In a Word

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I hadn’t realized the source was known: In 1844, British general Sir Charles Napier was criticized in Parliament for his ruthless campaign to take the Indian province of Sind. On hearing this, 16-year-old schoolgirl Catherine Winkworth “remarked to her teacher that Napier’s despatch to the Governor General of India, after capturing Sind, should have been Peccavi (Latin for ‘I have sinned’).”

She sent this immortal pun to Punch, which unfortunately printed it as a factual report:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:18440518-Peccavi_Punch.jpg

This mangled its meaning and credited Napier. Winkworth’s authorship was discovered only by later literary sleuths.

Also-Rans

https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=145770&picture=model-train

Bylines appearing in L&N Employees’ Magazine, a house organ of the Louisiana and Nashville Railroad, in the 1940s:

  • R.R. South
  • Steele Raylor
  • Dick C. Lyon
  • Lou Nash
  • L.M. Lynes
  • C. Ross Tye
  • Lincoln Penn
  • Cole Carr
  • M.T. Hopper
  • Rowan House
  • Rowland Stock
  • C.A. Boose

Thinking these fishy, writer Robert Rennick inquired of the railroad’s public relations department and learned that editor Julian James had barred any writer from receiving two bylines in a single issue. So they’d adopted these pseudonyms.

“The assumption was that no reader would ever imagine that these were real names. Yet, W.R. Heffren, writing as C. Ross Tye, once received a letter from a lady genealogist stating that she was researching the Tye family and would he kindly send her his family line to see if it could be related to hers.”

(Robert Rennick, “Fictitious Names,” Word Ways 37:1 [February 2004], 3.)

In a Word

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:August_Friedrich_Albrecht_Schenck_-_Anguish_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

orbity
n. a bereavement by loss of parents or children

reme
v. to cry out in grief or pain; to lament

philostorgy
n. parental love

asperous
adj. harsh to the feelings; bitter, cruel, severe

Of August Friedrich Schenck’s 1878 painting Anguish, one critic wrote in Figaro, “All the world today regards Schenk as one of our first animal-painters. He is one of those originals, of a species not yet extinct, who prefer dogs to men, and find more sweetness in sheep than in women.”

“It is a little drama, this picture, and as poignant as if it had men for actors and victims.”

All Right Then

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EB_White_and_his_dog_Minnie.png
Image: White Literary LLC

A reader once wrote to E.B. White:

Dear Mr. White,

I’m omitting needless words!

Sincerely yours,

[a reader]

He wrote back:

Dear Ms. ——

Thanks. So am I.

Yrs,

E.B. White

(From Mark Garvey, Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, 2009.)

In a Word

caniculture
n. the rearing of dogs

naufrageous
adj. in danger of shipwreck

ridibund
adj. inclined to laughter; happy, lively

metagrobolize
v. to mystify

In January 2004 Greg Clark was making a supply run from his home on Kosciusko Island in southeastern Alaska when he radioed that his boat had lost power. With him was his constant companion, Brick, an 8-year-old Labrador retriever. After a three-day search, the Coast Guard found part of the boat’s stern on rocks on the west side of the island, which lies within the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest.

More than a month afterward, two local fishermen were motoring past Heceta Island, several miles from the accident, when they saw a black animal on the beach. They recognized Brick, who swam to the boat and was hauled aboard. He was underweight, his leg was injured, and his fur was matted with tree sap, but he was “wiggling with joy,” according to CBS News. How the dog had stayed alive for four weeks in the harsh Alaskan winter is unknown.