64 Comments

  1. That ficticious marketing department is definitely more “on-the-ball” than Dagwood’s own syndicate. Given that a certain percentage of readers are certain to plug that phrase into various Internet search engines, it would have been logical to set up a website or at least a forwarding address that would have linked those searches to a relevant (or amusing) location. Alas, no: nothing even close turns up.

  2. Oh, thanks, Ian Christian!
    Another book by Smullyan is This Book Needs No Title.
    Fans of logic puzzles probably know Smullyan already, but a reminder recommendation is not out of order!

  3. One of my favorite childhood books was “The Monster at the End of this Book”, starring Grover from Sesame Street.

  4. DON’T OPEN THIS BOOK ed. Marvin Kaye (horror anthology) and the DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOK juvenile series by Andy Lee are tangentially relevant….

  5. Allegedly there was a shipping company called Best Way. So people would go to ship something and tell them “Send it the best way” and they’d get the business. I don’t believe this but it’s a fun idea.

    And of course back in the Yellow Pages days there were all the companies named AAAAAAA Moving and the like. SEO before SEO!

  6. A book title I loved was of this entertaining philosophy-for-dummies type thing called:

    “There
    Are Two
    Errors in the
    the Title of
    This Book”

  7. I’ll bite: what are the two errors? Is is something like there are no errors, therefore it’s an error to say that there is an error; and now that you’ve established there’s one error, it’s an error to say that there are two errors?

  8. I once bought a copy of David Lindley’s “Win This Record”. Guess I got taken…

    My dad used to joke about how he wanted to start a band and name it “Free Drinks, No Cover”.

  9. Grawlix, the close result seems to be “Whoopi Goldberg Book” (by Whoopi Goldberg of course)

  10. I recall first seeing the reduplicated “the” puzzle with the text “Paris / in the / the Spring” in triangular layout.

  11. And in the not-a-book category, I bought a cap with the Hebrew inscription “M’shahu b’eivrit.” Translation: “Something in Hebrew.”

  12. True story: When “Steal This Book” first came out and was featured at the college bookstore I asked the clerk if I could steal it. She said no, I had to pay for it.

    I didn’t buy the book because the title was dishonest.

  13. What kind of theft is it if they just give it to you?
    I had a free copy of Steal This Book, but absolutely no recollection of how I got it.

  14. Re: “Send it the best way” and they’d get the business.

    Don’t know if that was done, but in the ’90s with the requirement to pick your long-distance carrier, a company (KTNT) registered 57 names in Texas (and similar in a few other states) including “I Don’t Care” and “It Doesn’t Matter”, “Any One Is Okay” and “Whatever”.

  15. B.J. Novak wrote a very amusing children’s book called “The Book With No Pictures“(*). For the book to work right, it has to be read to the kid by an adult. Why anyone would bother to create an audiobook version is a mystery to me.

    P.S. (*) In the publisher’s blurb on the back flyleaf, it mentions that “There are pictures of [the author], but none in this book.

  16. I wish I could just remember the author of that experimental novel titled “Encyclopedia”. Otherwise it’s hard to look up. You get Encyclopedia Brown series and every little compilation they carry with Encyclopedia in the name.

  17. @Mitch4: Hmm. I did some digging on sites with “exact match” capabilities and didn’t find that. Are you shoo-ah?

  18. Why anyone would bother to create an audiobook version is a mystery to me.

    I’m not following you there. It would seem like a book without pictures would be a good candidate for an audiobook. Most of them don’t have pictures.

  19. Mitch4: Librarians are your friends. This includes retired librarians, like your friendly neighborhood Shrug.

    WorldCat record (edited):

    Title: Encyclopedia /
    Author(s): Horn, Richard (Novelist), author.
    Publication: New York : Grove Press, Inc.,
    Year: 1969
    Description: 157 pages ; 21 cm
    SUBJECT(S)
    Descriptor: Bohemianism — United States — Fiction.

  20. @billytheskink

    a band and name it “Free Drinks, No Cover”.

    Back before disco, I knew a bar whose DJ went by “Ample Parking”
    and they had that name on the marquee sign every night, so:
    “Happy Hour / with Ample Parking”

    Not dishonest, since the bar shared a parking lot
    with a supermarket which closed around 8 pm.

  21. Long ago, Joan Rivers said she was writing a show and planned to call it “The New Neil Simon Play”, to get all the business from people who called ticket agencies.

    About as long ago, a British humorist published a collection under the title “Golfing for Cats” with a large swastika on the cover. The blurb explained the title was unrelated to the contents, but studies showed books about golf, cats, and WWII were reliably big sellers.

