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, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, 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.
The Right Word

Yesterday — January 27, 2020 (permalink)

The traditional five symbols of ESP experimentation are in fact a language, and until now this fact has been a carefully hidden secret.  Developed by psychologist Karl Zener in the early 1930s, purportedly as a tool for extrasensory perception research at the Rhine Institute, the five symbols actually encapsulate an entire alphabet.  By the 1970s, skeptics discredited the Zener system, thereby discouraging focus on the symbols and effectively sealing their (newfound?) secret importance as a coded messaging system between governmental psychic spies.  All is explained in ESP Symbols: An Entire Language For Psychic Spies?: A Key for Decoding the Secrets of the Ages.
#symbolism #esp #extra sensory perception #code
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January 24, 2020 (permalink)

"A, by many supposed to be the oldest of the alphabet and constituting, as it does, the initial of Adam's name, was doubtless the only letter in existence at the time Adam learned to write." —Cupid's Cyclopedia by Oliver Herford, 1910. 
#letter a #one-letter words
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January 15, 2020 (permalink)

"A is the easiest word to spell, with the exception of I."
Cupid's Cyclopedia by Oliver Herford, 1910.  
#letter a #one-letter words
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January 14, 2020 (permalink)

Here's how nature expresses the sounds of the alphabet.
From an 1887 translation of the first children's picture book, The Orbis Pictus of John Amos Comenius (1657).
#vintage illustration #alphabet
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"Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into no human ear."  From Manual and Diagrams to Accompany Metcalf's Grammars, 1901.
#misery #sentence diagram #sorrow
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January 13, 2020 (permalink)


There's one weird trick that Billy Idol uses to give his songs longevity (and possibly immortality).  Do you see it in the first lines of "Eyes Without a Face"?
I'm all out of hope
One more bad break
could bring a fall
When I'm far from home
Don't call me on the phone
To tell me you're alone
The key word that might have jumped out at you is "fall."  The listener's ear expects a rhyme with "hope," but Idol resists forcing a rhyme and instead tells the truth.  In other words, he opens his song by revealing his honesty in no uncertain terms.  He demonstrates that he isn't merely crafting a catchy jingle (those are flashes in the pan; "Eyes Without a Face" has been broadcast and covered by other artists for well-over three decades).  He sings the word he means, not just any word that happens to make the lines rhyme.  He seems to sacrifice poetry, but he accomplishes something more deeply poetic and, crucially, he communicates something that feels profoundly real.  He exposes himself (pun intended, if you'll recall some of his scandalously skimpy outfits) as the very opposite of a snake charmer: he isn't there to beguile his listener with hypnotic phrases; rather, he treats his listener as a confidant and expresses his vulnerabilities in a spirit of complete trust.  Obviously, this level of respect for the listener and this sort of condor transform the song into an ageless classic.  Note that Idol's following lines all rhyme (home / phone / alone), which is his deliberate way of drawing attention to the exceptional word. 
Idol's next lines offer three "near rhymes," adding sonic richness:
It's easy to deceive
It's easy to tease
But hard to get release
As Idol sings in his masterpiece "Catch My Fall," "I've trusted and then broken my own word."  He trusts his listeners and then breaks his own rhymes.  That song, too, begins with Idol's one weird trick for perenniality:
I have the time 
so I will sing
I'm just a boy
but I will win
The words "sing" and "win" are not even "near rhymes."  Like Idol's signature raised fist, this is his upstandingness, saying what he means and not what's tidy.
This winning technique is easily perceived in Idol's famous "White Wedding," too:
Hey little sister, what have you done?
Hey little sister, who's the only one?
Hey little sister, who's your superman?
Hey little sister, who's the one you want?
Hey little sister, shotgun!
Idol's "done / won" setup leads the listener to expect a rhyme to follow "superman."  Instead, Idol sings the word "want."  This makes "superman" the standout word of the stanza, since all the other line endings cleanly rhyme or near-rhyme (done / one / want / gun).
#billy idol #song lyics #rhyming
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January 9, 2020 (permalink)

To this day, the word "phrenaeleonogopolae" delivers zero Google results.  From Toike Oike, 1966.
#googlewhack #vintage headline #big word
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January 4, 2020 (permalink)

In the second line, we find "corse," the original spelling of "corpse."  The p, eventually added in honor of the Latin corpus, was initally silent.
From Peter Homunculus by Gilbert Cannan, 1909.
#death #coffin #poem
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December 19, 2019 (permalink)

"You set my thoughts to melody; you fill me with your beauty."  From Manual and Diagrams to Accompany Metcalf's Grammars, 1901.
#sentence diagram
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December 9, 2019 (permalink)

Though one might presume that the letters spell ATHLETICS, they actually spell LITHE CATS.  From Rockford's 1914 yearbook.
#vintage illustration #anthropomorphism #vintage yearbook #letters #letter head
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November 20, 2019 (permalink)

You've noticed the phenomenon: stage magic so often has an undertone of seriousness, and ritual magic[k] is so often theatrical.  Our friend Clint Marsh has dedicated his life to the misfits of magic, collecting and spearheading subtle yet wondrous wizardry for enchanting everyday life.  In honor of his remarkable Fiddler's Green zine, we rolled our alphabet dice on a haunted mirror to see what mysterious messages might come through.
#magician #magic #clint marsh #letter dice #alphabet dice
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November 13, 2019 (permalink)

"We moved through dark and desert ways."  From Manual and Diagrams to Accompany Metcalf's Grammars, 1901.
#sentence diagram #desert
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October 18, 2019 (permalink)

We're delighted by this review of our dictionary of all-consonant and all-vowel words:

I like writing with funny words. Words that every spell checker hates and people give me endless sass about. This book helps me live my dream of lifting eyebrows while also allowing me to say, "I'm not the only one who uses it."

#all-consonant words
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October 15, 2019 (permalink)

"Sparkling like a diamond beams the day-star in the skies."  From Manual and Diagrams to Accompany Metcalf's Grammars, 1901.
#sentence diagram #star #day star
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September 19, 2019 (permalink)

It is an outright lie that there are very few one-letter words and that they're rarely misspelled.  For proof, see One-Letter Words: A Dictionary.  This false quotation is from Word Juggler User's Manual, 1984.
#one-letter words
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September 12, 2019 (permalink)

However you spell it, "It's all bologny."  From Tulane's 1928 yearbook. 
#vintage illustration #vintage yearbook #Bologna #baloney
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September 5, 2019 (permalink)

From The Dictionary of Ugly Words, a book attributed to us.
#dictionary #ugly word
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August 21, 2019 (permalink)

"Whatsahpoobah."  From Kansas State Collegian, 1971.
#vintage illustration #monster
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The psychedelic word "physadillic" in the caption to this photo is a Googlewhack.  From the University of the South's 1968 yearbook.
#vintage photo #vintage yearbook #seeing double #double vision #psychedelic
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August 18, 2019 (permalink)

We're delighted that our Magic Words: A Dictionary is referenced in Derek Padula's astonishingly thorough exploration of the inherent secrets and "Cultural Origin of Papparapā!" in Dragon Ball Z.
#magic word #Papparapā
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