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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This May Surprise You

Today — April 18, 2015 (permalink)

A lie never stops to put on its hat, as we learn in Blasts from The Ram's Horn, 1902.

April 9, 2015 (permalink)

When salmon swim up the Buttermilk Falls to spawn, that's the origin of cream sauce for fish.  From Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, 1843.

April 5, 2015 (permalink)

Time travel is possible because Father Time's soap bubbles of the years linger.  From Dicks' English Library of Standard Works, 1884.  [In honor of Marja Lingsma's photos [a & b] of her parents blowing bubbles.]

Santa Claus is really the Easter Bunny, as revealed in St. Nicholas magazine, 1915.

April 3, 2015 (permalink)

Inside "the book that has never been opened" is a pressed flower, according to T. S. Eliot in "The Dry Salvages."

[Pressed flower not shown.]

March 30, 2015 (permalink)

You've heard of somnambulists, and you've heard of escape artists, but here's both at once.  The caption reads, "Sylvester, once more sound asleep, sets himself free."  From Dicks' English Library of Standard Works, 1884.

As we see in this vintage map, Florida once occupied most of North America.  But one could also make an argument that most of North America was once Scotland, just as absurdist playwright N. F. Simpson has argued that the Mediterranean could technically fall under Scottish law:

Lawyer:  It would be enough to show that it [the Mediterranean] is in what — for the present purposes — can be deemed to be Scotland, and here we might usefully explore the possibility that Scotland, as we know it, may not always have occupied the precise position north of the border that it is commonly thought of as occupying today.  We are assisted here by the known fact that the general configuration of the Earth's surface, such as it is, was not arrived at overnight.  It is the end product of a not unlengthy process involving widespread upheaval over a period of several millennia, during the course of which things were in a considerable state of flux ... and it should not be difficult to demonstrate as an a priori possibility that Scotland — or what was subsequently to become known as Scotland — might, in one of the remoter periods of geological time, have occupied, however fleetingly, and prior to making its journey northwards to the position on the map that it has occupied ever since, [the Mediterranean].  If so, there would be a strong prima facie case for a reappraisal of the whole situation with a view to bringing the whole matter fairly and squarely within the jurisdiction of the Scottish courts....
Senior:  Sounds promising.
Minister:  Yes — I think one could give voice to a tentative eureka there.
[From Was He Anyone?, first performed in 1972]

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.

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