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 — May 29, 2017 (permalink)

"Anything is possible, unless it is proved impossible.  And sometimes even then."  From the missing last chapter to Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock, revealing the marveous, eerie finale to the mystery of the story.  See The Secret of Hanging Rock.
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May 16, 2017 (permalink)

"You were, you are, you shall be.  Past, present, and future discussed."  From Ambition magazine, 1915.
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May 10, 2017 (permalink)

Here's an emergency tip for writers.  If your confidence if ebbing, mention a better novel in your first sentence and note how a famous author would have handled your story better.  Yes, this is the actual opening to Plain Speaking by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, 1882.
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May 1, 2017 (permalink)

"Eventually things fall back into a state of China." Deleuze & Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus
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April 22, 2017 (permalink)

"I'll tell you what; I'll just do it for you."  In January, 1908, How to Write threw in the towel and merged with The Editor.
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April 21, 2017 (permalink)

"For it is never the individual but life itself which shatters its own magic mirror."  From "Reflected Radiance" in Wayside Tales, 1922.
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April 7, 2017 (permalink)

We wonder if they make textbooks like this anymore.  (Besides the ones we write, of course.)  By only the fourth question, there's an elf.  From The Miller-Kinkead Lessons in English, 1914.   Also of interest: How to Believe in Your Elf.
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April 1, 2017 (permalink)

It's all in a day's work around here: "There were abstract equations to be worked out; difficult analyses to be made; mystical keys to be fitted to still more mystical complications; and the whole so blended and woven together, that the loss of a single link of the marvellous chain would destoy all hope of ever attaining the wished-for result."  From Leonard Kip's "The Secret of Apollonius Septrio," Hannibal's Man and Other Tales, 1878.
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March 30, 2017 (permalink)

M. asked us, "How can one become physically beautiful at least for a brief moment before death."  We find our four-pronged answer in E. N. Kirk's "How to Become Beautiful" (1846).
M. replied, "You did it!  Great answer.  You're some sort of magician with magic scrolls.  Thank you beautiful wiz!"
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March 23, 2017 (permalink)

"It's never too late to be who you might have been." —George Eliot
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March 21, 2017 (permalink)

"I did not say it was possible; I only said it was true." —Dumas, or Sir Astley Cooper, or "the Fool in the play," or a character in The Castle Spectre, or [in actuality] Florent Carton Dancourt, Le Chevalier à La Mode1687 (as popularly translated into English).
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March 9, 2017 (permalink)

The phrase "what clowns drink" is a Googlewhack, but here's your answer.  And this is what it looks like to be "off the [circus] wagon."  From a 1908 ad in Jugend.
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February 23, 2017 (permalink)

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February 11, 2017 (permalink)

Even if the Loch Ness Monster is an automaton, as Ure's Dictionary of 1846 suggests, "Does it then follow that the automaton possesses a freedom of action, a freedom of will?  Yes, we should think that it has a certain freedom of action (the freedom of will we had better leave aside because here the analogy is doubtful at present)" (I. G. Makarov, Cybernetics Today, 1984).
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February 7, 2017 (permalink)

Perhaps for each and every doomsayer throughout history there has been a J. G. Broughton Pegg to remind us of The Improbability of the Destruction of the Earth (1829).
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February 3, 2017 (permalink)

Can you make out the Dickens quotation that serves at the motto?  There was a time when even so-called pseudo-science sought nothing but "facts, facts, facts."  Today, we're hard pressed to name any institution that could in good faith adopt such a motto.  The media?  Political pollsters?  Climatologists?  Any other white-coat wearer of what Robert Anton Wilson dubbed the New Inquisition?  Selections from the Papers of the Phasmatological Society, 1882.
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January 30, 2017 (permalink)

If there's a skull lock and you forgot your skeleton key, try working a beam of light into the mechanism.  Recall how "She springs a light, / Unlocks the door" (Dryden).  Similarly, "Morning with its key of light / Unlocks the dusky portals of the night" (Albert Laighton, Poems, 1878).  And "My light unlocks the stalls, / two dozen and one windows open— / all, except the window of the moon, / already painted on as shining" (Jane Shore, Eye Level, 1977).
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January 26, 2017 (permalink)

"Science would go completely mad if left to its own devices." —Deleuze & Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus
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January 22, 2017 (permalink)

"Golf is like billiards.  Do not confuse it with baseball." —Charles Evans, Jr., "My Daily Dozen," Golfers Magazine, 1922

Photo by Leslie Jones.
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January 21, 2017 (permalink)

"Queer houseboat propelled by engine and air screw."  (Aren't they all?)  A headline from Popular Mechanics, 1920.
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