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.
September 30, 2006

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed of emoticons all night.  At one point, I heard Noelle Cleary marveling, "Who would've thought we'd someday be expressing moods with colons, semicolons, and parentheses?" (just as she did in THE ART AND POWER OF BEING A LADY).  Then I heard Nancy Kress saying that "Although the semicolon will never replace 'I love you' as a means of stirring readers' feelings, punctuation nonetheless has a useful role to play in indicating emotion," just as she discussed in WRITE GREAT FICTION.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

September 29, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
I'm mad at my friend the cook.  He only calls me when he's in hot water.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

September 28, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Elicitation

I couldn’t get a feel for what he was hiding or whether he even seemed capable of rape.  Then a technique called “elicitation,” which we were taught at Quantico, popped into my mind.  So I just sprung it on him, as if it were a foregone conclusion: “Well, then, after you raped her what did you do?”
    He came back, without missing a beat, “I went into the bathroom and took a piss.”
    “So that’s where we’ll find your fingerprints?  On the bathroom wall—right?” I asked.
    Realizing that he had just confessed, all he could say was, “Damn.”
    The detectives looked at me as if I had pulled a rabbit out of a hat.  I shrugged—“elicitation” was nothing but the psych-major name for one of the oldest tricks in the book, and we all knew it.  I had almost been embarrassed to give it a try.  But it worked—to my surprise, the guy walked right into it.
—Candice DeLong, Special Agent (2001)

“What did you say your name was?”
    Tim sneered.  Did this bloke think he was as dumb as all that?  He wasn’t going to fall for the oldest trick in the book.
—Carla Jablonski, The Books of Magic 2 (2003)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .


Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)
SONG: The Royal Scam
ARTIST: Steely Dan

ORIGINAL LYRIC:

And they wandered in
From the city of St. John
Without a dime
Wearing coats that shined
Both red and green
Colors from their sunny island

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION:

And they wandered in
From the city of St. John
Without a quarter
Wearing nylons and garters
Both red and green
Colors from their sunny island
* Payphones used to take dimes, but now they take quarters.  Isn't it time to update song lyrics to reflect the realities of inflation?  Alas, it's vastly easier to rhyme the word "dime" than the word "quarter," but here at Inflationary Lyrics Headquarters we have risen to the challenge.  Please join the fun and share your own inflationary lyrics, with both the "before" and "after" versions!
> read more from Inflationary Lyrics . . .

September 27, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Did you hear about the new religion that centers around desserts?  Their holy book is called the Baklava Gita.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

September 26, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
I asked, "Are there any questions?"

And a voice replied:

"What does it mean when you suddenly want to read only books translated into English from Serbo-Croatian?

"What does it mean when you start compiling a dictionary of one-letter words?

"What does it mean when you open a book at random to the first page of a chapter entitled "Venturing Out"?  And what if you then deliberately throw it aside?

"What does it mean when you watch infomercials at 3 a.m.-- on a regular basis?

"What does it mean when three people in as many days ask if they can touch your hair?

"What does it mean when you decide not to put question marks inside the quotation marks unless the quotation is a question?  And what if that was already the rule?

"What does it mean when you suck on one 'Sour Hearts' candy after another, all day long?

"What does it mean when all of the above applies to just one person?"

And then I stopped talking.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

September 25, 2006

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led (permalink)

Saint Piccione
Patron of Unexplained Phenomena.

"How puzzling!" was Saint Piccione's reply to virtually any statement.  He never sought to understand mysterious phenomena (hence his peccadillo of carrying a Bible but never reading it).  There are many unexplained aspects of his own biography.  For example, he possessed such a curious homing sense that he was affectionately called "the pigeon" by those close to him.  When his detractors accused him of "vague and irresponsible theories about God, heaven, the stars, and the supernatural," his answer surprised no one: "How perplexing!"  Indeed, there is little evidence of any theorizing at all.  "You ask me to explain the problem of evil," he once told a follower, "but I might well wonder aloud about other mysteries, such as where the sun disappears at night."
Who is your favorite imaginary saint?  Do share!
> read more from Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led . . .

September 24, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Ego Management

[Don’t] put him in a position where he has to fight you to defend his own ego.  The oldest trick in the book is working things out so that the boss thinks he suggested what you want.
—Wayne Dyer, Pulling Your Own Strings (1994)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

September 23, 2006

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)
I dreamed I became enamored over Eric Schlosser, who whispered in my ear, "I care about every semicolon, every word, and every comma," just as he said in THE NEW JOURNALISM by Robert Boyynton.

