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.
Rhetorical Questions, Answered!

August 18, 2015 (permalink)

"I went to the window to ask of Night the reason why dreams must be so tenuous that they break and shred at the slightest opening of the eyes or turning of the body, and do not endure.  Night did not answer me straightway.  She was deliciously beautiful; low hills were pale with moonlight and the space died into silence.  As I insisted, she made known to me that dreams were no longer under her juristiction.  When they dwelt on the island that Lucian had given them, where she had her palace, and from whence she sent them forth with their faces of divers aspect, she might have given me possible explanations.  The times had changed everything.  The ancient dreams had been pensioned off, and the modern ones dwelt in a person's brain.  And these, though they tried to imitate the former, could not do it: the isle of dreams, like the isle of love, and all the islands of all the seas, are now the object of the ambition and rivalry of Europe and the United States." —Machado de Assis, Dom Casmurro


August 13, 2015 (permalink)


Q: What would Endora do?
[If you know your Bewitched, you might guess our answer]:
A: [Highlight to view]

August 11, 2015 (permalink)

Just as diving into water is to seek life's secrets, and immersion in water is to purify or be reborn, "crossing the waters is to effect a transformation from one state to another" (El Palacio, 1992).  If so, then what state has jurisdiction over the crossing of lakes Eerie and Ladoga?  Answer: Freedonia, under the rule of Rufus T. Firefly.

(Our image appears in The British Isles, translated from Nouvelle Géographie Universelle by Ernest Georg Ravenstein, 1887.)  



August 10, 2015 (permalink)

Q: How many times can you chase a ghost and not become one yourself? —William Keckler

A: The popular answer is "13," but the true, chilling answer is: .  (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)


July 11, 2015 (permalink)

Q: Why is "cat" not a pronoun? —William Keckler

A: A cat actually is a pronoun, as we see in this scan from A Computational Model of Natural Language Communication: Interpretation by Roland R. Hausser, 2006, p. 336.  There are also cats of nonfinite verbs and cats of auxiliaries.



July 4, 2015 (permalink)

Q: How deep was the rabbit hole Alice fell through?
A: See 6,000 Miles Through Wonderland by Olin Dunbar Wheeler, 1893.


June 29, 2015 (permalink)

Q: A horse is a horse?
A: "Of course, of course."  (The Three Boots by William Henry Stacpoole, 1892)


June 22, 2015 (permalink)

Q: What is the purpose of this spoiler/disclaimer?  When I was a kid, our jack-in-the-boxes didn't warn us.  No way, no how.  If you were going to have a heart attack, you were just going to have a heart attack when the evil troll that lives in that box came for you at an astonishing rate of speed.  Plain and simple.  But now there are warnings on the damn thing.  The funniest part is I don't think too many two-year-olds read.  So the point is...? —William Keckler

A: It's conceptual art. —William Keckler



June 17, 2015 (permalink)

This book answers its own rhetorical question in its frontispiece.  From Whither? by M. E. Francis, 1893.



June 15, 2015 (permalink)

Q: Why do photographers love windows?

A: Every window [is] crushed between two frames of time. —William Keckler


Photo courtesy of Don Shall.


June 4, 2015 (permalink)

Q: "Is this a joke?"  (The Secret of the Magian, or, the Mystery of Ecbatana by André Laurie, 1892)
A: Neigh!


May 25, 2015 (permalink)

We previously noted:

The nuns in The Sound of Music ponder, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"

We found the answer in a volume by Eliza Marian Butler entitled The Saint-Simonian Religion in Germany (1926):

The "solution of Maria's problem" is her "conversion to the Protestant faith."

UPDATE courtesy of Jonathan Caws-Elwitt:

Q. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

A. Borrow Maria's calculator and Maria's pencil.


May 14, 2015 (permalink)

Q: Should water-diviners tell?
A: No.

May 12, 2015 (permalink)

Forget the chicken -- which came first, the dove or the egg?  From The Peace Egg, a Mumming Play, 1835.


May 2, 2015 (permalink)

Q: "Is it only death which gives life such a board game atmosphere? Or is there something even more fundamentally stupid?" —William Keckler

A: "It's much stupider than that." —For the Dead by Timothy Hallinan

(See also our previous item about being annihilated in a board game against oneself.)


April 17, 2015 (permalink)

Q: Why doesn't palindrome spell the same backward?! —Cindy Marten, Word Crafting

A: A word is not the thing it represents.


April 16, 2015 (permalink)

Q: From London park to ancient Nile.  What is it after all?  Is it a million miles or the span of a fairy's wing?
A: Neither.

April 6, 2015 (permalink)

Q: How can a bug become horse armor?

A: With determination!

Kamen Rider Kuuga (2000)




March 21, 2015 (permalink)

Q: Why, in the apparition at Fátima in 1917, did the Virgin Mary predict a war with Russia, when such information implanted that idea on a mass scale, with tremendous authority behind it, and went on to foster a World War?  Why didn't she predict world peace for thousands of years into the future? —Jim

A: The philosophy of Humanitism, outlined in Machado de Assis' novel Epitaph of a Small Winner, suggests that every man is Humanity in miniature, so no man can fundamentally be opposed to another, however much appearances may suggest the contrary.  "Envy is nothing but a fighting admiration, and, as fighting or struggle is the great function of the human race, all bellicose feelings tend toward its welfare.  ...  [W]ar, which to many persons seems to be a calamity, is really a desirable activity—a snap of Humanity's fingers, so to speak.  ...  The main thing is to fight.  Life is a struggle.  A life without fighting is a dead sea in the universal organism."


March 19, 2015 (permalink)

From Public Documents of the State of North Carolina, 1889, scanned (as is) by the Internet Archive.




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Original Content Copyright © 2015 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.