CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out

October 9, 2014 (permalink)

Momus suggests that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out.'"
Decide for yourself as we alter the opening line of . . .

The Thing About Men by Elizabeth Bevarly

"What do you mean the chicken is still alive?"  Suddenly, a shot rang out.

(Thanks, June!)

August 20, 2014 (permalink)

Momus suggests that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out.'"

Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

Nervous by Zane

For as long as I could remember, I had always been nervous.  Nervous about school.  Nervous about friends.  Nervous about relationships with men.  Even nervous about talking to my own mother.  I don't know whether it was something deep-rooted inside of me from an early childhood experience or whether it was something that was just meant to be.  Suddenly, a shot rang out.

(Thanks, June!)

August 5, 2014 (permalink)

"'Are you ready for some footb--' (gunshot)." —Alex Baze


July 17, 2014 (permalink)

Momus suggests that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out.'"
Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

Desire by Lindsay Ahl

I have such a craving for one of those small cold bottles of Concord grape juice that I leave Michael's house at around six in the morning and head toward the 7-Eleven, which is always open twenty-four hours a day.  Suddenly, a shot rings out.

(Thanks, June!)

May 9, 2014 (permalink)

Momus suggests that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out.'"
Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

Three women step off a plane.  It sounded like the start of a joke.  Suddenly, a shot rang out.

(Thanks, June!)

April 7, 2014 (permalink)

Momus suggests that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out.'"
Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

Gain by Richard Powers

Day had a way of shaking Lacewood awake.  Slapping it lightly, like a newborn.  Rubbing its wrists and reviving it.  Suddenly, a shot rang out.

(Thanks, June!)

March 6, 2012 (permalink)

"And scarcely had the last stroke of the hour ceased to resound, when a revolver shot rang out!"

This illustration is from "The Eleventh Hour" by Edwin Balmer and Wililam B. MacHarg, in Hampton's magazine, 1910.



November 1, 2011 (permalink)

Momus suggests that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out.'"
Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams

There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid.  He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen.  On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy's stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.  Suddenly, a shot rang out.

(Thanks, June!)

September 25, 2011 (permalink)

Momus suggests that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out.'"

What about the following variation, which we quote in our dictionary of magic words:

"‘Abracadabra,’ Charlene murmured to herself as she crossed against the traffic in the rain, ‘that’s an exotic word.’  Somewhere in the distance a bomb exploded softly.”
Kate Atkinson, Not the End of the World (2003)

June 2, 2011 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton

On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.  Suddenly, a shot rang out.

May 8, 2011 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James

She waited, Kate Croy, for her father to come in, but he kept her unconscionably, and there were moments at which she showed herself, in the glass over the mantel, a face positively pale with the irritation that had brought her to the point of going away without sight of him.  Suddenly, a shot rang out.

April 18, 2011 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

A BLAZE OF GLORY by John Strange Winter

In a little room, somewhat shabby and rather meanly furnished, a young girl stood looking round on its well-worn and tediously familiar features with great solemn eyes filled with utter distaste and dissatisfaction.  Suddenly, a shot rang out.

April 13, 2011 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

A LOST LIFE by Emily H. Moore

I am the Doctor's wife in the quiet town of Baywood.  Suddenly, a shot rings out.

April 1, 2011 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

"Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
And then a shot rang out

(Thanks, June!)

January 18, 2011 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

THE SHADOW LINE by Joseph Conrad

Only the young have such moments.  I don't mean the very young.  No.  They very young have, properly speaking, no moments.  It is the privilege of early youth to live in advance of its days in all the beautiful continuity of hope which knows no pauses and no introspection.
     One closes behind one the little gate of mere boyishness—and enters an enchanted garden.  Its very shades glow with promise.  Suddenly, a shot rings out.

January 4, 2011 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

FORBIDDEN TO MARRY by Isabella Banks

It has been intimated that Muriel's homecoming had not been the unmixed joy she had anticipated.  Suddenly, a shot had rung out.

December 28, 2010 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

BACK WHEN WE WERE GROWNUPS by Anne Tyler

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. Suddenly, a shot rang out.

December 21, 2010 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

THE END OF THE AFFAIR by Graham Greene

A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. Suddenly, a shot rang out.

December 14, 2010 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

CHROMOS by Felipe Alfau

The moment one learns English, complications set in. Suddenly, a shot rings out.

---

Jeff writes:

This could be the two-sentence life story of so many tortured writers.  Of course, simply reversing the order of the sentences avoids those pesky English complications altogether, but then who would be left to torture?  It's a bit of a paradox.

December 7, 2010 (permalink)

Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

NEUROMANCER by William Gibson

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. Suddenly, a shot rang out.



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