When the Rose & Crown signboard blew down
George the landlord remarked with a frown,
“On the one to replace it
We’ll have much more space be-
Tween Rose and & and & and Crown.”
– Leigh Mercer
David Garrick revolutionized the 18th-century stage with a naturalistic style of acting that replaced the self-conscious theatricality of the earlier tradition. Audiences flocked to see his productions, forsaking earlier favorites such as James Quin, who admitted, “If this young fellow be right, then we have been all wrong.”
Garrick died in 1779, so we have no recordings of his performances. But we do have this:
That’s Garrick’s line reading preserved in the “prosodia rationalis,” a system for recording linguistic prosody using a music-like notation. Its creator, Joshua Steele, had attended a Garrick performance in order to compare his own rendering of Hamlet with that of the acclaimed actor. He found that “that speech, or soliloque, which I (for want of better judgement) have noted in the stile of a ranting actor, swelled with forte and softened with piano, he delivered with little or no distinction of piano and forte, but nearly uniform; something below the ordinary force, or, as a musician would say, sotto voce, or sempre poco piano.”
Steele gives a few other fragments of Garrick’s performance, but “I shall forbear to give any more specimens of that great actor’s elocution, from the memory of once hearing, lest I should do him injustice, as my intention here is not to play the critic; but merely to shew, that by means of these characters, all the varieties of enunciation may be committed to paper, and read off as easily as the air of a song tune.”
Related (sort of): The Parrot of Atures.
I think this first appeared in the puzzle newsletter The Ag Mine — 12 chemical elements can be spelled using element symbols:
n. a place where four roads meet
Traveling between country towns, you arrive at a lonely crossroads where some mischief-maker has uprooted the signpost and left it lying by the side of the road.
Without help, how can you choose the right road and continue your journey?
n. a two-year-old canary
The Indonesian word for water is air.
adj. carrying a whip
adj. fond of flogging
Pedro Carolino thought he was doing the world a favor in 1883 when he published English As She Is Spoke, ostensibly a Portuguese-English phrasebook. The trouble is that Carolino didn’t speak English — apparently he had taken an existing Portuguese-French phrasebook and mechanically translated the French to English using a dictionary, assuming that this would produce proper English. It didn’t:
It must to get in the corn.
He burns one’s self the brains.
He not tooks so near.
He make to weep the room.
I should eat a piece of some thing.
I took off him of perplexity.
I dead myself in envy to see her.
The sun glisten?
The thunderbolt is falling down.
Whole to agree one’s perfectly.
Yours parents does exist yet?
A dialogue with a bookseller:
What is there in new’s litterature?
Little or almost nothing, it not appears any thing of note.
And yet one imprint many deal.
That is true; but what it is imprinted. Some news papers, pamphlets, and others ephemiral pieces: here is.
But why, you and another book seller, you does not to imprint some good works?
There is a reason for that, it is that you canot to sell its. The actual-liking of the public is depraved they does not read who for to amuse one’s self ant but to instruct one’s.
But the letter’s men who cultivate the arts and the sciences they can’t to pass without the books.
A little learneds are happies enough for to may to satisfy their fancies on the literature.
One eyed was laied against a man which had good eyes that he saw better than him. The party was accepted. “I had gain, over said the one eyed; why I see you two eyes, and you not look me who one.”
The walls have hearsay.
Nothing some money, nothing of Swiss.
He has a good beak.
The dress don’t make the monk.
They shurt him the doar in the face.
Every where the stones are hards.
Burn the politeness.
To live in a small cleanness point.
To craunch the marmoset.
Mark Twain wrote, “In this world of uncertainties, there is, at any rate, one thing which may be pretty confidently set down as a certainty: and that is, that this celebrated little phrase-book will never die while the English language lasts. … Whatsoever is perfect in its kind, in literature, is imperishable: nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect, it must and will stand alone: its immortality is secure.”
Johann David Steingruber fulfilled his literary ambitions on a drafting table — his Architectural Alphabet (1773) renders each letter of the alphabet as the floor plan of a palace.
Antonio Basoli’s Alfabeto Pittorico (1839) presents the letters as architectural drawings:
Perhaps next we can actually build them.
adj. incapable of being fully investigated
- Alexander Pope was 4 foot 6.
- SOCIAL INEPTITUDE is an anagram of POTENTIAL SUICIDE.
- 6! × 7! = 10!
- Is the correct answer to this question no?
- “Do something well, and that is quickly enough.” — Baltasar Gracián
v. to harass or chase in a manner reminiscent of Achilles
Brad Pitt, who played Achilles in the 2004 film Troy, tore his Achilles tendon during production.
It was British wordplay expert Leigh Mercer who coined the classic palindrome “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama” in Note & Queries on Nov. 13, 1948. He later said that he’d had the middle portion, PLAN A CANAL P, for a year before he saw that PANAMA fit.
Mercer published 100 palindromes in N&Q between 1946 and 1953 — a selection:
See, slave, I demonstrate yet arts no medieval sees
Now Ned I am a maiden won
Here so long? No loser, eh?