Then I dreamed about "Henry James' dictum that the true measure of civility was the proper use of the semicolon," as noted in BORGES: THE SELECTED FICTIONS.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

September 22, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

September 21, 2006

Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary (permalink)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary . . .


Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Did you hear about the new Chinese restaurant for gluttons?  Yeah, it's called "Wonton Depravity."
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

September 20, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Dummy Doubles

Using the oldest trick in the book, Howard used a dummy in his car to double for him.
—Melissa Boyle Mahle, Denial and Deception (2005)

In one incident, Saul falls for the oldest trick in the book.  Michal puts a pillow and clothes under the blankets and says that David is sick in bed while David escapes out the back (I Samuel 19: 11-17).
—Jeffrey C. Geoghegan, The Bible for Dummies (2002)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

September 19, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:



> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .


Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
I'm mad at my friend the cook.  He only calls me when he's in a pickle.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

September 18, 2006

Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary (permalink)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary . . .


Go Out in a Blaze of Glory (permalink)
Life with you has been a barren wasteland.  I’ve been burned too many times on the shifting sands of this desolate desert.  Now bite the dust and take a powder.
> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .

September 17, 2006

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)
> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .

September 16, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Drugged Wine

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book.  Anyone on River and Lake could have told them to watch out for drugged wine.
—Louis Cha, The Deer and the Cauldron: The Second Book (1999)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .


Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed again that I was a period.  This dream took me beyond the realm of punctuation.  I was a period of history.  But I was the Stone Age.  No one was literate.  I woke up tired.

During a nap later in the day, I dreamed of a man named Franco Gull, sprawled on a sofa, whose "lips produced a pained semicolon" as he considered "some very serious issues," just as in THERAPY by Jonathan Kellerman.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

September 15, 2006

Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary (permalink)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary . . .


Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
I love my friend the herbologist.  He wrecked my car, but I got it back in mint condition.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

September 14, 2006

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .

September 13, 2006

Go Out in a Blaze of Glory (permalink)
No need to keep kindling the fire of your cruelty.  Unlike the phoenix, I won’t be able to rise again from these ashes.  Allow my weak embers to slowly fizzle out.  I’m already extinguished.
> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .

September 12, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Dressing Up Something Ordinary in Special Wrapping

—Jonathan Meades, Incest and Morris Dancing (2002)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

September 11, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Q: What do vegetarian vampires drink?

A: Blood from a turnip.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

September 10, 2006

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)


> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .


Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"Do you believe everything you hear?"  Yes.  It's about as reliable as anything in print.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

September 9, 2006

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed of correction fluid.  Need I say more?

Then I dreamed that Michael Kinsley was advising people, "it is best not to use semicolons, as they can be thought pretentious," as he did in BOBOS IN PARADISE by David Brooks.  I woke up saying, "PRETENTIOUS?  Moi?"
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

September 8, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Divide and Rule

Popular girls usually gain and keep their power by the oldest trick in the book, divide and rule.
—Julie Burchill, Sugar Rush (2004)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

September 7, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
My mom started going to Weight Watchers, and during the lectures there's always someone who raises a hand to ask a question that involves some sort of "cheating" on the diet plan.  You know, if the plan calls for eating all you want of a vegetable for dinner, someone will ask, "Can I eat unlimited popcorn?"  They're willing to follow the strict rules, but their minds are racing to find loopholes that will allow them "legally" to gorge thousands of calories.  It's crazy, but I know all-too-well that when you feel like you're starving your brain will come up with all sorts of notions.  Inspired by my mom's Weight Watchers stories, I made up a joke:

A housewife went to Buddhist Weight Watchers.  The lecturer said, "The Buddhist way to lose weight is to follow the famous saying: 'Chop wood and carry water.'"  The housewife raised her hand and asked, "What about cutting coupons and retaining water?"
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

September 6, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
If "aphasia" is the inability to express speech, what is the inability to remember the alphabet?  "Alphasia?"  Or perhaps "AphaZia?"  This is my favorite description of losing one's alphabet:

Johnny spun to face a bookcase of art criticism and wondered desperately if K came before or after N.  The alphabet, a pillar, a solace and a certainty since kindergarten, had suddenly deserted him.  He stood, bewildered and staring, as if he’d suffered a crisis of faith.  Does the alphabet exist?  If the alphabet exists, why is there so much suffering in the world?  The alphabet is dead.
—Cathleen Schine, The Love Letter
> read more from The Right Word . . .


