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, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, 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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August 16, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Murder as a Fine Art, by Carol Carnac:

***

The Minister's room was hung with works by obscure contemporary painters....The typists called them "the Minister's funnies."

***

"Edwin Pompfret....He spells his name with a p in the middle."

[And, we learn, Pompfret is indeed highly pomp-ous, a point the author takes pains to belabor.]

***

"If Puddletown-in-the-Pool wanted an exhibition of modern art, they could still have it."

***

"I'm only an average size in fools, not an outsize."

***

"There's such a thing as 'getting religion.' I maintain there's a similar variation from the norm when a man 'gets art.'"

***

Blackwell's "unk" (a term he had recently picked up which denoted his subconscious)....

***

"And he'd got a thing about his marble namesake, you know."

"I don't care if he'd got twenty things," said Michael.

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August 13, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Bill Nye snippets:

***

I leave those to gloat who are in the gloat business.

***

I had a large brown flower-pot once that originally held the germ of a calla lily. This lily emerged from the soil with the light of immortality in its eye. It got up to where we began to be attached to it, and then it died. Then we put a plant in its place which was given us by a friend. I do not remember now what this plant was called, but I know it was sent to us wrapped up in a piece of moist brown paper, and half an hour later a dray drove up to the house with the name of the plant itself. In the summer it required very little care, and in the winter I would cover the little thing up with its name, and it would be safe till spring. One evening we had a free-for-all musicale at my house, and a corpulent friend of mine tried to climb it, and it died. (Tried to climb the plant, not the musicale.)

***

The comet is a kind of astronomical parody on the planet.

[...]

Astronomers say that the tails of all comets are turned from the sun. I do not know why they do this, whether it is etiquette among them or just a mere habit.

***

Even bonnets seem to be less grotesque this season than heretofore, although the high, startled bonnet, the bonnet that may be characterized as the excelsior bonnet, is still retained by some, though how it is retained has always been a mystery to me.

[...]

Straw hats will be chased down the streets this spring by the same gentlemen who chased them last spring, and in some instances the same hats will be used. Shade trees will be worn a little lower this summer, and will therefore succeed in wiping off a larger crop of plug hats, it is hoped.

***

BONUS: In a book co-authored with Nye, James Whitcomb Riley speaks in a poem of "the stars like printed asterisks—."

Also: Though I reproduce no examples here, Nye seems to rely on "Etruscan" as a funny word.

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August 9, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks, by James Anderson:

***

Among the projects they came up with were tortoise farming in North Wales, a speech training school for parrots and a company producing reconditioned pencils from the glued-together stubs of old ones.

***

"It's not as though anybody could have mistaken it for something else, even in the dark. A tube of toothpaste doesn't feel like anything except a tube of toothpaste."

***

[Bonus: A jolly old woman who directs her solicitor to have her heirs sing "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" at the reading of her will--and who subsequently indulges in some more "Coming 'Round the Mountain" business as a ghost!]

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August 6, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy, by James Anderson:

***

Gerry popped out like an indignant cork.

***

[A lecture on the estate's history is joined in progress and interrupted. This is ALL we get of this anecdote!]

Deveraux crossed to the centre of the room, just as Lady Burford said: "...and after that episode, I need hardly add, Sam Johnson was never invited to Alderley again."

***

Richard said: "Great Scott!"

Lady Burford murmured weakly: "I don't believe it."

Hiram Peabody exclaimed: "Jumping jehosaphat!"

The monocle dropped from Algy Fotheringay's eye.

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August 2, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Affair of the Mutilated Mink, by James Anderson:

***

"Well, well, well," he said, "this is splendid. Splendid," he added dogmatically, as though someone had contradicted him.

***

"I won't stand by and listen to her insulted."

"Then don't stand by. Clear off. I'll stay here and insult her to my heart's content."

***

"We haven't met, but I believe we have several mutual friends--Tubby Charrington, Pongo Smith-Smythe, Bertie Bassington."

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July 30, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Bill Nye snippets:

***

Youth is the spring-time of life. It is the time to acquire information, so that we may show it off in after years and paralyze people with what we know. The wise youth will “lay low” till he gets a whole lot of knowledge, and then in later days turn it loose in an abrupt manner. He will guard against telling what he knows, a little at a time. That is unwise. I once knew a youth who wore himself out telling people all he knew from day to day, so that when he became a bald-headed man he was utterly exhausted and didn’t have anything left to tell anyone.