Trade ye no mere moneyed art
Ban campus motto, “Bottoms up, MacNab”
No dot nor Ottawa “legal age” law at Toronto, Don
Now ere we nine were held idle here, we nine were won
Egad, a base life defiles a bad age
“Reviled did I live,” said I, “as evil I did deliver”
I saw desserts, I’d no lemons, alas, no melon, distressed was I
Sue, dice, do, to decide us
Sir, I demand — I am a maid named Iris
No, set a maple here, help a mate, son
Poor Dan is in a droop
Yawn a more Roman way
Won’t lovers revolt now?
Pull a bat, I hit a ball up
Nurse, I spy gypsies, run!
Stephen, my hat — ah, what a hymn, eh, pets?
Pull up if I pull up
… and the remarkably natural “Evil is a name of a foeman, as I live.”
Mercer didn’t confine himself to palindromes — he also devised this mathematical limerick:
A dozen, a gross, and a score
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more.
n. a person who is five-eighths black and three-eighths white by descent
n. a person who is three-fourths black and one-fourth white
n. a person having one white and one black parent
The ultimate in racist lunacy was reached in Haiti in the eighteenth century, where Saint-Mery developed a classification of physical types based on the notion that each individual was divisible into no less than 128 separate parts (rather like genes):
‘Thus a blanc (white) had 128 parts white, a nègre (Negro) 128 parts black, and the offspring a mulâtre (mulatto) 64 parts white and 64 parts black. In addition, he also listed sacatra (8 to 23 parts white), griffe (24 to 39 parts white), marabou (40 to 48); quateron (71 to 100); metif (101 to 112); mamelouc (113 to 120); quateronné (121 to 124) and finally a sang-mêlé (125 to 127).’
Given the additional presence of Indians as well as Negroes, Mexican castas were even more complex.
– Peter Worsley, The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development, 1984
n. the state of being a widow
- SWARTHMORE is an anagram of EARTHWORMS.
- The sum of the reciprocals of the divisors of any perfect number is 2.
- We recite at a play and play at a recital.
- Is sawhorse the past tense of seahorse?
- “Things ’twas hard to bear ’tis pleasant to recall.” — Seneca
In Book II, Chapter 9, of H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds, a sentence begins “For a time I stood regarding …” These words contain 3, 1, 4, 1, 5, and 9 letters.
A “poem for stutterers” by Harry Mathews:
Mimi, our hours so social shall secede;
And answer surlily tie-tidied deed.
And a sentence composed by Leigh Mercer:
“Bye-bye, Lulu,” Fifi murmured, “George Orr pooh-poohs so-so Tartar cocoa beriberi Dodo had had.”
adj. resembling a ladder
Above the facade of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a ladder that has remained in place since the 19th century. At that time an edict was passed holding that the church’s doors and window ledges are “common ground” for the various Christian orders; as a result, no church can move anything near the window — including the ladder. It’s visible in the engraving below, which was made in 1834.
In 1967 Dmitri Borgmann made his way from UGLY to BEAUTIFUL by means of dictionary definitions:
UGLY — OFFENSIVE
OFFENSIVE — INSULTING
INSULTING — INSOLENT
INSOLENT — PROUD
PROUD — LORDLY
LORDLY — STATELY
STATELY — GRAND
GRAND — GORGEOUS
GORGEOUS — BEAUTIFUL
Kipling called words “the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
adj. across a bridge
In 1856 Samuel Hoshour reflected that students might learn new words more easily if they were presented in context rather than in long gray lists of definitions. The result was Letters to Squire Pedant, an imaginary correspondence salted with ten-dollar vocabulary words:
Dear Sir, At my decession from you; your final alloquy, and concinnous deport laid me under a reasonable obstriction to impart to you, a pantography of the occidental domain upon which I had placed my ophthalmic organs. I now merge my plumous implement of chirography into the atramental fluid, to exonerate myself of that obstriction. From my earliest juvenility, I possessed an indomitable proclivity to lead those that are given to the lection of my lucubrations, to the inception of occurrences. And it would be a dilucid evagation from my accustomary route, would I not now insist upon a regression of your mind to the locality where we imparted mutual valedictions.
Unfortunately, he gets a bit carried away. “Longevous Sir,” begins Letter IV, “The day sequacious to the vesper on which I effectuated in a certain cabaret an exsiccation of my habiliments by torrefaction, was not very inservient to the progress of a pedestrious emigrant.”
By Lee Sallows: Assign the letters JHMLCNVTURISEYAPO to the integers -8 to 8 and you get:
And a reader points out that ERIS gives 10.
Apropos of Eskimo, I once heard a missionary describe the extraordinary difficulty he had found in translating the Bible into Eskimo. It was useless to talk of corn or wine to a people who did not know even what they meant, so he had to use equivalents within their powers of comprehension. Thus in the Eskimo version of the Scriptures the miracle of Cana of Galilee is described as turning the water into blubber; the 8th verse of the 5th chapter of the First Epistle of St. Peter ran: ‘Your adversary the devil, as a roaring Polar bear walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.’ In the same way ‘A land flowing with milk and honey’ became ‘A land flowing with whale’s blubber,’ and throughout the New Testament the words ‘Lamb of God’ had to be translated ‘little Seal of God,’ as the nearest possible equivalent. The missionary added that his converts had the lowest opinion of Jonah for not having utilised his exceptional opportunities by killing and eating the whale.
– Lord Frederic Hamiliton, The Days Before Yesterday, 1920
SENSUOUSNESSES is a circular palindrome — when written in a circle, it can be read both clockwise and counterclockwise.