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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This May Surprise You

March 27, 2015 (permalink)

The phrase "a circle isn't self-supporting" delivers zero Google results, and yet here's proof.  From The Great Hall, Winchester Castle by Melville Portal, 1899.  The caption reads, "The back of King Arthur's Round Table."




March 26, 2015 (permalink)

Ciphers must be incubated if they are to encode successfully.  From The Farm-Poultry, 1902.



March 19, 2015 (permalink)

"Each of the letters [of the alphabet] kills the thing it has replaced." —Peter Lamborn Wilson, Abecedarium

March 18, 2015 (permalink)

The alphabet of the leg goes only to H and I, hence the expression "thigh high."  Our proof appears in the Medical Directory of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, 1899.



March 14, 2015 (permalink)


This illustration of a human sole (from History of the County Buildings of Northamptonshire by Christopher Alexander Markham, 1885) begs the question: what are the differences between the soul and the sole?  Remarkably, there aren't any:

  The Human Soul The Human Sole
Remains unconscious of everything that happens on the earth below, as per Rudolf Steiner. x x
Is not what God is, as per Saint Augustine. x x
Potentially separable, as per Thomas Aquinas. x x
Perishable, as per Aristotle.  x x
Imprinted with a certain quality, as per Marc Cogan. x x
Divided into three parts, as per Plato. x x
Can survive without the human body, as per Thomas Aquinas. x x
Governed by wants in life, as per Hinduism. x x
A principle of movement, as per Thomas Aquinas. x x
Too much under the influence of the body's sensory and instinctual compulsions, as per Gerard Dorn. x x
A unity of functions on different levels, as per the Neoplatonists. x x
A kind of substance, as per Thomas Aquinas. x x
Not outwardly visible, as per Rudolf Steiner. x x
A touchstone for American youth, as per Patricia Lyons. x x
Rooted in the untrammelled realisation of its powers, as per Isaiah Berlin. ? ?

March 13, 2015 (permalink)

From Rhymes of the States by Garrett Newkirk, 1896.



March 10, 2015 (permalink)

Did you know the everyman John Doe shortened his name when he immigrated (as did John Q. Public, who was originally of the proud Publicus line)?  We find John Doughgob's original signature in The American Legion Weekly, Dec. 23, 1921.




March 9, 2015 (permalink)

The alphabet departed this life on May 15, 1898, as we learn in Out-of-Door Memorials: Mausoleums, Tombs, Headstones and All Forms of Mortuary Monuments, 1898.




March 8, 2015 (permalink)

At the end of The Maltese Falcon, the priceless statuette is at large.  But did you know it ended up at stately Wayne Manor?  Our proof appears in episode 22 of Batman.  This is perhaps not so very surprising, as "the world of The Maltese Falcon is similar to that of the TV version of Batman and Robin" (John Docker, Postmodernism and Popular Culture, 1994).




March 3, 2015 (permalink)

There is a way that a writer can make a reader disappear like magic, but this secret is not for general knowledge (and is, indeed, meant for the "maybe five" readers that Machado de Assis expected to discover his novel Epitaph of a Small Winner).  And so we will present the secret in black text over a black background, to be highlighted by and thereby revealed to only a select few:

"The book must suffice in itself: if it please you, excellent reader, I shall be rewarded for my labor; if it please you not, I shall reward you with , and good riddance to you."  (Translated from the Portuguese by William L. Grossman.)



Historically, a person could not take umbrage just anywhere. From The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, 1846.



February 21, 2015 (permalink)

"The piano is a wonder box," from St. Nicholas magazine.



February 17, 2015 (permalink)

You know the finger game "Here's the church, here's the steeple," in which hands are clasped to represent a church, then pointer fingers are raised to form a spire, then the remaining fingers are revealed as a congregation?  Well, it's not just a game.  From Blasts from The Ram's Horn, 1902.



February 16, 2015 (permalink)

If you've never heard of Epitical Bychology [sic] or Trigonomety [sic], it may be because they both died in May, 1897.  From the Agnes Scott Institute's Aurora yearbook.



February 15, 2015 (permalink)

This vintage Colgate ad (from 1873) reminds us that we know our own teeth only through the looking glass!




February 12, 2015 (permalink)

Here's how to properly propose a toast to many happy returns, from Canadian Grocer, July-December 1896.



February 9, 2015 (permalink)

The world is always ending.  Here's what the apocalypse looked like when it occurred in 1833.  From Upper Canada Sketches by Thomas Conant, 1898.



February 7, 2015 (permalink)

Animals have horns "to introduce to an element of strangeness into their lives, a whimsical or irrational joke.  An idée fixe, transgressing the limits of their being, reaching high above their heads and emerging suddenly into light, frozen into matter palpable and hard." —Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass

February 3, 2015 (permalink)


"Do you know, sir, that most of the people you see in the street are dead?"  From La Belle Captive, 1983, directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet.



February 2, 2015 (permalink)


Separated at birth: Concrete pottery and concrete poetry.


Concrete PotteryConcrete Poetry
formed by handxx
the visual element is importantxx
exhibited in 1956xx
some were designed as decoration for religious artworksxx
some are in the shapes of their subjectsxx
can be decorated before or after firingxx
developed once humans achieved a sedentary lifexx
can provide an insight into past culturesxx
essential for dating non-literate culturesx




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