***

I turned on my heel and I went away. I most always turn on my heel when I go away. If I did not turn on my own heel when I went away, whose heel would a lonely man like me turn upon?

***

Years rolled by. I did nothing to prevent it.

***

I would rather disseminate five hundred thousand low-price books than to [sic] print a $27 book and have to read it myself.

***

The great difficulty in teaching children the letters is that there is really nothing in the naked alphabet itself to win a child’s love. We must dress it in attractive colors and gaudy plumage so that he will be involuntarily drawn to it.

***

Now the pumpkin knows its place. You never knew of a pumpkin trying to monkey with science.... Rhubarb is the only thing that successfully holds it place with the apothecary, and yet draws a salary in the pie business.

***

[On “the plug hat that has endeavored to keep sober and maintain self-respect while its owner was drunk”:] A man may mix up in a crowd and carry off an overdose of valley tan in a soft hat or a cap, but the silk hat will proclaim it upon the house-tops, and advertise it to a gaping, wondering world. It has a way of getting back on the rear elevation of the head, or over the bridge of the nose, or of hanging coquettishly on one ear, that says to the eagle-eyed public: “I am chockfull.”

***

I went to the door and exclaimed to the proprietor as he came, “Merry Christmas, Colonel.”

“Merry Christmas be d——d!” said he in the same bantering tone. “What in three dashes, two hyphens and an astonisher do you want here, you double-dashed and double-blanketed blank to dash and return!!”

The wording here is my own, but it gives an idea of the way the conversation was drifting. You can see by his manner that literary people are not alone in being surly, irritable and unreasonable.

***

As I said before, this is where two railroads fork. In fact, that is the leading industry here. The growth of the town is naturally slow, but it is a healthy growth. There is nothing in the nature of dangerous or wild-cat speculation in the advancement of this place, and while there has been no noticeable or rapid advance in the principal business, there has been no falling off at all, and these roads are forking as much to-day as they did before the war, while the same three men who were present for the first glad moment are still here to witness its operation.

***

At first it seems odd to me that I should be writing from where I now am, but the more I think it over the better I am reconciled to it, for what better place can a man select from which to write a letter than the point where he is located at the time.

***

You can climb to the top of Beaucatcher Mountain and see a beautiful sight in any direction, and on most any day of the year. Every where the eye rests on a broad sweep of dark-blue climate. Up in the gorges, under the whispering pines, along the rhododendron bordered margins of the Swannonoa, or the French Brood, out through the Gap, and down the thousand mountain brooks, you will find enough climate in twenty minutes to last a week.

***

beautiful, pale-blue satin pincushions which it would be wicked to put a pin in and which will therefore ever and forevermore mock the man who really wants a pin

***

Twenty years ago you could plant a seed according to directions and it would produce a plant which seemed to resemble in a general way the picture on the outside of the package. Now, under the fluctuating influences of irresponsible isotherms, phlegmatic Springs, rare June weather and overdone weather in August, I find it almost impossible to produce a plant or vegetable which in any way resembles its portrait. Is it my fault or the fault of the climate? I wish the club would take hold of this at its next regular meeting. I first noticed the change in the summer of ’72, I think. I purchased a small package of early Scotch plaid curled kale with a beautiful picture on the outside. It was as good a picture of Scotch kale as I ever saw. I could imagine how gay and light-hearted it was the day when it went up to the studio and had its picture taken for this purpose.

***

I have just received from Boston a warm invitation to be present in that city on Forefathers’ day, to take part in the ceremonies and join in the festivities of that occasion.

Forefathers, I thank you! Though this reply will not reach you for a long time, perhaps, I desire to express to you my deep appreciation of your kindness, and, though I can hardly be regarded as a forefather myself, I assure you that I sympathize with you.

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be with you on this day of your general jubilee and to talk over old times with you.

One who has never experienced the thrill of genuine joy that wakens a man to a glad realization of the fact that he is a forefather, cannot understand its full significance. You alone know how it is yourself, you can speak from experience.

In fancy’s dim corridors I see you stand, away back in the early dawn of our national day, with the tallow candle drooping and dying in its socket, as you waited for the physician to come and announce to you that you were a forefather.

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July 26, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard, by David Frome:

***

Mr. Pinkerton straightened his steel-rimmed spectacles with the air of a man about to mind his own business.

***

...eyes that contracted wickedly, like an old parrot's preparing to swear dreadfully in front of the parson.

