“My mother … pointed out that one could not say ‘a green great dragon,’ but had to say ‘a great green dragon.’ I wondered why, and still do.” — J.R.R. Tolkien
Welsh cyclists were confused in 2006 to discover a temporary sign at the Barons Court roundabout between Penarth and Cardiff:
LLID Y BLEDREN
The first part is fine … but llid y bledren is Welsh for “inflammation of the bladder.”
“Road signs are mistranslated on an enormously regular basis, usually because people use online translators,” Aran Jones of the Welsh language group Cymuned told the South Wales Echo. But even using a human translator doesn’t guarantee a good result. In Swansea, a sign posted in October 2008 read:
NO ENTRY FOR HEAVY GOODS VEHICLES. RESIDENTIAL SITE ONLY.
NID WYF YN Y SWYDDFA AR HYN O BRYD. ANFONWCH UNRHYW WAITH I’W GYFIETHU.
The latter phrase means “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”
In English, the name of each integer shares a letter with each of its neighbors. ONE shares an O with TWO, TWO shares a T with THREE … and so on to infinity.
adj. loving supper
The South African flower Mesembryanthemum draws its name from the Greek roots for middle, embryo, and flower.
It’s believed to be the English word containing the highest “score” in Roman numerals — four Ms.
Slips of the tongue are often made on the stage, even by the most prominent actors and actresses. Mrs. Langtry at one performance said to her stage lover, ‘Let us retire and seek a nosey cook.’
An actor at the Queen’s Theatre, Manchester, turned ‘Stand back, my lord, and let the coffin pass’ into, ‘Stand back, my lord, and let the parson cough.’ …
A well-known actor who has often been applauded by New York theater-goers, in one of his speeches intended to say, ‘Royal bold Caesar,’ but forgot himself in his excitement and said, ‘Boiled rolled Caesar, I present thee with my sword.’
— John De Morgan, In Lighter Vein, 1907
n. an excessive desire for material wealth
n. the process of becoming wealthy
- Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. president born in a hospital.
- Hamlet has 1506 lines, fully 39 percent of the play.
- 736 = 7 + 36
- NOOK combines two antonyms.
- “Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.” — Plato
Words of which William Shakespeare was the only recorded user, at some point, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:
In Inventing English, Stanford literary historian Seth Lerer credits him with inventing nearly 6,000 new words.
v. to hide oneself in a corner
Advance each letter in GNAT 13 places through the alphabet and you’ll get GNAT reversed — or TANG:
Advertisement in a Manchester paper, 1829:
The Property of O— D—.
Saturday, the 16th September next, will be sold, or set up for sale, at Skibbereen:
A strong, staunch, steady, sound, stout, safe, sinewy, serviceable, strapping, supple, swift, smart, sightly, sprightly, spirited, sturdy, shining, sure-footed, sleek, smooth, spunky, well-skinned, sized, and shaped sorrel steed, of superlative symmetry, styled SPANKER; with small star and snip, square-sided, slender-shouldered, sharp-sighted, and steps singularly stately; free from strain, spavin, spasms, stringhalt, staggers, strangles, surfeit, seams, strumous swellings, scratches, splint, squint, scurf, sores, scattering, shuffling, shambling-gait, or sickness of any sort. He is neither stiff-mouthed, shabby-coated, sinew-shrunk saddlebacked, shell-toothed, skin-scabbed, short-winded, splay-footed, or shoulder-slipped; and is sound in the sword-point and stifle-joint. Has neither sick-spleen, sleeping-evil, snaggle-teeth, subcutaneous sores, or shattered hoofs; nor is he sour, sulky, surly, stubborn, or sullen in temper. Neither shy nor skittish, slow, sluggish, or stupid. He never slips, strips, strays, starts, stalks, stops, shakes, snivels, snaffles, snorts, stumbles, or stocks in his stall or stable, and scarcely or seldom sweats. Has a showy, stylish switch-tail, or stern, and a safe set of shoes on; can feed on stubble, sainfoin, sheaf-oats, straw, sedge, or Scotch grass. Carries sixteen stone with surprising speed in his stroke over a six-foot sod or a stone wall. His sire was the Sly Sobbersides, on a sister of Spindleshanks by Sampson, a sporting son of Sparkler, who won the sweepstakes and subscription plate last session at Sligo. His selling price is sixty-seven pounds, sixteen shillings and sixpence sterling.
