Between the Lines

Read the first letter of each sentence of the preface of Transport Phenomena, a 1960 chemical engineering textbook by Robert Bird, Warren Stewart, and Edwin Lightfoot, and you’ll discover the message THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO O.A. HOUGEN.

In the second edition, the initial letters of successive paragraphs spell the word WELCOME.

In the afterword, they spell ON WISCONSIN.


A bookworm in Kennebunk, Me.,
Found pleasure in reading Monte.,
He also liked Poe
And Daniel Defoe,
But the telephone book caused him pe.

There’s a girl out in Ann Arbor, Mich.,
To meet whom I never would wich.
She’d gobble ice cream
Till with colic she’d scream,
Then order another big dich.

As he filled up the order book pp.,
He said, “I should get higher ww.”
So he struck for more pay,
But alas, now, they say,
He is sweeping out elephants’ cc.

In a Word

n. basking in the sun

In a Word

n. a helper of the blind

I was recently told the following story of a piece of silverware now existing in the plate-room at Marlborough House. One day the Prince of Wales, on alighting from his carriage at the door of a house where he was about to pay a visit, saw a blind man and his dog vainly trying to effect a passage across the thoroughfare in the midst of a throng of carriages. With characteristic good-nature the Prince came to the rescue, and successfully piloted the pair to the other side of the street. A short time afterwards he received a massive silver inkstand with the following inscription:– ‘To the Prince of Wales. From one who saw him conduct a blind beggar across the street. In memory of a kind and Christian action.’ Neither note nor card accompanied the offering, and the name of the donor has never been discovered. But I think that this anonymous gift is not the least prized of the many articles in the Prince’s treasure chamber. I can vouch for the authenticity of this anecdote, as it came to me direct from a young English lady who, by the kindness of a member of the Prince of Wales’ household, was shown through Marlborough House during the absence of its owners, and the inkstand in question was pointed out to her by her conductor.

— Unsigned article, The Australian Journal, January 1893

Coming and Going

Surprisingly natural palindromes:

  • Lepers repel.
  • Step on no pets.
  • Never odd or even.
  • Stella won no wallets.
  • No lemons, no melon.
  • Now, sir, a war is won.
  • Ma is as selfless as I am.
  • Draw pupil’s lip upward.
  • Won’t lovers revolt now?
  • Nurse, I spy gypsies. Run!
  • Oh, who was it I saw, oh who?
  • No, it is open on one position.
  • Some men interpret nine memos.

E.L. Fletcher proposed a telephone conversation:

“No! … Too bad! … Ah! I was never, ever, even tired! … Now, is Eire very sordid? … Oh! Won’t I? … Did I? … Was I not up, spot on? … I saw no shell! … I saw it! … I did! I? … Fired? … No wonder! … It saw dad was well left … I sat, rapt! … I did? … Won’t i? … No! … Red? … No! … Prevent it? … Never! … Ponder on it now! … Did it part as it fell? … Lew saw dad was tired … No wonder, if i did it! … I was ill, eh, son? … Was i? … No tops put on, I saw … I did it? … No? … Who did? … Rosy reveries? I wonder! … It never, ever, even saw I had a boot on! …”

Alphabet Soup

Willard Fiske in the Chess Monthly, 1857:

Cherished chess! The charms of thy checkered chambers chain me changelessly. Chaplains have chanted thy charming choiceness; chieftains have changed the chariot and the chase for the chaster chivalry of the chess-board, and the cheerier charge of the chess-knights. Chaste-eyed Caissa! For thee are the chaplets of chainless charity and the chalice of childlike cheerfulness. No chilling churl, no cheating chafferer, no chattering changeling, no chanting charlatan, can be thy champion; the chivalrous, the charitable, and the cheerful, are the chosen ones thou cherishest. Chance cannot change thee: from the cradle of childhood to the charnel-house, from our first childish chirpings to the chills of the church-yard, thou art our cheery, changeless chieftainess. Chastener of the churlish, chider of the changeable, cherisher of the chagrined, the chapter of thy chiliad of charms should be chanted by cherubic chimes, and chiseled on chalcedon in cherubic chirography.

In 1974, Judge H. Sol Clark of the Georgia Court of Appeals rendered judgment thus in Banks vs. State:

“Literary license allows an avid alliterationist authority to postulate parenthetically that the predominating principles presented here may be summarized thusly: Preventing public pollution permits promiscuous perusal of personality but persistent perspicacious patron persuasively provided pertinent perdurable preponderating presumption precedent preventing prison.”

An English broadside from C. Hindley’s Curiosities of Street Literature (1871):

hindley alliterative broadside

In a Word

n. lustfulness when one is away from home

“Belagcholly Days”

Chilly Dovebber with his boadigg blast
Dow cubs add strips the beddow add the lawd,
Eved October’s suddy days are past–
Add Subber’s gawd!

I kdow dot what it is to which I cligg
That stirs to sogg add sorrow, yet I trust
That still I sigg, but as the liddets sigg–
Because I bust.

Add dow, farewell to roses add to birds,
To larded fields and tigkligg streablets eke;
Farewell to all articulated words
I faid would speak.

Farewell, by cherished strolliggs od the sward,
Greed glades add forest shades, farewell to you;
With sorrowing heart I, wretched add forlord,
Bid you–achew!!!

— Unknown, collected in Frederic Lawrence Knowles, A Treasury of Humorous Poetry, 1902

In a Word

n. “A bright appearance in the horizon, under the sun or moon, arising from the reflected light of these bodies from the small rippling waves on the surface of the water”

(Nathaniel Bowditch, The New American Practical Navigator, 1837)

Overstuffed Monograms

In 1960, Cambridge graduate Ron Hall announced a discovery he called Hall’s Law: “For any sufficiently large group of people the average number of initials possessed by members of that group is a direct measure of the predominant social class of the group.”

Hall’s computer analysis of the English aristocracy found that dukes averaged four names apiece, marquesses 3.96, earls 3.92, barons 3.53, baronets 3.49, viscounts 3.41, and knights 3.06. As modern examples he named John Selwyn Brooke Lloyd and Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell; those from the past included Admiral the Honorable Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunket-Ernle-Erle-Drax, a commodore of convoys during World War II, and Major Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache, who was killed in World War I.

From across the sea, an American newspaper observed, “It would be interesting to know what the worthy major’s parents called him in his boyhood years.”