In a Word

apanthropy
n. a love of solitude

aphilanthropy
n. a dislike of social intercourse (“want of love to mankind” — Johnson)

misoxene
n. a hater of strangers

Noted

Bill Nucker once told me that the sober response to a young wife’s obvious query about the small tear in his trousers acquired from a see-saw whilst scooping up the small son who had just fallen, giggling, from it in startlement at a response to his ocarina playing from a passing bird was: No, ma’am, this is a teetotaler’s teeter-totter ‘tater-tooter tweeter twitter titter tottered tot toter tatter.

— Charles W. Bostick, Word Ways, February 1977

The Five Circles Theorem

If the centers of five circles lie along the circumference of a sixth so that they overlap like the links of a chain, and if each intersects its neighbor on the sixth circle as well, then drawing lines as shown through the remaining intersections will form a pentagram whose points lie on the five circles.

A 19th-century schoolchild defined a circle as “a round straight line with a hole in the middle.”

Knife Act

I have just baked a rectangular cake when my wife comes home and barbarically cuts out a piece for herself. The piece she cuts is rectangular, but it’s not in any convenient proportion to the rest of the cake, and its sides aren’t even parallel to the cake’s sides. I want to divide the remaining cake into two equal-sized halves with a single straight cut. How can I do it?

Unquote

“If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?” — Will Rogers

Mail Tale

I’m a stamp —
A postage stamp —
A two-center;
Don’t want to brag,
But I was never
Licked,
Except once:
By a gentleman, too;
He put me on
To a good thing:
It was an envelope —
Perfumed, pink, square;
I’ve been stuck on
That envelope
Ever since;
He dropped us —
The envelope and me —
Through a slot in a dark box;
But we were rescued
By a mail clerk,
More’s the pity;
He hit me an awful
Smash with a hammer;
It left my face
Black and blue;
Then I went on a long Journey
Of two days;
And when we arrived —
The pink envelope and me —
We were presented
To a perfect love
Of a girl,
With the stunningest pair
Of blue eyes
Say, she’s a dream!
Well, she mutilated
The pink envelope
And tore one corner
Of me off
With a hairpin;
Then she read what
Was inside
The pink envelope.
I never saw a girl blush
So beautifully!
I would be stuck
On her — if I could.
Well, she placed
The writing back
In the pink envelope;
Then she kissed me.
O, you little godlets!
Her lips were ripe
As cherries,
And warm
As the summer sun.
We —
The pink envelope and me —
Are now
Nestling snugly
In her bosom;
We can hear
Her heart throb;
When it goes fastest
She takes us out
And kisses me.
O, say,
This is great!
I’m a stamp —
A two-center.

Ohio State Journal, 1901

Podcast Episode 67: Composing Beyond the Grave

In 1933, violinist Jelly d’Aranyi declared that the spirit of Robert Schumann was urging her to find a concerto that he’d written shortly before his death in 1856. In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the discovery of Schumann’s lost violin concerto, as well as a similar case in which a London widow claimed to receive new compositions from 12 dead composers.

We’ll also puzzle over how a man earns \$250,000 for going on two cruises.

See full show notes …

Exercises

Around Christmas 1921, 16-year-old Vera Howley began to take singing lessons from Owen Richard Williams, the choirmaster of a local Presbyterian church. He had an odd way of working:

On the occasion of the second singing lesson on January 17 the appellant said that she was not singing as she should and was not getting her notes properly and told her to lie down on a settee. He then removed a portion of her clothing and placed upon the lower part of her body an instrument — which was in the nature of an aneroid barometer and according to the evidence was not in working order and would not in any event have been affected by the breathing of the girl — and then told her to take a deep breath three times. He looked at the instrument and purported to write something in a book. He then dropped on to her and proceeded to have sexual intercourse with her. She said: ‘What are you going to do?’ He said: ‘It is quite all right; do not worry. I am going to make an air passage. This is my method of training. Your breathing is not quite right and I have to make an air passage to make it right. Your parents know all about it, it has all been arranged; before God, Vera, it is quite right. I will not do you any harm.’ The girl made no resistance, as she believed what he told her and did not know that what he did was wrong — nor did she know that he was having sexual intercourse with her. The appellant had sexual intercourse with the girl a second time on April 28 in similar circumstances.

Vera told her parents, and Williams was tried at the Liverpool Assizes. He argued that she’d given consent; the court ruled that she’d consented to what she thought was a medical or surgical operation, not intercourse. Williams served 7 years for rape and 12 months for indecent assault.

(King v. Williams [1923] 1 K.B. 340. From Ralph Slovenko, Tragicomedy in Court Opinions, 1973.)

Above and Below

The Man to the Fish:

You strange, astonished-looking, angle-faced,
Dreary-mouthed, gaping wretches of the sea,
Gulping salt-water everlastingly,
Cold-blooded, though with red your blood be graced,
And mute, though dwellers in the roaring waste;
And you, all shapes beside, that fishy be,–
Some round, some flat, some long, all devilry,
Legless, unloving, infamously chaste:–

O scaly, slippery, wet, swift, staring wights,
What is’t ye do? What life lead? eh, dull goggles?
How do ye vary your vile days and nights?
How pass your Sundays? Are ye still but joggles
In ceaseless wash? Still nought but gapes, and bites,
And drinks, and stares, diversified with boggles?

Amazing monster! that, for aught I know,
With the first sight of thee didst make our race
For ever stare! O flat and shocking face,
Grimly divided from the breast below!
Thou that on dry land horribly dost go
With a split body and most ridiculous pace,
Prong after prong, disgracer of all grace,
Long-useless-finned, haired, upright, unwet, slow!

O breather of unbreathable, sword-sharp air,
How canst exist? How bear thyself, thou dry
And dreary sloth? What particle canst share
Of the only blessed life, the watery?
I sometimes see of ye an actual pair
Go by! linked fin by fin! most odiously.

— Leigh Hunt

Magic

If you move each of its letters to the mirror position in the alphabet (A <-> Z, B <-> Y, etc.), WIZARD becomes DRAZIW.

A word-level palindrome:

“Is it crazy how saying sentences backwards creates backwards sentences saying how crazy it is?”