***

[Not Sure Whether the Pun Was Intended dept.]

"His father's a fur dealer. I've always excused the lad on that account. He's so frightfully fuzzy."

***

To all outward signs Bull was unaware of his presence, and the little Welshman was worried about it. He knew he was actually there, because he had seen himself reflected in the windows of a tailor's shop in Chancery Lane....So it couldn't be that.

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July 23, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Neil Simon's They're Playing Our Song:

***

VERNON: Look, you don’t just divulge your entire personality. It’s like toothpaste. It comes out a little bit at a time.

SONIA: So how come I’m having trouble getting your cap off?

***

VERNON: What are you smiling about?

SONIA: You’re fingering my back like you’re playing the piano.

VERNON: Oh. Sorry. I was working.

SONIA: You mean you were composing on my spinal column?

VERNON: I just wrote eight bars on your lower lumbar region.

SONIA: Well, don’t write any concertos. We’re in a public place.

***

VERNON: Oh, I gave that up. I’m into self-analysis now.

SONIA: You mean you analyze yourself?

VERNON: Mondays and Fridays, five to six.

SONIA: Are you serious?

VERNON: It saves a lot of time. I trust myself. I have a lot of confidence in me. I can open up and not be ashamed to hear what I have to say.

SONIA: I don’t believe you.

VERNON: I swear. I’m really making some major breakthroughs. The only trouble is I have to stop soon. I go on vacation in August.

***

SONIA: I heard you were in Europe.

VERNON: Yes. Paris, for two months. Scoring the Louis Malle picture.

SONIA: How’d you like it?

VERNON: I had a little trouble with the language. Every time I ordered breakfast, they’d bring me a bicycle.

***

SONIA: I’m all alone for the first time in my life, handling it great and really proud of myself. In fact, tomorrow night I’m taking me out to dinner.

VERNON: I wish I was staying on. I was going to take myself out too. The four of us could have double-dated.

***

SONIA: What makes you think we won’t have the same problems as last time?

VERNON: Because I’ve changed. I’m different. We’ll have all /new/ problems this time.

***

[And one from his Star-Spangled Girl]

ANDY: Norman, I’ve known you for eight years. Can you ever remember me lying to you /once/ in all those eight years?

NORMAN: Yes. I’ve known you for nine years.

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July 19, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Murder in Chelsea, by E. C. R. Lorac:

***

[Metaphorical Hats Made Literal dept.]

"And if there's not something to help you get in on the other side, I'll eat my hat," said Macdonald to himself. (He had recovered his hat from a large clump of arabis in the rockery).

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July 16, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From A Nonsense Anthology, collected by Carolyn Wells:

***

"On a topographical map of Literature Nonsense would be represented by a small and sparsely settled country, neglected by the average tourist, but affording keen delight to the few enlightened travellers who sojourn within its borders."

***

De Quincey said, "None but a man of extraordinary talent can write first-rate nonsense."

***

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July 12, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Weekend at Thrackley, by Alan Melville:

***

"It's this here government with their tariffs and their duties and their whatnots."

"Mr. Henderson thought for a moment of asking for further particulars of a government's whatnots."

***

"And that horse you gave me for the three o'clock yesterday was last by a quarter of a furlong.[...] Thank heaven I don't know how long a furlong is--that's some consolation."

***

The usual collection of bedside books (the New Testament, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and an annotated autobiography of Archimedes) were conspicuous by their absence.

***

Lady Stone perspired freely, a thing she had not done since the Henley Regatta of 1897.

***

"Somewhere on each piece of my jewellery, there is a monogram...a little R...so very little, perhaps only I could see it."

"Old man Carson seems to have all the equipment for putting little Rs on your knick-knacks," said Freddie Usher.

Raoul smiled at him as though Mr. Usher were a particularly distressing painting which she had been asked by the painter to admire.

[...]

"Well?" said Lady Stone, somewhat irritated at being sidetracked by this dancer person and her little Rs.

***

Lady Stone stared at Mr. Usher as though Hamlet's ghost had suddenly appeared in front of her in bright mauve pyjamas.

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July 9, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From American Cornball, by Christopher Miller:

***

An intelligent being from a planet with humor but not water might conclude from earthling humor that there is something uniquely funny about that substance.

***

Old comics would be even more cluttered with tin cans if comic-strip goats didn’t keep their numbers down.