Quoted in William T. Dobson, Literary Frivolities, Fancies, Follies and Frolics, 1880.
adj. bringing rain
adj. wet with rain
n. a repairer of umbrellas
In Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicus, his 1791 disquisition on Irish antiquities, Charles Vallancey describes a group of sepulchral stones on the Hill of Tara, one of which is inscribed BELI DIVOSE, “To Belus, God of Fire.”
Vallancey goes into some detail interpreting this as an altar to Baal. It turned out later that a wanderer had lain upon the stone and idly carved his name and the date upside down: E. CONID 1731.
Vallancey’s reaction is not recorded.
A stranger is surprised in London by some of the signs, which have been handed down for generations, which are used to distinguish particular places of business. Many of them are perfectly unmeaning, but are corruptions of the original signs. A public house was called ‘The Bag of Nails,’ which was derived from the old name, ‘The Bacchanals.’ ‘The Bull and Goat’ was corrupted from ‘The Bologne Gate,’ as the place was called in compliment to Henry VIII, who took the place in 1642. There is another public house called ‘The Goat and Compasses.’ It was established in the old Puritan times. In the days of Cromwell, it was ‘God encompasses us;’ but in Queen Victoria’s time it is ‘The Goat and Compasses.’ There is one public house called ‘The Three Loggerheads.’ The sign has a picture of two men, and the inscription underneath:
And the passer by wonders, as he reads it, where on earth the third loggerhead can be.
— Ballou’s Monthly Magazine, June 1861
n. one who has four wives
n. one who has been divorced five times
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD is an anagram of THE DOOR RING TIDED ILL.
n. a drinker of water
O precious codex, volume, tome,
Book, writing, compilation, work,
Attend the while I pen a pome,
A jest, a jape, a quip, a quirk.
For I would pen, engross, indite,
Transcribe, set forth, compose, address,
Record, submit–yea, even write
An ode, an elegy to bless–
To bless, set store by, celebrate,
Approve, esteem, endow with soul,
Commend, acclaim, appreciate,
Immortalize, laud, praise, extol
Thy merit, goodness, value, worth,
O manna, honey, salt of earth,
I sing, I chant, I worship thee!
How could I manage, live, exist,
Obtain, produce, be real, prevail,
Be present in the flesh, subsist,
Have place, become, breathe or inhale
Without thy help, recruit, support,
Assistance, rescue, aid, resort,
Favour, sustention, and advance?
Alack! Alack! and well-a-day!
My case would then be dour and sad,
Likewise distressing, dismal, gray,
Pathetic, mournful, dreary, bad.
Though I could keep this up all day,
This lyric, elegiac, song,
Meseems hath come the time to say
Farewell! Adieu! Good-by! So long!
— Franklin P. Adams, collected in Carolyn Wells, The Book of Humorous Verse, 1920
v. to annoy with missionaries
The longest word in Shakespeare appears in Act V, Scene 1 of Love’s Labour’s Lost:
O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words.
I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word;
for thou art not long by the head as
honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier
swallowed than a flap-dragon.
It’s the ablative plural of the Latin honorificabilitudinitas, “the state of being able to achieve honors.” And it can be rearranged to spell hi ludi, F. Baconis nati, tuiti orbi, which means “These plays, F. Bacon’s offspring, are preserved for the world.”
So that settles that.
- Q is the only letter that does not appear in any U.S. state name.
- 6455 = (64 – 5) × 5
- North Dakota’s record high temperature (121°F) is higher than Florida’s (109°F).
- UNNOTICEABLY contains the vowels A, E, I, O, and U in reverse order.
- “An odd thought strikes me: We shall receive no letters in the grave.” — Samuel Johnson
SOFTHEARTEDNESS = OFTEN SHEDS TEARS
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE = I’LL MAKE A WISE PHRASE
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON = OUR BEST NOVELS IN STORE
HORATIO NELSON = ON, THEN, O SAILOR
SAINT VALENTINE’S DAY = NAY, A LASS INVENTED IT
THE UPHOLSTERERS = RESTORE THE PLUSH
TO CAST PEARLS BEFORE SWINE = ONE’S LABOR IS PERFECT WASTE
ANIMOSITY = IS NO AMITY
PRINCESS DIANA can be rearranged to spell ASCEND IN PARIS.