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.

What's In a Name


July 7, 2017 (permalink)

The explanation for The Spirit of Buncle (1823) is downright alchemical.
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June 7, 2017 (permalink)

Here's the unglamorous explanation of the title Odd Moments; or Time Beguiled (1825).
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June 6, 2017 (permalink)

It's an easy sort of error, mistaking a hospital for the insane with a university's art department.  From Canadian Horticulture and Home Magazine, 1897.
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June 5, 2017 (permalink)

The heir to castles in the air is one John Putkins, census-taker, as revealed in Putkins, Heir to Castles in the Air, A Comic Drama in One Act by William R. Emerson, 1871.

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Here's some relationship outsourcing: "Hell Upon Earth" Made Heaven, or The Marriage Secrets of a Chicago Contractor as told to Rev. George Washington Savory, 1907.
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June 2, 2017 (permalink)

Before Tennessee Williams gave characters names like Sissy Goforth, there was Cozi Toobad of 1849. 
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May 23, 2017 (permalink)

"Snizzlewoots Wally and how he got over it."  From Ambition magazine, 1915.
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May 5, 2017 (permalink)

It's a name you can't forget!  Phreno-Mnemotechny, 1845.
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April 12, 2017 (permalink)

It's been said that silence cannot be translated, but here's an exception.
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April 9, 2017 (permalink)

Here's A Book Without a Title by George Jean Nathan, 1918.  Its epigraph offers some explanation and/or confession: "'Titles of books: Decoys to catch purchasers.' —Chatfield."  Previously, we stumbled upon this other book that was printed without a title.
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March 31, 2017 (permalink)

A statue holds a book with no title, the book never having been written about an event that left no discernible trace.  From My Father's Bonus March by Adam Langer, 2009.
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March 17, 2017 (permalink)

Nicholas Royle would prefer no title for his In Memory of Jacques Derrida, or else a ghostly but irreducible proliferation of titles.
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March 12, 2017 (permalink)

Here's a subtitle identifying the book as a plain sandwich.  Dragon of the Enchanted Valley: A Plain Sandwich of Facts in Odd Fancies, 1865.
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March 7, 2017 (permalink)

Here's a book entitled What the Sam Hill (What the Sam Hill by Wib. F. Clements, 1911), along with the explanation.
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March 6, 2017 (permalink)

Here's a book entitled Green Peas, along with the explanation.
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January 16, 2017 (permalink)

Air has a face, the sea has lips, and cliffs have ends.  This we learn in From the Lips of the Sea by Clinton Scollard (1911), The Face of Air by George Leonard Knapp (1912), and The Cliff End by Edward Charles Booth (1908).

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January 5, 2017 (permalink)

You've heard that animals and insects possess neither morality nor religion, yet here's The Butterfly's Gospel (Fredrika Bremer, 1865).
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January 4, 2017 (permalink)

Here's one from the next edition of our dictionary of all-vowel words: Oo, a place name "never pronounced without awe and reverence," named after "a great god who dwelt under the sands of the desert"; "a wonderful place full of gold and jewels where demons dwelt," located several hundred miles down the southerly-flowing Darke River.  It is also known as "the city of unnumbered lights" and is capital of the Orbello kingdom.  Every portion of the city is subterranean except for its fortification and tower.  (The Mysterious City of Oo by Charles Lotin Hildreth, 1889.)
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December 24, 2016 (permalink)

You know how folks with birthdays near big holidays tend to get combined gifts?  Well, the year 1831 got a book as a combined gift for Christmas, New Year's, and its birthday.
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December 21, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a rare word (only nine Google results) for heraldic symbols -- aristoglyphics.  From 1838.
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