In a Word

semiopathy
n. the tendency to read humorously inappropriate meanings into signs

CROSS CHILDREN WALK. Don’t listen to their screams,
But watch the CAUTION MEN AT WORK. It seems
They’re making sure that all DEAF CHILDREN DRIVE
CAREFULLY. Now let us look alive,
And take TRUCKS TURNING (named for Captain Trucks,
Who turned here when he went out hunting ducks).
Here on a sign the advertising’s clear
(Though deer can’t tell the time) for WATCH FOR DEER.
At FREE MUNICIPAL PARKING let us pause,
And wonder who enslaved it, for what cause.
A DANGEROU is what we’ll hope to see:
DANGEROUS CROSSINGs certainly abound.
Now will they leap across from tree to tree,
Or buck the passing traffic on the ground?

— Ralph P. Boas Jr.

“Doppelgänger”

Entering the lonely house with my wife
I saw him for the first time
Peering furtively from behind a bush –
Blackness that moved,
A shape amid the shadows,
A momentary glimpse of gleaming eyes
Revealed in the ragged moon.
A closer look (he seemed to turn) might have
Put him to flight forever –
I dared not
(For reasons that I failed to understand),
Though I knew I should act at once.

I puzzled over it, hiding alone,
Watching the woman as she neared the gate.
He came, and I saw him crouching
Night after night.
Night after night
He came, and I saw him crouching,
Watching the woman as she neared the gate.

I puzzled over it, hiding alone –
Though I knew I should act at once,
For reasons that I failed to understand
I dared not
Put him to flight forever.

A closer look (he seemed to turn) might have
Revealed in the ragged moon
A momentary glimpse of gleaming eyes
A shape amid the shadows,
Blackness that moved.

Peering furtively from behind a bush,
I saw him, for the first time,
Entering the lonely house with my wife.

— J.A. Lindon

Mater Goose

Studious John Horner,
Of Latin no scorner,
In the second declension did spy
How nouns there are some
Which ending in um
Do not make their plural in i.

Jack and Jill
Have studied Mill,
And all that sage has taught, too.
Now both promote
Jill’s claim to vote,
As every good girl ought to.

Harper’s, quoted in William T. Dobson, Poetical Ingenuities and Eccentricities, 1882

scripta mathematica - twinkle poem

— Ralph Barton, Science in Rhyme and Without Reason, 1924, reprinted in Scripta Mathemetica, October 1936

Better Homes

http://books.google.com/books?id=bmA4AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA51&dq=burgess+%22i+wish+that+my+room+had+a+floor%22&hl=en&ei=ykGWTPOHOoL-8Aafg4mNDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

I wish that my room had a floor!
I don’t so much care for a door,
But this crawling around
Without touching the ground
Is getting to be quite a bore!

— Gelett Burgess, The Burgess Nonsense Book, 1901

Here’s to the man who invented stairs
And taught our feet to soar!
He was the first who ever burst
Into a second floor.

The world would be downstairs to-day
Had he not found the key;
So let his name go down to fame,
Whatever it may be.

— Oliver Herford, Happy Days, 1917

Circle Seat

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Francis_Drake_chair_1877.png

When the Golden Hind was broken up in 1662, its timbers were fashioned into a chair that still resides in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Abraham Cowley wrote an ode, “Sitting and Drinking in the Chair, Made Out of the Reliques of Sir Francis Drake’s Ship”:

As well upon a staff may Witches ride
Their fancy’d Journies in the Ayr,
As I sail round the Ocean in this Chair:
‘Tis true; but yet this Chair which here you see,
For all its quiet now, and gravitie,
Has wandred, and has travailed more,
Than ever Beast, or Fish, or Bird, or ever Tree before.
In every Ayr, and every Sea’t has been,
‘T has compas’d all the Earth, and all the Heavens ‘t has seen.
Let not the Pope’s it self with this compare,
This is the only Universal Chair.

“While armchair travelers dream of going places,” wrote Anne Tyler, “traveling armchairs dream of staying put.”

“A Chronicle”

Once — but no matter when —
There lived — no matter where —
A man whose name — but then
I need not that declare.

He — well, he had been born,
And so he was alive;
His age — I details scorn —
Was somethingty and five.

He lived — how many years
I truly can’t decide;
But this one fact appears
He lived — until he died.

“He died,” I have averred,
But cannot prove ’twas so,
But that he was interred,
At any rate, I know.

I fancy he’d a son,
I hear he had a wife:
Perhaps he’d more than one,
I know not, on my life!

But whether he was rich,
Or whether he was poor,
Or neither — both — or which,
I cannot say, I’m sure.

I can’t recall his name,
Or what he used to do:
But then — well, such is fame!
‘Twill so serve me and you.

And that is why I thus,
About this unknown man
Would fain create a fuss,
To rescue, if I can,

From dark oblivion’s blow,
Some record of his lot:
But, ah! I do not know
Who — where — when — why — or what.

MORAL

In this brief pedigree
A moral we should find —
But what it ought to be
Has quite escaped my mind!

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

Sure-Footed

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heubach_chamois.jpg

How lightly leaps the youthful chamois
From rock to rock and never misses!
I always get all cold and clamois
When near the edge of precipisses.

Confronted by some yawning chasm,
He bleats not for his sire or mamois
(That is, supposing that he has’m),
But yawns himself — the bold young lamois!

He is a thing of beauty always;
And when he dies, a gray old ramois,
Leaves us his horns to deck our hallways;
His skin cleans teaspoons, soiled or jamois.

I shouldn’t like to be a chamois,
However much I am his debtor.
I hate to run and jump; why, damois,
‘Most any job would suit me bebtor!

— Burges Johnson, Beastly Rhymes, 1906

“A Nocturnal Sketch”

Even is come; and from the dark Park, hark,
The signal of the setting sun–one gun!
And six is sounding from the chime, prime time
To go and see the Drury-Lane Dane slain,–
Or hear Othello’s jealous doubt spout out,–
Or Macbeth raving at that shade-made blade,
Denying to his frantic clutch much touch;–
Or else to see Ducrow with wide stride ride
Four horses as no other man can span;
Or in the small Olympic Pit, sit split
Laughing at Liston, while you quiz his phiz.
Anon Night comes, and with her wings brings things
Such as, with his poetic tongue, Young sung;
The gas up-blazes with its bright white light,
And paralytic watchmen prowl, howl, growl,
About the streets and take up Pall-Mall Sal,
Who, hasting to her nightly jobs, robs fobs.

Now thieves to enter for your cash, smash, crash,
Past drowsy Charley, in a deep sleep, creep,
But frightened by Policeman B 3, flee,
And while they’re going whisper low, “No go!”
Now puss, while folks are in their beds, treads leads.
And sleepers waking, grumble — “Drat that cat!”
Who in the gutter caterwauls, squalls, mauls
Some feline foe, and screams in shrill ill-will.

Now Bulls of Bashan, of a prize size, rise
In childish dreams, and with a roar gore poor
Georgy, or Charley, or Billy, willy-nilly;–
But Nursemaid, in a nightmare rest, chest-pressed,
Dreameth of one of her old flames, James Games,
And that she hears–what faith is man’s!–Ann’s banns
And his, from Reverend Mr. Rice, twice, thrice:
White ribbons flourish, and a stout shout out,
That upward goes, shows Rose knows those bows’ woes!

— Thomas Hood, in The Knickerbocker, October 1845