Language

In a Word

adoxography
n. fine writing on a trivial subject

“Spelling Reform”

With tragic air the love-lorn heir
Once chased the chaste Louise;
She quickly guessed her guest was there
To please her with his pleas.

Now at her side he kneeling sighed,
His sighs of woeful size;
‘Oh, hear me here, for lo, most low
I rise before your eyes.

This soul is sole thine own, Louise —
‘Twill never wean, I ween,
The love that I for aye shall feel,
Though mean may be its mien!’

‘You know I cannot tell you no,’
The maid made answer true;
I love you aught, as sure I ought —
To you ’tis due I do!’

‘Since you are won, Oh fairest one,
The marriage rite is right —
The chapel aisle I’ll lead you up
This night,’ exclaimed the knight.

Yonkers Gazette, cited in William T. Dobson, Poetical Ingenuities and Eccentricities, 1882

In a Word

fysigunkus
n. one who lacks curiosity

Shouldn’t This Rhyme?

“Husband,” says Joan, “’tis plain enough
That Roger loves our daughter;
And Betty loves him too, although
She treats his suit with laughter.”

For Roger always hems and coughs,
While on the field he’s ploughing;
Then strives to see between the boughs,
If Betty heeds his coughing.

— Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious from the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1890

In a Word

gamomania
n. an urge to make extravagant wedding proposals

“Riddles for the Post Office”

The following is an exact copy of the direction of a letter mailed a few years ago by a German living in Lancaster County, Pa.:—

Tis is fur old Mr. Willy wot brinds de Baber in Lang Kaster ware ti gal is gist rede him assume as it cums to ti Pushtufous.

meaning:—

This is for old Mr. Willy, what prints the paper in Lancaster, where the jail is. Just read him as soon as it comes to the Post Office.

Inclosed was an essay against public schools.

— Robert Conger Pell, Milledulcia, 1857

Roll Call

A pangrammatic anagrammatic verse composed by Edwin Fitzpatrick — each line contains each of the 20 consonants once and each of the six vowels twice:

Why jog exquisite bulk, fond crazy vamp,
Daft buxom jonquil, zephyr’s gawky vice?
Guy fed by work, quiz Jove’s xanthic lamp —
Zow! Qualms by deja vu gyp fox-kin thrice.

And it rhymes!

In a Word

engastration
n. the act of stuffing one bird into another

“Death and Life”

death and life

— Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious from the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1890

In a Word

curglaff
n. the shock felt on plunging into cold water

Charade

Amiable together.
Am I able to get her?

In a Word

cingulomania
n. a desire to hold another in one’s arms

Also:

basorexia
n. a craving to kiss

“Riddles for the Post Office”

The following ludicrous direction to a letter was copied verbatim from the original and interesting document:

too dad Tomas
hat the ole oke
otchut
I O Bary pade
Sur plees to let ole feather have this sefe.

The letter found the gentleman at ‘The Old Oak Orchard, Tenbury.’ In another letter, the writer, after a severe struggle to express ‘Scotland,’ succeeded at length to his satisfaction, and wrote it thus: ‘stockling.’ A third letter was sent by a woman to a son who had settled in Tennessee, which the old lady had thus expressed with all phonetic simplicity, ’10 S C.’

— Robert Conger Pell, Milledulcia, 1857

Word-Unit Palindromes

These sentences read the same backward as forward:

  • King, are you glad you are king?
  • So patient a doctor to doctor a patient so.
  • Dollars make men covetous, then covetous men make dollars.
  • Husband by murdered wife lies cold, and cold lies wife, murdered by husband.

Our Mutual Friend

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Dickens_characters.jpg

Anagrams on Dickens titles:

  • THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY = DICKENS: NAIVE ENTER FANCIFUL DOTHEBOYS HALL
  • OLD CURIOSITY SHOP = STORY O’ PIOUS CHILD
  • OLIVER TWIST, BY CHARLES DICKENS = BOLD CREW SINS AT SLICK THIEVERY
  • THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD = FOOD ENDETH MY WEIRD STORY

“We talk about the tyranny of words,” writes David Copperfield, “but we like to tyrannize over them too.”

Poser

What’s the difference between six dozen dozen and half a dozen dozen?

If you answered “nothing,” reconsider.

In a Word

vernalagnia
adj. heightened sexual desire in the springtime

Lo!

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Saturn_from_Cassini_Orbiter_%282004-10-06%29.jpg

In 1610, thinking he had discovered two moons orbiting Saturn, Galileo composed a message:

ALTISSIMUM PLANETAM TERGEMINUM OBSERVAVI (“I have observed the most distant planet to have a triple form”)

… and sent it to Kepler as an anagram:

SMAISMRMILMEPOETALEUMIBUNENUGTTAUIRAS

Remarkably, Kepler managed to “solve” this as a message about Mars, not Saturn:

SALVE UMBISTENEUM GEMINATUM MARTIA PROLES (“Hail, twin companionship, children of Mars”)

The German astronomer had predicted that the Red Planet had two moons, and imagined that Galileo was confirming his belief.

There’s a message in this, somewhere.

So There

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Timothy_Dexter.jpg

The autobiography of the American eccentric “Lord” Timothy Dexter (1748-1806) contains 8,847 words and no punctuation:

IME the first Lord in the younited States of Americary Now of Newburyport it is the voise of the peopel and I cant Help it and so Let it goue Now as I must be Lord there will foller many more Lords pretty soune for it dont hurt A Cat Nor the mouse Nor the son Nor the water Nor the Eare then goue on all is Easey Now …

When readers complained, he added a page of punctuation marks to the second edition, inviting them to “peper and solt it as thay plese.”

Pride of Place

Of all the odd numbers, which would appear first in a dictionary?

EIGHT BILLION EIGHT HUNDRED EIGHT MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED EIGHT THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED EIGHTY-FIVE (8,808,808,885).

(Thanks, Michael.)

Money Talks

When, at the General Peace of 1814, Prussia absorbed a portion of Saxony, the king issued a new coinage of rix dollars, with their German name, EIN REICHSTAHLER, impressed on them. The Saxons, by dividing the word, EIN REICH STAHL ER, made a sentence of which the meaning is, ‘He stole a kingdom!’

— William T. Dobson, Poetical Ingenuities and Eccentricities, 1882

In a Word

zenzizenzizenzic
n. a number raised to the eighth power

Chronograms

A medal struck of the 17th-century Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus included this motto:

ChrIstVs DuX ergo trIVMphVs

Rearrange the capital letters and you get MDCXVVVII, or 1627, the year in which the medal was stamped.

That’s a chronogram, and a pretty tame one, as these things go. In 1634 the Society of Jesuits at Brussels composed a remarkable congratulation to Ferdinand on his arrival in the Netherlands as governor; it contains 100 hexameters, every one of which is a chronogram adding to 1634:

AngeLe CoeLIVagI MIChaeL, LVX VnICa CaetVs.
Pro nVtV sVCCInCta tVo CVI CVnCta MInIstrant.
SIDera qVIqVe poLo gaVDentIa sIDera VoLVVnt. …

“Genius,” wrote Thomas Carlyle, “is an infinite capacity for taking pains.”

In a Word

aidle
v. “to earn one’s bread indifferently well”

(Charles Mackay, Lost Beauties of the English Language, 1874)