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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Rhetorical Questions, Answered!

March 19, 2015 (permalink)

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

March 6, 2015 (permalink)

Q: Is the categorization of literature by race and gender identity good or bad for literature as a whole? —Dr. Boli, who explains the nature of his question at length here.

A: "Good" and "bad" are black-and-white terms, and blacks and whites are only for arranging one's books by color.

February 22, 2015 (permalink)

Q: The world is sh*t, isn't it?
A: "No, no ... a good, pure, wholesome world!" —Paul Jones's Alias by David Christie Murray, 1890

(Note how, in the caption, the opening quotation mark is a bullet.  Perhaps one should shoot daggers with one's eyes and bullets with one's words.  A: Yes.)

February 14, 2015 (permalink)

The question isn't so much "who wrote the book of love" as "who burned it."  From Favourite English Poems and Poets, 1870.

February 13, 2015 (permalink)

Q: Do I look like I'm made of money?
A: You bet your bottom dollar!

Our illustration appears in American Newspaper Directory, 1891.

December 19, 2014 (permalink)

Q: If the card game Pokemon has its own theme tune, why not Go Fish?
A: Why not, indeed!  And here's our solution, with mp3 and libretto:

December 13, 2014 (permalink)

Q: "Are all parents incurably mad?" —Rudyard Kipling, Stalky & Co.
A: "Not all parents are crazy, even if it seems that way sometimes. ('About 20% of parents fall into the lunatic fringe.' —Edes Gilbert, headmaster, the Spence School.)" —What Matters Most for School Leaders

December 11, 2014 (permalink)

Q: I still remember a can of "sunlight" some long-dead relative sent to my mom as a gag gift. She put it away in a dark drawer. What else can you do with such a gift? —William Keckler

A: Pair the can of sunlight with a basket of kisses as a gift to Rhoda "The Bad Seed" Penmark.

November 30, 2014 (permalink)

Q: "How long must I endure this?" (Nasby in Exile by David Ross Locke, 1882)
A: "We must endure until we can no longer bear it, — until we faint and die." (Edward Dorr Griffin, Various Practical Subjects, 1844)

November 2, 2014 (permalink)

Q: What if we know all landscapes that we come across in life? Can anything new happen? (The Hourglass Sanatorium [1973, Poland.])

A: Even given the hypothesis of eternal recurrence, something new can happen, as P. D. Ouspensky explains in his novella Strange Life of Ivan Osokin.

October 15, 2014 (permalink)

Q: What happened to the moon in 1740? (asks Gary Barwin, author of the celebrated Moon Baboon Canoe)

A: In 1740 a pamphlet was published that seriously argued that swallows migrated annually to the moon (T. A. Coward, The Migration of Birds, 1912, p. 117).  Your chart depicts the stir of a multitudinous (if not loon-y) flock of flyers.

September 25, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from Helen by Maria Edgeworth, (1896).  The caption reads: "Her expertness at general answers which give no information completely baffled the two."

August 31, 2014 (permalink)

Q: "Is there a problem if more words are generated?  Is there such a thing as a surfeit?  Is existence reductive?  Should humans have settled on the 'right words' by now for everything?" —William Keckler

A: "There can never be too many words out there, so it follows that there can't be too many wordswordswords, either." —Verla

August 17, 2014 (permalink)

Q: Is it morally wrong to have two separate photo albums for "Relatives Who Have Not Yet Peaked" and "Relatives Who Have Already Peaked?" (asks William Keckler)

A: "The intelligent, free, permanent, predominant action of the will and the heart, in which the agent electively prefers some object or end inferior to the highest wellbeing of all as his supreme object or end, and which is thus fitted to prevent this end and to promote its opposite, the highest misery of all, is morally wrong action, and the only morally wrong action." —Nathaniel Taylor, Lectures on the Moral Government of God

June 5, 2014 (permalink)

Q: What are the wild waves saying?
A: Go back, go back, go back.  (The Leisure Hour, 1873.)

May 28, 2014 (permalink)

Q: Why did the British monetary system undergo decimalization?

A: (See illustration.)

The caption reads, "One and ninepence-halfpenny, and sixpence, and ninepence-farthing [from which we subtract one and fivepence]."  From The Quiver, 1892.

February 27, 2014 (permalink)

From Punch, 1893.

September 15, 2013 (permalink)

Q: "Why, on earth, on Sunday?"  (Cornhill magazine, 1863)
A: "[It was] on Sunday because it was already Monday over there." (Terry Webb, Re-Membering Libraries, 2000)

August 14, 2013 (permalink)

Q: The average man's IQ is 107.  The average brown trout's IQ is 4.  So why can't a man catch a brown trout?

A: Lower-tech animals can be much quicker.  (Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works, 2009)

August 1, 2013 (permalink)

Jonathan: Whatever happened to Roquefort dressing?
Hilary: It just turned into "bleu cheese" dressing, right?
Jonathan: They didn't coexist for a while, like Neanderthal and Cro Magnon?
Oddfellow: Yes, but only after the Pre-Camemberian Era, a span of very hard cheeses.

[Did you know that cheesemaking colanders have been discovered amongst Roquefort-sur-Soulzon's prehistoric relics?]

[Also: not only did cavemen invent the cheese wheel, but they also invented bleu cheese.  We present, collaged for your convenience, Exhibit A below: Rogue Creamery's Caveman Blue.]

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