Gleanings from the Past #73

Testimony and Argument Samuel Johnson […] Sir James Johnston happened to say that he paid no regard to the arguments of counsel at the bar of the House of Commons, because they were paid for speaking. [Samuel] Johnson: “Nay, Sir, argument is argument. You cannot help paying regard to their arguments, if they are good. […]

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A Short Latin Phrases Lesson from an Ignoramus

Ad Hoc – Always seen in job descriptions as “ad hoc tasks may be assigned”. This is their way to justify all the nonsense that they make you do. Ad Hominem — You can use this during online arguments. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know its meaning. This will make you sound logical and […]

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An Unsolvable Riddle?

The following riddle appeared on the April 25, 1868 edition of Once a Week. It was claimed by the anonymous composer of the riddle that it is insoluble: When from the ark’s capacious round, The world went forth in pairs, Whose ready ears first heard the sound Of boots. upon the stairs? The riddle was somehow attributed […]

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Rhyming van Gogh

People have been arguing on how to pronounce Vincent van Gogh’s surname for years (even when there’s really nothing to debate about). An amusing little verse composed by Joe Ecclesine titled “Van Gogh, Van Gogh, Van Gogh” is an apt illustration of this: It seems rather rough On Vincent Van Guff, When those in the […]

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An Acrostic on Napoleon Bonaparte

A professor at Dijon, France composed the following acrostic on Napoleon right after the Allies had stormed through the town on January 19, 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars, which allowed its populace to declare in favor of its legitimate sovereign: Nihil fuit; Augustus evenit; Populos reduxit; Orbem disturbavit; Libertatem oppressit; Ecclesiam distraxit; Omnia esse voluit; […]

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Gleanings from the Past #71

Keynes on Newton I believe that the clue to his mind is to be found in his unusual powers of continuous concentrated introspection. A case can be made out, as it also can with Descartes, for regarding him as an accomplished experimentalist. Nothing can be more charming than the tales of his mechanical contrivances when […]

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A Hidden Double Acrostic

In the October 10, 1885, issue of Golden Days, a Mrs. Harris contributed the following ingenious verse with two acrostics (one of them is partially hidden) without sacrificing either meter or rhyme: He squanders recklessly his cash In cultivating a mustache; A shameless fop is Mr. Dude, Vain, shallow, fond of being viewed. ‘Tis true […]

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Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” in “N Plus 7” Oulipo

In 1999, Harry Matthews presented an “Oulipian” rendition of Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” during a lecture on the Oulipo in Key West, Florida. Matthews belonged to the group, “Oulipo” or OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle) which translates to Workshop of Potential Literature. Oulipo is a French-based group interested in creating works […]

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Gleanings from the Past #70

Plural of Égal Gustav Masson, the late genial French Master of Harrow School, once told me that he asked one of his class one day the following question: “What is the plural of égal?” The boy addressed looked mischievously at his tutor — whose good nature every Harrow boy could depend on — and with […]

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Edgar Allan Poe’s Palindromic Puzzle

The following riddle in the form of a 13-line poem was credited to Edgar Allan Poe. The answers consist of palindromic words: First, find out a word that doth silence proclaim,And that backwards and forwards is always the same;Then next you must find out a feminine nameThat backwards and forwards is always the same;An act, […]

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