Misc

  • “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” — Swedish proverb
  • Uranus was discovered before Antarctica.
  • PROTECTORATE is a palindrome in Morse code.
  • PUBLIC RELATIONS is an anagram of CRAP BUILT ON LIES.
  • If you copy this sentence, be sure to omit “”.

(The fourth is due to Mick Tully, the fifth to David Armstrong.)

Last Words

In 1899, six years before her death at age 70, Aboriginal Tasmanian Fanny Cochrane Smith made five wax cylinder recordings of traditional Aboriginal songs and language.

They are the only recorded example of Tasmanian Aboriginal songs and the only recorded example of any Tasmanian Aboriginal language.

Emily Keene, who was present at the recording, said that when the cylinder was played back for her, Smith cried, “My poor race. What have I done.”

“We could not pacify her for a long time,” Keene said. “She thought the voice she had heard was that of her mother.”

Obstacle Course

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Odds_nipperkins.png

In Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos, a Christmas party game from 1824, players had to take turns reading tongue-twisting passages as quickly as possible from a prepared list. Each passage represents a letter of the alphabet, and each builds on its forerunners. The worst is this:

TOBY PHILPOT sat tippling with UMPO, VUMPO, and WILLY WIDEMOUTH of Wolverhampton, when X and Y, two officers, brought in the culprit, while Saccharum Sweet Tooth said nothing, while Ramo Samee really swollowed a sword, while Sly Kia cried Quack! quack! quack! And turned into a duck, to escape from Poniatowsky, who said, To jail with the Juggler and Jade, as Mother Bunch on her broomstick cried, here’s a to-do! as Nicholas Hotch-potch said, Never were such times, as Muley Hassan, Mufti of Moldavia, put on his Barnacles, to see little Tweedle gobble them up, when Kia Khan Kreuse transmogrofied them into Pippins, because Snip’s wife cried, Illikipilliky! lass a-day! ’tis too bad to titter at a body, when Hamet el Mammet, the bottlenosed Barber of Balasora, laughed ha! ha! ha! on beholding the elephant spout mud over the ‘Prentice, who pricked his trunk with a needle, as Dicky Snip, the tailor, read the proclamation of Chrononhotonthologos, offering a thousand sequins for taking Bombardinian, Bashaw of three tails, who killed Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos.

A player who couldn’t pronounce a passage perfectly had to pay a penalty for each mistake. Here’s the whole list.

Small Talk

“A Brief and Somewhat Ungracious Exchange Between the British Ambassador’s Wife, Who Speaks No Spanish, and the Spanish Ambassador’s Wife, Who Speaks No English, During a Courtesy Call by the Latter Upon the Former: Written on the Assumption That My Readers Know the Sound of the Spanish Word for ‘Yes'”

“T?”

“C.”

— Willard R. Espy

Letters and Numbers

ONE + TWO – THREE – FOUR + FIVE = 1

That’s true if we replace each word either with the number it denotes or with the quantity of its letters: Either way we’re left with 1. Another:

ONE + TWO – THREE – FOUR + FIVE – SIX + SEVEN + EIGHT + NINE – TEN + ELEVEN + TWELVE – THIRTEEN – FOURTEEN = 5

These are the only two such sequences using 20 or fewer consecutive number names, found Leonard Gordon, although other sequences of plus and minus signs are possible.

In a separate but related project, Gordon assigned the number names ONE through FIFTEEN, ONE through NINETEEN, and ONE through TWENTY to either side of an equals sign so that the denoted equation is mathematically correct and each equation “balances,” with the same number of letters on each side:

ONE + FOUR + SEVEN + TEN + ELEVEN + THIRTEEN + FOURTEEN = TWO + THREE + FIVE + SIX + EIGHT + NINE + TWELVE + FIFTEEN

ONE + THREE + FIVE + SEVEN + NINE + SIXTEEN + SEVENTEEN + EIGHTEEN + NINETEEN = TWO + FOUR + SIX + EIGHT + TEN + ELEVEN + TWELVE + THIRTEEN + FOURTEEN + FIFTEEN

ONE + THREE + SIX + NINE + TEN + TWELVE + THIRTEEN + FIFTEEN + SEVENTEEN + NINETEEN = TWO + FOUR + FIVE + SEVEN + EIGHT + ELEVEN + FOURTEEN + SIXTEEN + EIGHTEEN + TWENTY

(“Self-Referential Sums Revisited,” in “Kickshaws,” Word Ways 28:3 [August 1995], 170-180.)

Amplitude

This passage, from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, is often cited as a masterpiece of rhythm — the length of the phrases diminishes with the motion of the swing:

Mr. Zuckerman had the best swing in the county. It was a single long piece of heavy rope tied over the north doorway. At the bottom end of the rope was a fat knot to sit on. It was arranged so that you could swing without being pushed. You climbed a ladder into the hayloft. Then, holding the rope, you stood at the edge and looked down, and were scared and dizzy. Then you straddled the knot, so that it served as a seat. Then you got up all your nerve, took a deep breath, and jumped. For a second you seemed to be falling to the barn floor far below, but then suddenly the rope would begin to catch you, and you would sail through the barn door going a mile a minute, with the wind whistling in your eyes and ears and hair. Then you would zoom upward into the sky, and look up at the clouds, and the rope would twist and you would twist and turn with the rope. Then you would drop down, down, down out of the sky and come sailing back into the barn almost into the hayloft, then sail out again (not quite so far this time), then in again (not quite so high), then out again, then in again, then out, then in; and then you’d jump off and fall down let somebody else try it.

“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world,” White wrote. Though Eudora Welty called Charlotte’s Web “just about perfect,” White never revealed his reason for creating it. “I haven’t told why I wrote the book, but I haven’t told you why I sneeze, either,” he wrote to his editor. “A book is a sneeze.”

In a Word

philobiblist
n. a lover of books

Created by Slovakian artist Matej Kren, the Idiom Installation in Prague’s municipal library seems to present an infinite tower of books, thanks to some conveniently placed mirrors.

It debuted at the São Paulo International Biennial in 1995 and moved permanently Prague in 1998.