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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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.

Yesterday — March 30, 2015 (permalink)

The phrase "ghosts of dead toys" delivers just one Google result from 1908.  Our illustration appears fours years earlier, in St. Nicholas magazine, 1904.

March 29, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to 1939's "The Teapot Song" (a.k.a. "I'm a Little Teapot"), from The Nightingale by Richard André, 1899.

March 27, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to William Castle's 13 Ghosts, from The Rhododendron of Appalachian State University, 1922.

March 25, 2015 (permalink)

Fans of Harry Hill's TV Burp series (and only they) will immediately recognize this precursor to the hybrid monster Wagbo.  From The Oxford Thackeray.

Wagbo escapes from its cage on the set of Harry Hill's TV Burp.

Here's a precursor to reruns of Quincy, M.E., from Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, 1900.

March 22, 2015 (permalink)

Here's an http error-message precursor.  It appears in The Jingle Book by Carolyn Wells and illustrated by Oliver Herford, 1899.  (Thanks, Jonathan!)

March 13, 2015 (permalink)

Here's our question: If there were Ten Thousand Wonderful Things in 1890, how could there be only 14,000 Things to Be Happy About a hundred years later?  We're gaining only forty new wonderful things per year?  Let's add that sad fact to 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About.

March 12, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the levitating beer bottle illusion, from The Choice Works of Thomas Hood, 1881.

March 11, 2015 (permalink)

Emoticons were modeled in the 1890s, as we see in Practical Electricity in Medicine and Surgery, 1890.  ;-/

March 10, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the Pez candy dispenser, from Nouveaux Voyages en Zigzag à la Grande Chartreuse by Rodolphe Toepffer, 1854.

March 9, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the 1927 film It, with Clara Bow as the "it girl."  Our illustration is by L. Hurley for The Echo yearbook of Greensboro Gollege, 1921.

March 8, 2015 (permalink)

The visual gag of dashing out slathered in shaving cream has literary origins, as we see (for example) in Travel and Adventure in Northern Queensland by Arthur C. Bicknell, 1895.

March 7, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the Aerosmith song "Love in an Elevator," from The Dove's Nest and Other Tales, 1886.  The caption reads, "Love in a lift."

Potatoes from heaven, apparently, and a precursor to this 1949 story of firefighters in the Sierra Nevada Mountains who dumbfoundedly watched as a supply plane dropped a hundred-pound sack of potatoes directly atop a full-sized iron stove that had been carried by mules to the peak.  Our heavenly potatoes illustration appears in Prodigiorvm ac Ostentorvm Chronicon, 1557.

March 3, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the internet: "The web of uncertain quality," from Canadian Grocer July-Dec. 1896.

March 1, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to Princess Leia of the Star Wars universe, from Preadamites by Alexander Winchell, 1880.

February 28, 2015 (permalink)

The phenomenon of people holding up individual letters of a word and kerfuffling goes way back, apparently. This example is from 1910, in the Hampden-Sydney College Kaleidoscope yearbook.

February 27, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, from Twycross's Redemption by Alfred Saint Johnston, 1888.  The caption reads, "Don't let us pretend that any longer, dear."

February 26, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the "Fusilli Jerry" episode of Seinfeld.  It appears in The Jingle Book by Carolyn Wells and illustrated by Oliver Herford, 1899.  (Thanks, Jonathan!)

February 24, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the Batman mask, from Local and Regional Anesthesia, 1914.

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