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.

March 22, 2015 (permalink)

Evolution of the exclamation mark, from Ohio University's Athena, 1893.

November 26, 2014 (permalink)

(From My Northern Exposure: The Kawa At the Pole by Walter E. Traprock, 1922.  Thanks, Jonathan Caws-Elwitt!)

December 22, 2013 (permalink)

I dreamed of snowflakes and kisses under the mistletoe.

(A visual poem from Puck, 1883.)

July 24, 2013 (permalink)

From Punch, 1848.

March 19, 2013 (permalink)

An exclamation mark from Life, 1912.
I dreamed about a mouse.

February 27, 2013 (permalink)

I dreamed of a ten-cent emotion in a fifty-dollar frame.

From Life magazine, 1912.

February 26, 2013 (permalink)

February 18, 2013 (permalink)

I dreamed again I was allowed to marry another semicolon.  Our wedding was conducted by San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren, who kept saying, "I am not trying to be petty here, but it is a big deal ... That semicolon is a big deal."

Later that night, I dreamed that I discussed my marriage with Rick Boyer, who said: "Like punctuation marks, milestones break up, to a degree, the continuity of daily experience.  And like those little black marks, they add dimensions to the text of our lives, extra meaning that otherwise we would fail to read.  Nate's upcoming wedding day, like a speed bump, to some degree sneaked up on us despite the fact that we've been looking forward to it.  What is it about weddings, anyway?  You have one marked on the calendar for perhaps a year or two; yet, two weeks before the event all is madness and pandemonium as both families scramble to get ready. ... Our coming 'big day' reminds me that milestones - those punctuation marks of life - are liberally dispersed for all and that life is not one uninterrupted stream but a book with a beginning and an end.  It has sentences and paragraphs, set apart by punctuation marks, that add up to chapters which sometimes we don't recognize as such until looking back later over the nearly completed manuscript."

February 7, 2013 (permalink)

A naked I under the naked eye.  From Life magazine, 1911.
My dream was concupiscent.

February 5, 2013 (permalink)

My dream was cloudy.

An illustration from The Canadian Magazine, 1897.  The caption reads, "He was punctuating his sentences, deliberately, with clouds of tobacco smoke."

January 23, 2013 (permalink)

I dreamed I was the Berlin Wall, separating the independent clauses of East and West Germany.  But suddenly the clauses joined together.  I woke myself up.

Later that night, I dreamed I had a crush on a man who "speaks like a president, not always authoritative or anything but he can form sentences, complex sentences with beginnings and ends, subordinate clauses--you can HEAR his semicolons!"  Upon waking up, I realized this man was a character in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.  Up to that point, I had always agreed with Roger E. Axtell that "You can't say a comma or a semicolon unless you are Victor Borge."

January 9, 2013 (permalink)

I dreamed again that I was in hell, forever separating the independent clauses of a compound sentence, as if they were young siblings fighting over space in the back seat of the family station wagon.

Later that night, I dreamed I was caught in traffic.

Upon waking, I was filled with the "immortal longings" that impel "every hyphen and semicolon," as discussed by William Stryon in Sophie's Choice.

Semicolon sign courtesy of Pixiewarp.

December 15, 2012 (permalink)

I dreamed again about a coordinating conjunction.  It said the clauses in our sentence were long and contained internal punctuation used to separate long items in a series.  This was what I wanted to hear: it meant that I belonged in the sentence.  But for some reason I felt certain that the conjunction was lying.

I also dreamed that I had dinner and drinks with Michael Tomasky, who said: "If I were linguistic emperor, not only would semicolons be mandatory, but we’d all be writing like Carlyle: massive 130-word sentences that were mad concatenations of em dashes, colons, semicolons, parentheticals, asides; reading one of those Carlyle sentences can sweep me along in its mighty wake and make me feel as if I’m on some sort of drug.  What writing today does that?  Some, maybe even a lot, in the realm of literature; but not much in non-fiction, alas.”

November 20, 2012 (permalink)

I dreamed I was mistaken as an indication that less perfume is required.

November 19, 2012 (permalink)

Comic courtesy of Joe Crawford,
Thank you, Joe!
I dreamed again I had to make a speech.  When I got to the podium, I realized I wasn't wearing any clothes.

Later that night, I dreamed far into the future, when I had become a giant monument in the town of Dusty, Arizona.  Tourists came from far and wide to show me to their children.

Then I dreamed of Jorge Luis Borges' "predilection for the endless sentence with semicolons as milestones along the route," as noted in Borges: The Selected Fictions.

Reader Comments:

Johnny Rem writes,
Intriguing dream.  I love the concept of the monument... how did it feel being famous yet sculpted in stone?

August 27, 2012 (permalink)

I dreamed X was a broken question mark.*

*as per Juan Felipe Herrera's Crash Boom Love: A Novel in Verse, 1999

August 13, 2012 (permalink)

I dreamed I read the great American novel.

From Puck, 1884.

June 11, 2012 (permalink)

I dreamed I got a dog.

A detail of a political cartoon from Cartoons magazine, 1916.

Doubly dedicated to Jonathan Caws[hyphen]Elwitt and Gordon Meyer, both of whom know why.

May 2, 2012 (permalink)

I dreamed of sitting on a glistening rock, thinking sadly of someone who had changed and drifted away from me.

April 18, 2012 (permalink)

Book cover from 1949, via Frog Blog.
I dreamed I had faith in an exclamation point.

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