Language

High-Flown

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

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” “revised by a committee of eminent preceptors and scholars”:

Shine with irregular, intermitted light, sparkle at intervals, diminutive, luminous, heavenly body.
How I conjecture, with surprise, not unmixed with uncertainty, what you are,
Located, apparently, at such a remote distance from, and at a height so vastly superior to this earth, the planet we inhabit,
Similar in general appearance and refractory powers to the precious primitive octahedron crystal of pure carbon, set in the aerial region surrounding the earth.

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

In a Word

cultrivorous
adj. devouring knives

In a Word

eccedentesiast
n. one who fakes a smile

Double Talk

Here is the longest correct sentence of ‘thats’ which we have yet seen:

‘I assert that that, that that “that,” that that that that person told me contained, implied, has been misunderstood.’

It is a string of nine ‘thats’ which may be easily ‘parsed’ by a bright pupil.

Boston Journal of Education, cited in Bizarre Notes & Queries, November 1887

A Contrived Palindrome

“When young Sten was bar-mitzvahed, Sten Sr. took him on safari, as a present, during the course of which Mrs. Sten received this jubilant telegram”:

YOUNG STEN NETS GNU! OY!

— John McClellan

Good Question

George Selwyn once declared in company that a lady could not write a letter without adding a postscript. A lady present replied, ‘The next letter that you receive from me, Mr. Selwyn, will prove that you are wrong.’ Accordingly he received one from her the next day, in which, after her signature was the following:–

‘P.S. Who is right, now, you or I?’

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

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.