***

In Disney's "Trombone Trouble" (1944), Donald Duck's neighbor Pegleg Pete makes so much noise with his trombone that it annoys not only Donald, whom everything annoys, but the gods themselves: Jupiter and Vulcan give Donald magic powers so he can silence Pete.

***

In "You're Darn Tootin'" (1928), Laurel and Hardy are cast as bumbling musicians--players of a clarinet and a French horn, respectively. Though the movie... leaves no doubt as to who plays what instrument, the original 1928 movie poster shows Hardy playing the clarinet and Laurel playing a /tuba/: either the illustrator couldn't be bothered to watch the twenty-minute film, or else he reasoned--correctly--that a tuba is funnier than a French horn, even in a silent movie, or on a silent poster.

[Miller neglects to mention the comedic wisdom of *transferring* the clarinet to Hardy so that the hefty guy has the weedy instrument and the scrawny guy the big fat brass.]

***

One reason armchair quarterbacks are funny is that armchairs are funny. Even ones that don't recline. Sitting itself is a little funny.

***

[From the afterword]

Bicycles: Never hilarious, or not since the day of the velocipedes. But always slightly funny, even now.

[...]

Elopement: Funny only if a ladder is involved.

[...]

Gravy: One of the funniest substances omitted from this book.

[...]

Incompletion: As no less an expert than W. C. Fields once observed, "The funniest thing a comedian can do is not do it."

***

[Quoting S. J. Perelman] “Who was that confounded idiot?” she spurted, her magnificent bosom heaving in accordance with the laws governing the upheaval of magnificent bosoms.

***

[Quoting Georg C. Lichtenberg:] "There are people who think that everything one does with a straight face is sensible."

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July 5, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Moosepire, by Daniel Pinkwater:

***

“This moose spoke very good English and he was as blue as . . . as an onion.”

[...]

“Blue as an onion?”

“Well, blue as a what-do-you-call-it then. Confound it, man, the moose was blue! Blue as an asparagus!”

[...]

“He was as big as an . . . as an . . . as an onion! This moose was as big as a big, colossal, enormous, gigantic, oversized, vast, impossible, huge onion.”

***

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July 2, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Knife in the Dark, by G. D. H. and Margaret Cole:

***

[From the foreword. A nice twist on the usual boilerplate!]

Stamford University is a dream University, situated in a dream town....It follows, therefore, that those who inhabit it are also dream persons, and can bear no relationship to any real human beings, alive or dead.

***

an excitable lady who combined a passion for sitting on committees with an absolute inability to arrive on time or with the right agenda to any of them

***

"Oh," said Mrs. Lancing, an immensely pregnant Oh. Then she added: "Oh."

[...]

"Oh, so you haven't seen him lately, then," said Mrs. Lancing in italics.

***

"Now remember what I told you!" Mrs. Lancing said in a final squeak. "I wonder what exactly it was she told me," Mrs. Warrender mused.

***

delivery boys who seemed to be proceeding rapidly from nowhere to nowhere

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June 28, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Ronnie Corbett / David Nobbs:

***

[RLG Dept.]

Writing in the Listener, that distinguished author Anthony Burgess... [said of the Ronnies], "They are a kind of visual epigram made out of the intellectual fact of human variety. This epigram is also a paradigm for conjugating social statements--about class, chiefly--with great neatness." I felt like phoning my dad in Scotland and saying, 'I've made it, Dad. Not only am I an epigram, I'm also a paradigm.

***

[David Frost] behaved as if [The Frost Report] was a huge success, and it became so. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, looking back on it, David himself was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

***

Another of our sketches.... was about a man who was paranoid about appearing on [This Is Your Life]. If the milkman or the postman came to the door, he was convinced that it was Eamonn Andrews with his big red book. In the end Eamonn turned up, and he didn't recognize him. [Cf. my story about "meeting" the guy from the Pixies in our parking lot last year. Or didn't I tell you that one?]

***

We did a sketch in which Ronnie was Henry VIII, I was a camp, Jewish Cardinal Wolsey, with a large cigar and a costume with a twenty-yard train....

***

Frank Muir, former Head of Comedy at the BBC and London Weekend, once said, "God preserve me from good ideas." It sounds strange, but I know what he meant. A good idea can become a straitjacket for comedy....

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June 25, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From American Cornball, by Christopher Miller:

***

[Couches] are a little funny in themselves, maybe because they aren't chairs, and aren't nearly as common as chairs, but bear enough of a resemblance to seem like comically defective or grandiose chairs.

