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
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I Found a Penny Today, So Here’s a Thought

Today — November 15, 2018 (permalink)

"Good is stronger than Evil, if you take it on its simplest terms and set yourself to forget the horror!  It's mad to refuse to be happy because there's a poison in the world that bites into every nerve.  After all, it's short enough!  I know very well that Chance could set me screaming like a wounded baboon — every jot of philosophy gone!  Well, until that happens, I must endure what I have to endure!" —John Cowyer Powys, Wolf Solent
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November 7, 2018 (permalink)

Seeing Things at Night by Heywood Broun, 1921.  (By the way, there are several tips on developing night vision in How to Be Your Own Cat.)
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November 5, 2018 (permalink)

Being in the title isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be.  Peter, A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero by Francis Hopkinson Smith, 1912.
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Scanning a 1939 volume of Daily Tar Heel, we noticed references to:
  • pink elephants
  • golden fleece
  • ghost writing
  • cindermen
  • phantoms
  • mermen
  • wolfmen
  • wolves
  • devils
  • grail
  • imps

Alas, they turned out to be sports-related, mostly.  Oh, there was even an animated snowman named "'Frosty' Snow, Jr."

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November 2, 2018 (permalink)

"Was the fall upward or downward?"  From The Literary Digest, 1899.
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October 30, 2018 (permalink)

Perversely, this article about how witches aren't pointy-hatted, broomstick-riding crones is illustrated with a pointy-hatted, broomstick-riding crone.  From the Villanovan newspaper, 1977.
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October 27, 2018 (permalink)

Out of himself, so to speak, and soaring in that strange supersensible region whence forms and 'things of unearthly make' visited him with a thrilling and subduing power."  From The Feeling for Nature in Scottish Poetry, Vol. 2, 1887.
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October 20, 2018 (permalink)

"Hectic Halloween spent by overworked witch."  From The Rotunda newspaper of Longwood College, 1964.
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October 15, 2018 (permalink)

William Quan Judge, the editor of The Path (1892), saw no excuse for his magazine's existence, and he gives our all-time favorite reason: "For there is nothing new under the sun and we are like squirrels repeating the words spoken by bodies long since dead which were inhabited by ourselves whom now we fail to recognize."  Not that The Path was ceasing publication, mind you.  That's simply how Mr. Judge began Volume Seven of his magazine.
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October 11, 2018 (permalink)

Deobfuscating Homophonic Em-dashes

The classic em-dash is called Auntie Em, not after Dorothy’s guardian in Kansas but rather Emily Dickinson, famous for short lines of poetry punctuated with long lines of ink.  We hear the skeptical community protesting that the em-dash predates Emily D., but of course her poetry is timeless and the issue to moot.  (It’s widely believed that Emily’s hyphen remained intact throughout her life.)  If two em-dashes occur in a row, the first is the ante-em.  As a line connects two points, the absence of a line is the colon (two unconnected dots): the anti-em.  Thespian Tilda Swinton has nothing to do with any of this.  Nor does the vocalized Enya.

Gary Barwin replies:

It’s true that I’ve sometimes felt the need to make my poems as dashing as Emily’s, dashing them off like with the insouciance of Little Hyphen Annie, endashing them with em-dashes as if crossing a t (the verb form of which is crossingaty, and the noun, crossingatification.).

Sometimes, however, my hopes are dashed and I must employ a total ellipse of the moon…and realize that only Pluto has three moons and Pluto is not in fact a planet so my Plutonic relationship with the ellipse must be omitted and instead when it comes to my poem, I must planet better in terms of space.

And the name of the em-dash between birth and death, where all of one’s life sent(i)ence takes place? In memori-em.

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October 5, 2018 (permalink)

"I know I can make good, if only my nerves hold out."  From The Judge, 1921.
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October 2, 2018 (permalink)

Not only is this penny (in paper money form) lucky, but its luck is tripled by those two etceteras following it.  Because you just found this, the luck is yours.  From The Lucky Penny by Anna Maria Hall, 1858.
Speaking of lucky pennies, can you guess how many rare coins cascaded out of the vintage weight scale I acquired?  The surprising details are revealed in this video, along with some mind-bending esoteric secrets of copper pennies.
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We're honored by this review of our collection of 112 spooky cocktail recipes, Of Drinking in Remembrance of the Dead:
This book appeals to a wide group of people. Those who like interesting cocktail recipes, those with an interest in traditions, and those who appreciate good design. If you're not one of these types, then surely you know someone who is. Give them this book as an inexpensive, and unexpected, present. I've already purchased six copies! —Gordon Meyer
Here's a toast to the dead from the book.  The text reads:

This toast was passed down to us from the Omar Khayyam Society, 1921:

To those who have passed beyond the veil that hides the Infinite, and solved the last great mystery of life.  In enduring memory of these friends and comrades we annually, with humble and contrite hearts, in solemn appreciation of the glorious beauties of their lives, speak the seven hundred-year-old lament of Omar in FitzGerald’s magnificent rendering:

For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,
Have drunk their Cup and Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.

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September 18, 2018 (permalink)

From The Judge, 1921.
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September 13, 2018 (permalink)

"Upon the Altar of Things are made, oft-times, strange sacrifices."  From A Fool There Was by Porter Emerson Browne, 1909.
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September 5, 2018 (permalink)

Use an ellipsis and then four asterisks to tactfully change the subject.  From The Judge, 1921.
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September 2, 2018 (permalink)

Is nature suicidal?  From Accepting the Universe by John Burroughs, 1920.
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September 1, 2018 (permalink)

The introduction to Puffs and Mysteries (a.k.a. A. B. Has Returned, 1855) is addressed to the "mythical multitude of readers," since few ever read prefatory matter.  "What no one thinks of reading is of course beyond criticism," so the author safely fills paper while going to very little trouble.
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One of these ladies is wearing an imposter designer label.  (Insert your own "fake news" joke.  Having earned a degree in journalism, we bemoan the current degradation of the media.  Granted, the press has never in history truly been free; it has always been a propaganda engine, but traditionally there was at least a pretense of objectivity.  As La Rochefoucauld famously said, "hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue."  Now it's bare-faced bias.  Disgusting!)  From Lustige Blätter, 1917.
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"The love that caught strange light from death's own eyes" —Algernon Charles Swinburne.
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