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.
Rhetorical Questions, Answered!

April 4, 2012 (permalink)

"Every now and then some people in your audience will try to answer your rhetorical question. If someone offers you an answer, you need to be able to handle the response."
R. Mark Giuliano, Speak Easy (2005)

February 28, 2012 (permalink)

"[Harold] Bloom answers the rhetorical question, can we conceive of ourselves without Shakespeare? with a resounding no." —Dominic Pettman, Human Error (2011)

February 14, 2012 (permalink)


Matthew asks:

Q: What idiot told the blindfolded, naked kid he could play with a bow and arrows, anyway?

A: Greek mythology blames his overindulgent mother Aphrodite.  Roman mythology blames his deadbeat dad, Mars.

December 9, 2011 (permalink)

Q: Where do I begin?

A: The answer is right there in your kitchen. (Kelly Hancock, