Futility Closet book ad

Language

In a Word

xanthodont
n. having yellow teeth

Waste Not, Want Not

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

Here’s Wordsworth’s “Upon Westminster Bridge”:

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Why start over? Wayne Carlson rearranged the words to make a new poem:

A city is lying still, asleep in the dull morning;
A steep hill towers more unto the smokeless sky,
Touching the heart and soul of God.
Bare fields doth lie in the valley,
Like ships that glideth, all silent in the river.
I saw all His own houses, now temples to the sun;
Sight at first has never felt more dear.
Who would not wear His gament, open to the calm air?
Could anything be so beautifully bright and glittering?
He will never show its theatres and domes;
Or pass by this fair Earth; a mighty rock,
Of very deep beauty, splendour, and majesty
Ne’er did seem so sweet!

Inflexible

No letter appears twice in AMBIDEXTROUSLY.

A Biblical Pangram

Ezra 7:21 contains every letter except J:

And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily.

In a Word

windbroach
n. an inferior fiddler

Numerical Pangrams

A pangram is a sentence that uses each letter of the alphabet exactly once:

CWM FJORD BANK GLYPHS VEXT QUIZ.

“Carved symbols in a mountain hollow and on the bank of a fjord irritated an eccentric person.” They’re a bit awkward in English, so here’s the same idea using numbers. Each of these (valid) equations uses the digits 1-9 exactly once:

42 × 138 = 5796
27 × 198 = 5346
39 × 186 = 7254
48 × 159 = 7632
28 × 157 = 4396
4 × 1738 = 6952
4 × 1963 = 7852

Even better: The numbers 3 and 51249876, between them, use all 9 digits — and so does their product, 153749628.

Fenetix

A “sonic alphabet” composed by Harry Mathews:

Hay, be seedy! He-effigy, hate-shy jaky yellow man, O peek! You are rusty, you’ve edible, you ex-wise he!

Read it aloud. In 1886, J.H. Lundgren composed this sentence for Notes and Queries:

Oh Ellen, pea jay, ivy effigy, double you are! empty essay! why? you see age decay; be excused!

“It will be observed that the actual sounds (names) of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet are here represented by the several syllables of the eighteen words employed, and with the exception of ‘age’ for H, almost correctly. A perfectly faultless rendering may perhaps not be attainable.”

All Aboard

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware.png

What’s odd about this sonnet, composed in 1936 by David Shulman?

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
“How cold!” Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!

The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general’s action wish’d “Go!”
He saw his ragged continentals row.

Ah, he stands – sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens – winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.

George can’t lose war with’s hand in;
He’s astern – so go alight, crew, and win!

Each line is an anagram of WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE.

In a Word

diamerdis
n. a man who is covered in feces

Southern Pride

The water tower in Florence, Ky., originally advertised the Florence Mall.

That violated regulations, though, and they had to change it to something

Rimshot

There was a young lady named Psyche
Who was heard to ejaculate, “Pcryche!”
For, riding her pbych,
She ran over a ptych,
And fell on some rails that were pspyche.

In a Word

nihilarian
n. a person with a meaningless job

What’s in a Name?

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

In 1882, when Texas governor Big Jim Hogg had a daughter, he decided to name her after an epic Civil War poem that her uncle had written.

Unfortunately, the heroine was called Ima.

“My grandfather Stinson lived 15 miles from Mineola and news traveled slowly,” she wrote later. “When he learned of his granddaughter’s name he came trotting to town as fast as he could to protest but it was too late. The christening had taken place, and Ima I was to remain.”

Contrary to local legends, she did not have a sister named Ura.

So Be It

Eleva, Wisconsin, was supposed to be named New Chicago.

But workers painted the letters ELEVA on a local grain elevator and had to stop there when winter fell.

Travelers assumed that was the name of the village, and now it is.

Mouthful

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tobacco_Mosaic_Virus_structure.png

This is the coat protein of the Dahlemense strain of the tobacco mosaic virus. Its chemical name is acetylseryl- tyrosylserylisoleucylthreonylserylprolylserylglutaminylphenylalanylvalylphenylalanylleucylserylserylvalyl- tryptophylalanylaspartylprolylisoleucylglutamylleucylleucylasparaginylvalylcysteinylthreonylserylseryl- leucylglycylasparaginylglutaminylphenylalanylglutaminylthreonylglutaminylglutaminylalanylarginylthreonyl-
threonylglutaminylvalylglutaminylglutaminylphenylalanylserylglutaminylvalyltryptophyllysylprolylphenyl-
alanylprolylglutaminylserylthreonylvalylarginylphenylalanylprolylglycylaspartylvalyltyrosyllysylvalyltyrosyl-
arginyltyrosylasparaginylalanylvalylleucylaspartylprolylleucylisoleucylthreonylalanylleucylleucylglycylthre-
onylphenylalanylaspartylthreonylarginylasparaginylarginylisoleucylisoleucylglutamylvalylglutamylasparaginyl-
glutaminylglutaminylserylprolylthreonylthreonylalanylglutamylthreonylleucylaspartylalanylthreonylarginy-
larginylvalylaspartylaspartylalanylthreonylvalylalanylisoleucylarginylserylalanylasparaginylisoleucylasparag-
inylleucylvalylasparaginylglutamylleucylvalylarginylglycylthreonylglycylleucyltyrosylasparaginylglutaminylas-
paraginylthreonylphenylalanylglutamylserylmethionylserylglycylleucylvalyltryptophylthreonylserylalanylpro-
lylalanylserine.

At 1185 letters, that may be the longest word in the English language.

In a Word

antivitruvian
adj. taking pleasure in destroying architectural monuments

Clinician, Heal Thyself

In The Elements of Style, his popular guide for writers, William Strunk declares:

“The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning.”

In a Word

leint
v. to add urine to ale to make it stronger

Simple Enough

The following bill was sent to a gentleman:

aosafada: 1.50
atacinonimomagin: .50
Pade, Josef Jaxn: 2.00

The items of that bill are not apothecaries’ articles, as might be supposed; but merely, ‘A horse half a day and a taking of him home again.’

– George Wakeman, “Tormenting the Alphabet,” Galaxy, 1866

In a Word

agrexophrenia
n. inability to perform sexually due to fear of being overheard

“Alliterative Love Letter”

Adored and angelic Amelia, accept an ardent and artless amourist’s affection, alleviate an anguished admirer’s alarms, and answer an amorous applicant’s ardour. Ah, Amelia! all appears an awful aspect. Ambition, avarice, and arrogance, alas! are attractive allurements, and abuse an ardent attachment. Appease an aching and affectionate adorer’s alarms, and anon acknowledge affianced Albert’s alliance as acceptable and agreeable. Anxiously awaiting an affectionate and affirmative answer, accept an admirer’s aching adieu. Always angelic and adorable Amelia’s affectionate amourist, Albert.

– William T. Dobson, Literary Frivolities, Fancies, Follies and Frolics, 1880

In a Word

slockster
n. one who entices away another’s servants

No Comment

BRITNEY SPEARS is an anagram of PRESBYTERIANS.

“Ough”

As a farmer was going to plough,
He met a man driving a cough;
They had words which led to a rough,
And the farmer was struck on his brough.

One day when the weather was rough,
An old lady went for some snough,
Which she thoughtlessly placed in her mough,
And it got scattered, all over her cough.

While a baker was kneading his dough,
A weight fell down on his tough,
When he suddenly exclaimed ough!
Because it had hurt him sough.

There was a hole in the hedge to get through,
It was made by no one knew whough;
In getting through a boy lost his shough,
And was quite at a loss what to dough.

A poor old man had a bad cough,
To a doctor he straight went ough,
The doctor did nothing but scough,
And said it was all fancy, his cough.

– Anonymous, cited in Carolyn Wells, A Whimsey Anthology, 1906