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.

Today — March 1, 2015 (permalink)

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

Yesterday — 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.

February 23, 2015 (permalink)

Here's Toto, 70 dog years before the debut of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  From Home Life on an Ostrich Farm by Annie Martin, 1890.

Here's a precursor to The Story of Doctor Dolittle, 1920, from Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1874.

February 21, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the "What would Jesus do?" meme, from Christian Herald and Signs of Our Times, 1895.  The song is entitled, "What will You do with Jesus?"

February 20, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the song "Walking with Scissors" by Gregory de Rocher's band Lowfish.  From The Comedies, Histories, Tragedies, and Poems of William Shakspere, 1851.

Here's a precursor to Playskool's roly-poly Weeble toys, 1971, from St. Nicholas magazine, 1912.  Illustration by Katherine Maynadier Daland.

February 17, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to M. C. Escher's Drawing Hands, 1948, from Haverford College Athletic Annual and 1900 Class Book.

February 16, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the iconic "Blown-Away Man" photo, made famous in the Maxell ad campaigns.  From Cobb's Bill-of-Fare by Irwin Shrewsbury Cobb, 1913.

February 13, 2015 (permalink)

Which came first, the world of typewriter art or the, um, art of the typewriter world?  Our illustration of the typewriter world appears as an ad in Rod and Gun, 1891.

February 12, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to "No means no."  The caption reads, "'Does that mean, No?' Mr. Henley called after him."  From Blind Love by Wilkie Collins and illustrated by A. Forestier, 1890.

Yes -- here's a precursor to the Pac-Man ghost surrounded by -- what else? -- pac-dots/pellets, from Histoire de Saint-Chamond by James Jean Pierre Condamin, 1890.

We commonly use Latin words, known as Lorem Ipsum, as dummy text, but back in the day, simple chicken scratch sufficed.  Our illustration appears in The Comedies, Histories, Tragedies, and Poems of William Shakspere, 1851.

February 11, 2015 (permalink) traces the expression "to have a monkey on one's back" to 1930s narcotics slang, but we can do ever-so-much better with this illustration from Old and New London by Walter Thornbury, 1873.

February 8, 2015 (permalink)

♫ In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking; now heaven knows, anything goes. ♪

From La Vuelta al Mundo; Viajes Interesantes y Novísimos Por Todos los Países con Grabados Por los Mejores Artistas, 1864.

February 6, 2015 (permalink)

Here are prototypes of the novelty Groucho nose-and-glasses disguise, twenty-two years before Groucho's birth, from The 5 Alls by Thomas Hood, 1868.  Why no mustache?  It's to be painted on, naturally!

While we're at it, here's also a prototype of novelty Mickey Mouse ears, from Corea, the Hermit Nation by WIlliam Elliot Graffis, 1897.

January 30, 2015 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the Ghostbusters theme (with the catchphrase, "I ain't afraid of no ghost"), from Thrilling Life Stories for the Masses, 1892.  The caption reads, "'I'm not afraid of no old ghostesses,' said Harold."

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