    Robert Benchley titled a book of his pieces “David Copperfield, or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”. Also totally unrelated to the content, but more a bit pure goofery. Likewise a collection titled “Love Conquers All”, which I reference in my self-published ebook …

    (sounds of a scuffle and a door slamming)

  22. @ Brian in StL – “…a book without pictures would be a good candidate for an audiobook

    Normally yes, but the explicit premise in B.J. Novak’s book is to let the kid embarrass an adult reader by making the adult say silly things (there’s even a “fill in the blank” edition that allows the kid to make up customized idiocy for the adult to read. Delivering the sounds from a mechanical speaker defeats the whole purpose.

  23. I suppose an experimental novel list could include “Cloth” by Aram Saroyan. Every page contains a single word. Then there’s “Gadsby” by Ernest Vincent Wright which contains 50,000 words and not one occurrence of the letter E.

  24. Ah, well now … If you’re going in the direction of lipograms and related language play, I should mention OULIPO (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo . Georges Perec wrote a 300-page lipogram novel La disparition (lipogram on ‘e’). Many of their works are fun to contemplate and discuss, for their formal properties and trickery. But some are also good reading. I enjoyed the work of their early American member, Harry Mathews (just one ‘t’).

    Not actually aligned with OULIPO but gloriously fun while also doing formal trickery, was Alphabetical Africa by Walter Abish https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabetical_Africa .

  25. I always wanted to open a bar that also specialized in serving Taiwanese food. I would call it “Tai One On”. (For those wondering, to “tie one on”, is to imbibe an adult beverage).

  26. Good one, RC2! Though maybe you could improve it by making it Thai food, which nowadays is more familiar a category for Americans than is Taiwanese.

  27. arseetoo: I like it. My idea was a vegetarian German Beyond-Meat/Saitan restaurant called Faux Schnitzel. Or a vegetarian/Vietnamese soup joint called Frond or Pho (yes, I know “pho” isn’t pronounced as you’d expect).

  28. I thought “to tie one on” meant to drink enough to be drunk?

    As in A college student holding his head after he just woke up and saying ” I really tied one on last night”.

    As a non drinker of alcoholic drinks (including at the Passover Seder) I may be remembering this wrong.

  29. Even if your memory is correct, meanings often change right out from under you.
    I was recently reading a book when I discovered that “first generation” in the immigration sense had redefined itself out from under me. Used to be it was the first generation born in the new country; now apparently it means the first generation to come to the country, which is rather imprecise, as that can include gramma and grampi, mom and dad, and any number of kids from young adulthood down to infants, whose individual experiences will be quite different! (Anyone from around 7 or 8 down (and a few lucky older ones) will natively speak the new language, whereas anyone older (yes, with exceptions) will forever have an accent in the new language, for example.) Back in the day, all those who immigrated themselves were called immigrants. There was a smaller band of imprecision on the infants and toddlers who immigrated, whose experience really more closely resembled the first generation’s, but they were immigrants. (I should know, I was an immigrant, despite being young enough that I natively speak English; imagine how weird I found it to have those like me referred to as first generation, when all my life I have been differentiated from first generation in things like my retention of original language and lesser degree of assimilation and retention of knowledge and habits of the original culture — in my experience, first generation kids were usually indistinguishable from natives, possibly even more native than the natives, while the immigrants often were the weirdos, missing just enough of the shibboleths to mark us as foreign; I remember distinctly not knowing the choreography to “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” (or indeed “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” song at all), and how the other kids jumped up as a synchronized unit, as if they were professionals, and with casual confidence, did the whole damn song and dance as if this was the purpose of being a child, to be able to confidently do “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, as if they had been training for it their whole lives, like this was the Olympics or something — here, at last, was something in Kindergarten they were prepared for! I still don’t know the damn choreography to “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and I never will; any kids I might have had would have grown up “Itsy Bitsy Spider” deficient, and would have had to pick up that knowledge on the shady streets, and it might well have cost them their shot at attending the college of their choice, but there it is — just one more drop in the ocean of things that marked me as an immigrant in the hard knock brutal jungle that is Kindergarten… These differences between immigrant and first generation could and did exist among siblings, with the younger siblings seeing how the older sibling was marked out from the herd, and them doing everything in their power to avoid that fate — becoming more native than the natives — refusing to speak the original language, refusing to eat the immigrant food, and making damn sure they knew their “Isty Bitsy Spider” choreography cold, for example.)

