nothing for it.”
Robert Benchley’s favorite joke, according to Harpo Marx in Harpo Speaks!, 1961:
A man gets on the train with his little boy, and gives the conductor only one ticket. ‘How old’s your kid?’ the conductor says, and the father says he’s four years old. ‘He looks at least twelve to me,’ says the conductor, and the father says, ‘Can I help it if he worries?’
An Englishman buys a horse and hires porters to take the horse up to his apartment on the fourth floor. The porters exert themselves and sweat. Finally they succeed in getting the horse to his apartment.
He asks them to put the horse in the bathtub.
After they finish the job, one of the porters asks him, “Why do you need a horse in the bathtub?”
The Englishman says, “Well, tomorrow evening I’m having a party at home. One of the guests will go into the bathroom, see the horse, come to me and say, ‘You know you have a horse in your bathtub.’ And I’ll tell him, ‘So what?'”
— Sion Rubi, Intelligent Jokes, 2004
In 1972 Canadian scientists R.W. Sheldon and S.R. Kerr set out to reason out the number of monsters that occupy Loch Ness. Because the creatures are reportedly large and rarely seen, it follows that their numbers must be small. (“It has been suggested from time to time that as the monsters are never caught it must therefore follow that they do not exist. This is both irresponsible and illogical.”)
By estimating the fish stock available in the loch, they determined that the total mass of monsters is between 3,135 and 15,675 kg. Taking the minimum monster size as 100 kg (“anything smaller is not suitably monstrous”), they estimate that the loch contains between 1 and 156 monsters. The high end of this range seems unlikely; and since monsters have been reported for centuries they’re probably breeding, which would require a population of at least 10.
Given the available quantity of fish and assuming a stable population, monsters weighing 100 kg would have to die at a rate of at least 3 per year. Larger animals would die less frequently, and this seems likely since dead monsters are never found (and since the juveniles that must replace them are never seen). So it seems the lake probably contains a small number of large monsters, perhaps 10-20 monsters weighing up to 1,500 kg each and measuring about 8 meters, “a size that agrees well with observational data.”
“We would like to thank Kate Kranck for drawing our attention to this problem, because until she mentioned it we were unaware that monsters were a problem.”
(“The Population Density of Monsters in Loch Ness,” Limnology and Oceanography 17:5, 796–798)
Facilities suggested by Lewis Carroll for a school of mathematics at Oxford, 1868:
- A very large room for calculating Greatest Common Measure. To this a small one might be attached for Least Common Multiple: this, however, might be dispensed with.
- A piece of open ground for keeping Roots and practising their extraction: it would be advisable to keep Square Roots by themselves, as their corners are apt to damage others.
- A room for reducing Fractions to their Lowest Terms. This should be provided with a cellar for keeping the Lowest Terms when found, which might also be available to the general body of Undergraduates, for the purpose of “keeping Terms.”
- A large room, which might be darkened, and fitted up with a magic lantern for the purpose of exhibiting Circulating Decimals in the act of circulation. This might also contain cupboards, fitted with glass-doors, for keeping the various Scales of Notation.
- A narrow strip of ground, railed off and carefully levelled, for investigating the properties of Asymptotes, and testing practically whether Parallel Lines meet or not: for this purpose it should reach, to use the expressive language of Euclid, “ever so far.”
He introduced this topic with an administrator by writing, “Dear Senior Censor,–In a desultory conversation on a point connected with the dinner at our high table, you incidentally remarked to me that lobster-sauce, ‘though a necessary adjunct to turbot, was not entirely wholesome.’ It is entirely unwholesome. I never ask for it without reluctance: I never take a second spoonful without a feeling of apprehension on the subject of possible nightmare. This naturally brings me to the subject of Mathematics …”
The Veterinary Record of April 1, 1972, contained a curious article: “Some Observations on the Diseases of Brunus edwardii.” Veterinarian D.K. Blackmore and his colleagues examined 1,598 specimens of this species, which they said is “commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America.”
“Commonly-found syndromes included coagulation and clumping of stuffing, resulting in conditions similar to those described as bumble foot and ventral (rupture in the pig and cow respectively) alopecia, and ocular conditions which varied from mild squint to intermittent nystagmus and luxation of the eyeball. Micropthalmus and macropthalmus were frequently recorded in animals which had received unsuitable ocular prostheses.”
They found that diseases could be either traumatic or emotional. Acute traumatic conditions were characterized by loss of appendages, often the result of disputed ownership, and emotional disturbances seemed to be related to neglect. “Few adults (except perhaps the present authors) have any real affection for the species,” and as children mature, they tend to relegate these animals to an attic or cupboard, “where severe emotional disturbances develop.”
The authors urged their colleagues to take a greater interest in the clinical problems of the species. “It is hoped that this contribution will make the profession aware of its responsibilities, and it is suggested that veterinary students be given appropriate instruction and that postgraduate courses be established without delay.”