Altered States

There’s a girl out in Ann Arbor, Mich.,
To meet whom I never would wich.
She’d gobble ice cream
Till with colic she’d scream,
Then order another big dich.

A handsome young gent down in Fla.
Collapsed in a hospital ca.
A young nurse from Me.
Sought to banish his pe.
And shot him. Now what could be ha.?

There was a young lady from Del.
Who was most undoubtedly wel.
That to dress for a masque
Wasn’t much of a tasque,
But she cried, “What the heck will my fel.?”

There are plenty of people in Md.
Who think that their state is a fd.
It seems odd to find
That they don’t really mind
That Wis., not Md., is Dd.

See This Sceptred Isle.

Poetry Piecemeal

Lexicographer Wilfred Funk declared these the 10 most beautiful words in English:

  • chimes
  • dawn
  • golden
  • hush
  • lullaby
  • luminous
  • melody
  • mist
  • murmuring
  • tranquil

Playwright Edward Sheldon declared these the ugliest:

  • funeral parlor
  • galluses
  • housewife
  • intelligentsia

Charles V said, “We should speak Spanish with the gods, Italian with our lover, French with our friend, German with soldiers, English with geese, Hungarian with horses, and Bohemian with the devil.”

See Euphony.

In a Word

n. the act of tasting before another

On June 21, 1931, a brace of partridges was ordered from a poulterer at Aldershot, Hampshire, for delivery to the nearby bungalow of Lt. Hubert Chevis. A cook stored them in an open meat safe outside the building, then roasted them and served them to Chevis and his wife.

Chevis took one mouthful and said, “It tastes horrible!” His wife touched it with her tongue and pronounced it “fusty.” Both were taken ill within minutes, and Chevis died of strychnine poisoning early the following morning.

On the day of Chevis’ funeral, and before any story had appeared in the press, his father received a telegram that read “HOORAY. HOORAY. HOORAY.” The form had been signed with the name Hartigan and the address of a Dublin hotel, but no one by that name was found there.

When the Daily Sketch published a photograph of this telegram on Aug. 1, the editor received a postcard:

Dear Sir,
Why do you publish the picture of the Hooray telegram.

And Chevis’ father received a further postcard on Aug. 4:

It is a mystery they will never solve. Hooray.

He was right. Someone had found an opportunity to poison the birds between their arrival in a locked van and their being served, but Chevis had no known enemies and no one recognized the name Hartigan. The case has never been solved.


  • As Britain prepared for World War I, officers were required to have their swords sharpened.
  • Wordsworth’s “The Rainbow” has an average word length of 3.08 letters.
  • sin 10° × sin 50° × sin 70° = 1/8
  • “I have always thought that every woman should marry, and no man.” — Benjamin Disraeli

Terms Past

Disused words from Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary of the English Language:

  • figure-flinger: a pretender to astrology and prediction
  • pissburnt: stained with urine
  • blinkard: one that has bad eyes
  • centuriator: a name given to historians, who distinguish times by centuries
  • longimanous: long-handed; having long hands
  • candlewaster: that which consumes candles; a spendthrift
  • carecrazed: broken with care and solicitude
  • overyeared: too old
  • scarefire: a fright by fire; a fire breaking out so as to raise terror
  • traveltainted: harrassed; fatigued with travel
  • vowfellow: one bound by the same vow

“Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition,” he had written in the preface. “[But] when we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years.”

“Truly Eerie Wordplay”

In the November 2010 Word Ways, Mike Keith notes a striking coincidence:

Bible’s Machine and Welding
6499 Blue Springs Pkwy
Mosheim, TN 37818

That’s the address of a machine shop in eastern Tennessee, presumably owned by a family named Bible. Enter the zip code in a calculator and turn it upside down.

Fooled Again

Court transcript quoted by Rodney Jones in Disorderly Conduct: Verbatim Excerpts From Actual Cases, 1987:

The Court: I got the Quadrophenia, but then he said somebody played in it, and I didn’t get that.

Prosecutor: The Who.

The Court: The what?

Witness: Musicians.

Prosecutor: The Who.

Witness: The Who.

The Court: Who?

Witness: The Who. That’s the name of the band.

The Court: So that’s the name of the group, the Who?

Witness: Yes, the Who.

The Court: Not the What? The Who?

Witness: No, the Who.

The Court: You got it, everybody? The Quadrophenia is a movie with the Who.

Witness: Punk rockers.

The Court: All right.