  30. Thanks for that account, larK!

    I notice you use “first generation” apparently as a noun phrase on its own. I’m more used to seeing it as a sort of compound adjective, modifying a proper noun for the nationality, thus for example “a first-generation American”. Indeed, I think the independent nominal form in my experience is only used after there has been some discourse already with the form including the nationality — or in linguistic discussions where the particular location and nationality is not fixed to just one. E.g. “And these patterns are seen more often in first-generation speakers than in second-generation, as borne out in our studies of immigrant families in the U.S. and Ireland, and Schwarz & Weiss 1975 in Myanmar.” That may be closer to what you are patterning?

    But indeed I think we all have seen (if not noted) the indecision you mention, on whether the generation count is zero-based or one-based. But good point that there is an additional twist about the children brought in. My Aunt Marie was already born when she came from Russia with my paternal grandparents (actually it was from the USSR at the time), who settled in Ohio and had four more boys, including my father. So am I second-generation American while my cousins from Aunt Marie are first-generation?

    Speaking of Shibboleth, the University of Chicago provides a sort of single-sign-on service for public-facing but restricted access web sites, and the address where this is all mediated is called shibboleth.uchicago.edu .

    Another speaking-of …. Speaking of nationally restricted familiar nursery rhymes and the like, even within a single language community — I recently watched a very involving TV limited-series called “Doctor Foster”. I had no idea until something called my attention to it, that there is an apparently fairly well-known nursery rhyme about a Doctor Foster in the UK. A child recites part of it (about stepping in a puddle) to the title character (played by Suranne Jones), and when the child’s mother hushes him and starts to apologize, Dr. Foster says it doesn’t matter, and anyway she is about to divorce and will change her name

  31. Quoth Mitch: ” Indeed, I think the independent nominal form in my experience is only used after there has been some discourse already with the form…”

    Well, yes, but when you are an immigrant or even first generation, that discourse is always lingering there; you can safely assume that any discussion about anything is only at most one degree of separation from the topic of immigration…

    So yes, first generation American, but you can just assume as given the context of immigration…

  32. So in the book I was reading where I was surprised by the redefinition, the phrase, as far as I can see now upon rechecking, was only used once: “A large majority of first-generation kids speak English well.” And then there are a few tables and graphs by generation, (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) (making clear that counting does not start at zero) where I guess it’s assuming the “kids” part, though I have no problem seeing it as an independent noun phase.

  33. We in the computer industry also have our own use of “first generation.” The ENIAC was typical of the very first electronic computers. Each was unique, and they were difficult to design, difficult to build and difficult to use. Then a number of people including John von Neumann worked out a “stored program” architecture that was quickly adopted. The designers of these machines still had to do a lot of calculations, but they were able to use existing computers like ENIAC to help. This is a rare case of a machine or tool being used to design an improved version of itself; one could say ENIAC had children which were the first stored-program machines including the Univac 1 and IBM 701. They were the first computers generated by a computer, thus “first generation.” These vacuum-tube computers were used to design the transistorized computers like the IBM 1440 and the GE 225 that we call the “second generation”, which were then used to design the “third generation” computers built with integrated circuits like the IBM 360. But after the third generation the later generations start to get indistinct with no clear line for a fourth or fifth generation, just as with an immigrant population where a person could be fourth generation on his mother’s side but fifth generation on his father’s side.

  34. Thanks, MiB for that interesting précis on computer design generations.

    It strikes me now that the cellular networking systems 3G, 4G, 5G, are widely treated as standing for Generation ; yet you rarely see those spelled out.

  35. What MiB said. What many folks don’t realize is that all of this generation stuff meant that with each new generation, you got to rewrite all your programs! Yippee! One of the guiding principles of the IBM System/360 in 1964 was that it was a family of machines that could all (FSVO “all”–I’m looking at you, 360/20) run the same programs. Surprise, that was a success and now we’re baffled by the idea that this would NOT be the case.

    Mitch4: The cellular “Generation” thing got badly blurred. 4GLTE, for example, was “Fourth generation long term evolution”, which originally meant “Yeah, this isn’t REALLY 4G” and perhaps never really was. (I’m also astonished that any marketing department let something new and whiz-bang be called LTE, which always looked like LITE.) So there’s 4G and then there’s 4G, to some extent. Not to mention that with all the different bands and a few mixed technologies, it’s even harder to draw the line.

    I hope that 5G and beyond will be clearer, but hold out little hope for it.

  36. With the early computers, “generations” were literally about generation. But because the first generation was all vacuum tubes and the second generation was all individual transistors and the third generation was all integrated circuits, “generation” came to mean a level of technology. They also spoke of “generations” of programming languages: first-generation languages like Fortran and COBOL, second generation like Algol. That would make PL/I, developed by IBM specifically to go along with the IBM 360 computer, a “third generation” language. Which I think would be enough in itself to stop all talk of generations of programming language. PL/I is like when a line of royalty has gone on too long and the heir apparent is an idiot.

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