***

When a cartoon is set on a desert island now--and this was already the case half a century ago--the first joke is that a cartoonist has dared to do it again.

***

[Re. guest towels and related matters:] It could be argued that the sublimation of prosaic household objects into the poetry of uselessness is part of what makes a house a home, but so much the worse for homes.

***

Hat takes are one of the most quintessentially cartoonish of all cartoon clichés, and I have the numbers to prove it, since I recently devised a pseudoscientific formula for determining the cartoonishness of any object, situation, or event: you divide its incidence in comic strips (scored on a scale of 1 to 10) by its incidence in real life.

***

When McCay... finally gets his idea, it comes not in the form of a lightbulb but a living creature--a bird, presumably, since it has a beak and two webbed feet, and flies away the instant another cartoonist diverts McCay's attention. It looks less like a bird, though, than a flying porcupine; it looks, in fact, uncannily like the Thing I pictured the first time I read Emily Dickinson's line "Hope is the thing with feathers." We know it's a funny idea, as McCay wished for, because it's funny-looking.

***

Caspar [Milquetoast] is so meek, he deserves to inherit the earth single-handedly.

***

Lunch is a funnier word, but breakfast is the funnier meal....

***

[Re. "phooey" and other such terms:] Or is it that we're so inundated with nonsense these days that we've lost our sensitivity to it, our inability to discriminate fine shades?

***

The only place [a lucaflect] really makes sense is indoors, where a window might be the brightest source of light in a room, but great cartoonists are not afraid of nonsense, and have no qualms about lucaflecting outdoors too.

***

If you imagine what Peanuts would have been like if Schulz had called it Placekicker Charlie and every strip had featured Charlie Brown’s attempts to kick that football and Lucy’s yanking it away, you’ve just imagined hundreds of early comic strips.

 

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June 21, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From David Nobbs's autobio:

***

[A friend of Nobbs's] wore a yarmulke jauntily, as if it were a yachting cap, and when he walked he bounced. He looked like a cross between Mendelssohn and Piglet.

***

When somebody told Peter Cook that he was writing a novel, Peter replied, "Really? Neither am I."

***

[Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.] laughed at my jokes, and unless he was a very good actor his laughter was genuine--but he was a very good actor, so I'll never know.

***

There was... an elderly lady called Della who was the Marylebone Correspondent and wrote her stories on lavatory paper.

***

[Nobbs wrote] a monologue that began, "How do? My name is God, and I'm here tonight because I'm omnipresent."

***

[On the writing team observing David Frost's programmes in real time from the "hospitality room"]

Ian Davidson... claimed that there was an embarrassment order in which people would leave the room, like a pecking order in hens, when David was being particularly shameless.

***

David would come up to us and ask our opinion on the show and none of us would admit that we spent most of our time in the corridor. We didn't need to as these inquests were not thorough. The conversation would go:

David: "Super show?"

Us: "Super."

David: "Super."

***

[Re. a "message" play that ended with the actors walking into the audience with paper bags on their heads--a gimmick that did not garner the audience response the director had counted on]

I was sorry for the actors, who escaped having egg on their faces only by having paper bags on their faces.

***

[More Frostiana, this time from an emergency meeting at a time of staleness in the shows]

There was no doubt that it was a crisis meeting, but it was never called a crisis meeting.... David came in, sat down, looked at us all gravely, even sorrowfully, and said, "Thank you all for some absolutely super shows. We're meeting today to consider how we can make them even more absolutely super still."

***

The reviews [of Lance At Large] were actually not too bad, but the public can be very blunt about TV, as if it's their property because it comes into their homes. "What went wrong with your programme?" barked a forthright cousin twice removed, and at that moment I could have wished her three times removed."

**

When he was Head of Comedy at the BCC Frank Muir said, "God save me from good ideas," and I know what he meant. This idea sounded good... but it was a straitjacket. It prohibited all surprise.

***

I could see the gap between the good stuff and mine. I didn't need London Transport staff to shout "Mind the gap" at me. I minded it terribly.

***

Round about this time I used to experiment with a particular cliché. I would drop it into the conversation at appropriate moments. It was "What's grist to the mill is nose to the grindstone." It is of course complete nonsense. Nobody ever challenged me. Nobody ever laughed. "That's true," people would say, or "I suppose so," or some such reply.