Pfft! (permalink)
Ludwig waved his arm dismissively.  “Pfft!  The loss is his, not mine, and his theatre’s.”  —John Suchet, The Last Master: Passion and Anger.
* The British expression "noise stroke gesture" (in American parlance, "noise slash gesture" or "noise/gesture") refers to the intriguing fact that some vocal expressions seem to call for an accompanying hand gesture.  Take, for example, Pfft!  No matter what its intended meaning, it virtually demands to be echoed in sign language.  Have you noticed a pfft hand gesture in print?  Please share!

For a variety of surprising definitions of pfft, check out my Dictionary of All-Consonant Words at OneLetterWords.com.
> read more from Pfft! . . .

September 5, 2006

Puzzles and Games :: Constellations (permalink)
Can you find the pictured constellation in this night sky?  Click the image for the answer and a nifty quotation.

> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Constellations . . .

September 4, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Divide and Conquer

[T]he oldest trick in the book—divide and conquer.
—Victor Darnell Hadnot, The Wheels of God (2003)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .


Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)

Dime photo by drwhimsy.
SONG: A Letter to Mama
ARTIST: Josie And The Pussycats

ORIGINAL LYRIC:

Savin' a dime, wastin' my time.

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION:

Savin' a quarter, tryin' to barter.
* Payphones used to take dimes, but now they take quarters.  Isn't it time to update song lyrics to reflect the realities of inflation?  Alas, it's vastly easier to rhyme the word "dime" than the word "quarter," but here at Inflationary Lyrics Headquarters we have risen to the challenge.  Please join the fun and share your own inflationary lyrics, with both the "before" and "after" versions!
> read more from Inflationary Lyrics . . .

September 3, 2006

Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led (permalink)

Saint ObligaciĆ³n
Patron of Obsessive Compulsions.

Saint ObligaciĆ³n had an epiphany after taking the following sentence out of context:

The "beyond" includes nearly any obsessive compulsion, a thing or a behavior carried to excess.

This sentence wasn't from the Bible but rather a self-help book entitled Love is a Choice: Breaking the Cycle of Addictive Relationships.   After her epiphany, she traded her habit for a more rigid compulsion, then went on to found The Holy (Dis)Order of the Sisters of Perpetual Handwringing. 
Who is your favorite imaginary saint?  Do share!
> read more from Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led . . .

September 2, 2006

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)

I hear that the stolen painting "The Scream" has been recovered.  The art world is now feeling Munch better.
> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .


Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed I was "semicolonial": nominally independent but actually under foreign domination.  I was Quebec.

Later that night, I dreamed that Al Franken called me "exotic punctuation," as he did in THE TRUTH (WITH JOKES).
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

September 1, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
At lunch, I noticed that the new waiter at my favorite restaurant kept looking at me and smiling.  It was a lingering look, as if he wanted to say something.  But it wasn't until I was signing the credit card receipt that he worked up his nerve:  

"Are you ever in Wilmington?" he asked hesitantly, his eyes studying my face with equal amounts of boldness and terror.  His eyes reminded me of Don Knotts; I could see the mustered-up self-confidence begin to tremble under its own weight.

"No, never been there," I replied, wondering why he asked.  

"You look just like my friend Tom.  He lives in Wilmington.  He has the same hair style, same face, same ..."  He paused, looking me up and down.  "Same everything!"

I assumed that "everything" referred to my taste in clothing.

I chuckled, muttering something about needing to meet my clone some day.  But my mind was reeling from the UNSPOKEN question that the waiter seemed to be asking: "Are you my friend?  Are you Tom?"

The waiter kept staring at me with those Don Knotts eyes, as if still suspecting I was indeed Tom from Wilmington.  Deputy sheriff Barney Fife was determined to crack this case of false identity.

I got the hell out of there.

---

Later, the cashier at the hardware store bid me farewell with these words: "Have a sparkling day," spoken in a slow monotone -- a depressed drawl.  The words and delivery were so incongruous that it was all I could do not to laugh before I left the building!  Plus, it was the very first time in my life that anyone had wished me a "sparkling" day.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .



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Original Content Copyright © 2014 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.