A Key Point

Complaint received by a French typewriter shop, reprinted in a local newspaper on the Île de Ré:


Il y a quxlquxs sxmainxs jx mx suis offxrt unx dx vos machinxs à écrirx. Au début j’xn fus assxz contxnt. Mais pas pour longtxmps. Xn xffxt, vous voyxz vous-mêmx lx défaut. Chaqux fois qux jx vxux tapxr un x, c’xst un x qux j’obtixns. Cxla mx rxnd xnragé. Car quand jx vxux un x, c’xst un x qu’il mx faut xt non un x. Cxla rxndrait n’importx qui furixux. Commxnt fairx pour obtxnir un x chaqux fois qux jx desirx un x? Un x xst un x, xt non un x. Saisissxz-vous cx qux jx vxux dirx?

Jx voudrais savoir si vous êtxs xn mxsurx dx mx livrxr unx machinx à écrirx donnant un x chaqux fois qux j’ai bxsoin d’un x. Parcx qux si vous mx donnxz unx machinx donnant un x lorsqu’on tapx un x, vous pourrxz ravoir cx damné instrumxnt. Un x xst très bixn tant qux x, mais, oh xnfxr!

Sincèrxmxnt à vous, un dx vos clixnts rxndu xnragé.

Xugènx X—-

From John Julius Norwich, Christmas Crackers, 1981.


  • Scranton, Pa., was formerly called Skunk’s Misery.
  • Sweet’n Low was named for a Tennyson poem.
  • STRAIGHT-GRAINED has 15 letters and 2 syllables.
  • The average 2-year-old is already half his adult height.
  • “The exit is usually where the entrance was.” — Stanislaw Lec

If a reincarnated person has no memory of her past life, then in what sense is she the same person?


  • There’s no “u” in solipsism.
  • Wagner said the saxophone “sounds like the word Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge.”
  • FDR was related by blood or marriage to 11 other presidents.
  • 3909511 = 53 + 59 + 50 + 59 + 55 + 51 + 51
  • “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the chicken.” — Ted Giannoulas, San Diego Chicken

(Thanks, Eric.)

All in the Family

In 1955, attendants at a naval hospital in Balboa, Calif., discovered a patient named Tonsillitis Jackson. When they asked about this, he explained that his mother had had tonsillitis when he was born.

Evidently his parents had liked the effect, because they had named his brother Meningitis and his sisters Appendicitis, Laryngitis, Peritonitis, and Jakeitis.

Elsdon Smith writes, “The last one must have signified the end of their medical knowledge.”

UPDATE: Even Jakeitis is a medical term, of sorts. In the 1920s, a ginger extract known as jake was valued for its high alcohol content. When a curious paralyzing ailment began to afflict poor alcoholics in the central South, the FDA traced the cause to two Boston bootleggers who had been adding tri-orthocresal phosphate, an industrial plasticizer, to bootleg jake. “Jakeitis,” also known as jake leg, may have afflicted as many as 100,000 people, but they tended to get moral opprobrium rather than sympathy. (Thanks, Krysta.)


In 1904, the Court of Claims rendered a judgment in the case of Harvey Steel Company v. United States. Writing for four of the five judges, Chief Justice Nott composed the majority opinion, and Justice Wright wrote a dissent. Writing in The Green Bag, poet Lincoln B. Smith dedicated these lines to Wright:

That Wright is Wright and Nott is Nott
Logicians must concede.
That Nott is right and Wright is not
Four judges have decreed.

That Nott is right, and Wright is not,
We all must now agree;
Then Nott is right and Wright is Nott–
The same thing, to a t.

If Nott is Nott and Wright is Nott,
It comes without a wrench
That we have not, if not two Notts,
Five judges on the bench.

If only four, as shown before,
And three agree with Nott,
The judgment is unanimous,
And Wright’s dissent is naught.

The knot is not, is Nott not Nott?
But is Wright right, or Nott?
Is Nott not right? What right has Wright
To write that Nott is not?

He concluded, “Do I do right to write to Wright / This most unrighteous rot?”