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June 18, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From If the Shroud Fits, by Kelley Roos:turtles

***

[New to me: "so what" as a transitive verb.]

"They'd so what me and I'd never hear the end of it."

***

Everything about him still sparkled the way it always had, his eyes, his teeth, even his ears.

***

"Look, Haila, you were in a show! We saw it. Mac and Erika and Julie and I."

I shook my head. "Not that many seats were sold, Kirk."

"We all sat in the same seat."

***

"My motto is: a book in every library!"

***

One more book about a doctor by a doctor and I was going to need a doctor. If I could find one who wasn't all tied up writing a book.

***

"She finally did get him a Fifty-second Street engagement, but he flopped. And Erika lost interest in him. An artist had come along who could paint tastes and odors."

***

A matinee idol without a matinee.

***

"Mind over matter and..."

"Mind over tommyrot!"

***

Bonus: A lengthy passage is attached. It's turtles all the way down!

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June 14, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Perfect Behavior, by Donald Ogden Stewart:

***

A bachelor, accompanied by a young unmarried woman, when stepping accidentally into an open coal or sewer hole in the sidewalk, removes his hat and gloves as inconspicuously as possible.

***

A young man, if run over by an automobile driven by a strange lady, should lie perfectly still (unless dead) until an introduction can be arranged; the person driving the car usually speaks first.

An unmarried woman, if run into and knocked down by a taxicab driven by someone in her own "set," usually says "Why the hell don't you look where you're going?" to which the taxi driver, removing his hat, replies "Why the hell don't YOU?"

***

In order to listen to music intelligently—or what is really much more important—in order to give the appearance of listening to music intelligently, it is necessary for the novice to master thoroughly two fundamental facts

The first, and most important of these, is that the letter "w" in Russian is pronounced like "v"; the second, that Rachmaninoff has a daughter at Vassar.

***

CORRECT BEHAVIOR AT A PIANO RECITAL

The same procedure is recommended for the piano or violin recital, with the possible addition of certain phrases such as "Yes—of course, she has technique—but, my dear, so has an electric piano." This remark gives you a splendid opportunity for sarcasm at the expense of Mr. Duo-Art and other manufacturers of mere mechanical perfection; the word "soul"—pronounced with deep feeling, as when repeating a fish order to a stupid waiter—may be introduced effectively several times.

***

[Bewitched dept.]

"On Monday next comes All-Hallows-Even,

My grandmother's maiden name was Stephens."

    or

"On Hallowe'en you may see a witch

If you don't look out, you funny fellow."

***

This invitation would of course be worded differently for different circumstances, such as, for example, if the name of the people giving the party wasn't Weems or if they didn't live at 1063 Railroad Ave., or if they didn't have any intention of giving a dinner party on that particular evening.

***

[New (old) evidence that this was a "thing"!:]

An elderly lady with a closed umbrella, for example, desiring to take a street car, should always stand directly under a large sign marked "Street Cars Do Not Stop On This Corner." As the car approaches she should run quickly out to the car tracks and signal violently to the motorman with the umbrella. As the car whizzes past without stopping she should cease signalling, remark "Well I'll be God damned!" and return to the curbstone.

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June 11, 2019 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From A Bit of a Do, by David Nobbs:

***

He was a tall, slim man with cool eyes, handsome in a rather theoretical way, like a drawing of a good-looking man.

***

[Re. a cheap suit]

He felt as if it had put him on in a great hurry.

***

His face had an immature, unformed look, as if it were waiting for his personality to be delivered.

***

[As a smarmy photographer takes wedding pictures]

"Relax!" said Nigel Thick. "Let it all hang out."

Laurence regarded this phrase with extreme distaste. He found it impossible to comply... but he did manage to make a bit of it almost hang out.

***

"You can't just say 'but' and walk off. It's unacceptable behaviour both socially and grammatically."

***

Aunt Gladys.... had found an artificial pearl in her portion of cake, and Liz had felt that her outrage was almost as much because it wasn't real as because it shouldn't have been there at all.

***

Eric's reply suggested that he did indeed, he anticipated no problem, indeed he seemed confident that it would be just the job, thoroughly tickety, and probably boo as well.

***

Ted wished he hadn't said "Neville!!!" with three exclamation marks. He knew, really, that there couldn't possibly be anything between Rita and Neville Badger or indeed anybody but especially somebody like Neville Badger which could justify one exclamation mark, let alone three!!

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