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.
Nonsense Dept.

March 13, 2017 (permalink)

"Alec Osborne is a dear friend who can speak nonsense like a drunken parrot."
—Catriona McPherson, A Deadly Measure of Brimstone (via Jonathan Caws-Elwitt)

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March 10, 2017 (permalink)

"The body is said to have only five senses, but the greatest sense of all is omitted.  Nonsense!"  From The Harvard Lampoon, 1921.
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March 8, 2017 (permalink)

A Defence of Nonsense by G. K. Chesterton, 1911.
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January 26, 2017 (permalink)

From The Scarlet Letter yearbook (Rutgers, 1912).
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January 12, 2017 (permalink)

Talking through his hat.  From Die Bühne, 1925.
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January 11, 2017 (permalink)

Jonathan reports: "In a novel from 1930 [The French Powder Mystery], Ellery Queen (the author and, as it happens, the character) mentions a book on a shelf: Nonsense Anthology, by A. I. Throckmorton. As far as I can tell, this is a fictitious nonsense anthology!"

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October 5, 2016 (permalink)

The context of this still from the spoof mystery series 33 Minute Detective (33分探偵is that a murder victim typed out his killer's name in his dying moments, but the detective, in order to comedically stretch out an obvious case to fill up the show's half-hour time slot, posits that the keyboard was set to romaji (the Romanized transliteration of Japanese), so that the actual hiragana word was nonsense.
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August 10, 2016 (permalink)

Philosopher Gilles Deleuze suggests that there's a one-of-a-kind sort of nonsense in the magic word abraxas: it is an immobilized "pure thought" and the "highest finality of sense," like a seemingly-nonsensical one-word simile, the paradoxical conclusion of an infinite regression of propositions (a is like b, and b is like c, and c is like d, and so on forever).  "There is only one kind of word which expresses both itself and its sense—precisely the nonsense word: abraxas" (Difference and Repetition [1995]).

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August 4, 2016 (permalink)

Here's some perfect nonsense from Judy, Or The London Serio-Comic Journal, 1869.
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July 20, 2016 (permalink)

"Yes—yes—to be sure.  That is to say—nonsense."  From Judy, Or The London Serio-Comic Journal, 1873.
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July 17, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a "pack of nonsense" from Judy, Or The London Serio-Comic Journal, 1873.
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May 17, 2016 (permalink)


We call hogwash where we find it.  There's a probability puzzle popularly called the "Monty Hall Problem."  Entire books have been written about it, but we feel compelled to establish that it is pure nonsense.  A contestant on Let's Make a Deal declares a choice from three doors (two hiding goats and one a new car).  Then the host reveals a goat behind a door not chosen and suggests the possibility of switching to the other remaining door.  On paper, this is a counterintuitive paradox in which the contestant is convinced of a 50/50 chance of success, when in fact switching doors offers demonstratively better odds.  However, theorizing about the puzzle is ludicrous, and the considerable debate over the years is meritless, for the simple reason that a game show is a piece of theatre tantamount to a magic trick.  The host of this purported gambling scenario obviously works for "the house" and knows where the car is hidden (presuming—which one cannot, in fact—that the car is not moved from door to door behind the scenes).  Based upon subtle facial expressions and tones of voice (neither of which can be tabulated mathematically), the contestant wonders about being manipulated (with good reason).  Creating truth tables or running simulations of possible outcomes is meaningless because there is no circumstance in the real world where any of the probability theory could possibly be relevant.  There's a reason why the game show does not allow the contestant to simply walk up to a door and open it to determine the outcome.  Just as a magician displays a deck to prove that it's well-shuffled (which it isn't, and that's why pains are taken to prove otherwise), the host opens a door with a goat as part of an elaborate psychological and theatrical presentation that "proves" the outcome is random.  The outcome is not random on a television show designed to entertain.  The contestant wins if the powers that be wish to give away a car during that episode, period.  There is no other conceivable consideration (sorry, mathematicians and statisticians!).  While we tip our hat to those who are capable of modeling possible scenarios ad nauseam, the "Monty Hall Problem" is no problem at all.

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March 2, 2016 (permalink)

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February 11, 2016 (permalink)

From Nonsense for Old and Young by Eugene Field, 1901.

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August 10, 2015 (permalink)

Why is a jester associated with a cone?  We find our answer in Percy Bysshe Shelley's Oedipus Tyrannus, in which Swellfoot says, "Sustain the cone of my untroubled brain, / That point, the emblem of a pointless nothing!" (I.i.).

Our illustration is from an advertisement c. 1872.

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April 25, 2015 (permalink)

"This nonsense must be stopped, he said."  From An African Millionaire by Grant Allen, 1897.

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March 25, 2015 (permalink)


"Only clowns try to find suitable clothes. ... And they turn nonsense into a sacred rite. ... [E]ven Art often fails to do for us what a clown does.  Laughter and tears together. ... With his tragic clumsiness ... he lurches out over the reality that we have lost.  When he grasps for support he grasps at fantasies, and when he stumbles he falls out of the world altogether." —Ernst Kreuder, The Attic Pretenders

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March 17, 2015 (permalink)

Don't forget Horse Nonsense, the Sellar & Yeatman book.
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

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January 28, 2015 (permalink)

"Random rubbish," from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain, 1883.
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January 20, 2015 (permalink)

"What nonsense, darling!" — a precursor to the unpublished comic novel Talk Nonsense To Me by Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.  From Thrilling Life Stories for the Masses, 1892.
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Original Content Copyright © 2017 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.