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
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
The Right Word

April 2, 2020 (permalink)

The Big U says, quoting the last two dozen words of Tyler Shaw's "With You":
With you, with you, with you,
With you, with you, with you,
With you, with you, with you,
With you, with you, with you.
The Big U is from Wid's Daily, 1919.
#vintage illustration #anthropomorphism #letter u
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March 28, 2020 (permalink)

It's a weird feeling when you discover an old list you made and yet have no memory of what any of it means.  Literary scalawag Jonathan Caws-Elwitt found this great description in Evenfield, by Rachel Ferguson:
Sometimes I come across an old overlooked worry-list. The items on one ran:
1 Row with A.
2 No letter from C.
3 Tooth.
4 Look for green overall again.
5 No ideas for magazine story.
6 What D said last week (Wed: 7th).
7 People I ought to be dining.
And I am harassed this time by occasional total failure to remember who the ‘C’ of the missing letter was or what the deuce ‘D’ had ‘said’, which only shows that if you sit tight long enough nothing matters at all, while I know that this particular brand of philosophy is no good and never will be to people like myself. One must live. And worrying is probably a part of the business and a sign that one is still in the swim! It is rather the same thing with old letters that you re-read. Like a rude, whispering couple who exclude you from the conversation, they indulge in allusions you can’t trace, hint at emotions you can’t recall, and make infuriating plans of the outcome of which your mind is a complete blank. ‘Who is this stranger hissing in a corner?’ one despairingly thinks, and it is oneself, as little as five years ago. And as for the letters dating further back, you get well-nigh to the stage of begging the correspondence to let you in on the conversation, to give you at that moment a little of the love expressed for you in the letter of which you are dimly jealous! You almost whimper, ‘It’s Barbara asking my best friend, in those days’, and it’s no good at all. The Barbara of the note excludes the Barbara who holds it in her hand (though you feel she would be miserably remorseful, eagerly, tenderly explanatory, if you did meet again). Meanwhile, you are left hiding a secret from yourself, and a most extraordinary and forlorn sensation it is.
The Lady Dowager Oddfellow has long been perplexed by her own list on the cardboard back of a pad (pictured).  Though it's unmistakably her handwriting, she has absolutely no idea what any of it means.  The words are:
I'm not in my body
any vague sexual reference
poisonous food
doctor's bills
IGNORANCE is too harsh
mush in people's mouths
any playfulness
Indian accent jokes
tennis ball
no clothes
Chinese restaurant
carried list in wallet
screaming into pillow
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"Anti-poochey" is a Googlewhack.  From Due West's 1920 yearbook.
#vintage illustration #vintage yearbook
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We checked and confirmed that the opposite of UFObia is UFOria.  From UFO Newsclipping Service, 1978.
#ufo #phobia #vintage headline #ufobia
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March 22, 2020 (permalink)

"You could knock me cross-eyed with an anchovy" delivers zero Google results.  From The Film Daily, 1934.
#googlewhack #1930s #anchovies
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March 20, 2020 (permalink)

You've already guessed our favorite word in this headline.  From UFO Newsclipping Service, 1971.
#ufo #vintage headline
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"How often have hearts beat in terror over evils that never occurred?"  From Manual and Diagrams to Accompany Metcalf's Grammars, 1901.
#terror #sentence diagram
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March 2, 2020 (permalink)

"Mice and rats were luxuriously fed by the thoughtless children."  From Manual and Diagrams to Accompany Metcalf's Grammars, 1901.
#sentence diagram #mice #rat
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February 25, 2020 (permalink)

Here are four different / same books by Dostoevsky / Dostoyevsky / Dostoieffsky: Injury and Insult, The Insulted and Humiliated, The Insulted and Injured, and Humiliated and Insulted.  We wonder if even a single person on earth has read all four.
#vintage book #dostoevsky #dostoyevsky #same book different title #book titles
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February 23, 2020 (permalink)

This is the one and only occurrence of the phrase "de-monsterably shy," making it a Googlewhack.  From UFO Newsclipping Service, 1985.
#vintage illustration #demon #jersey devil #vintage headline
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February 22, 2020 (permalink)

The magic word "rolyksnolyb" is a Googlewhack.  The word comes down to us via a short story by L. Ron Hubbard.  From Unknown, 1941.
#vintage illustration #magick #occult #magic word
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February 17, 2020 (permalink)

When stage magicians conjure rabbits out of top hats, they rarely say this spell aloud.  From The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone.
#magick #magic spell #witchcraft #occult #rabbit
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February 15, 2020 (permalink)

"The word-hoard."  From Handbook of the Old-Northern Runic Monuments of Scandinavia and England by George Stephens, 1884.
#old book #word hoard
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February 13, 2020 (permalink)

"Night was made hideous by the howling of wolves."  From Manual and Diagrams to Accompany Metcalf's Grammars, 1901.
#wolves #sentence diagram #night
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February 12, 2020 (permalink)

The name of the typo gremlin: "Druckfehlerteufelchen."  Here's one depiction of the rascal, and here's another.
From Nebelspalter, 1938.
#typo #glitch #typo gremlin
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February 8, 2020 (permalink)

Jonathan notes: they were trying to say "tongue-tied," but somehow they couldn't get the word out.  Honque if you're tonquetied.
#weird word #tongue-tied
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January 30, 2020 (permalink)

We sought the origin of this love potion's "phzzzt" for Webster's Dictionary of Improbable Words: All-Consonant and All-Vowel Words, but instead of the source, we found variations of the image.
#vintage illustration #love potion
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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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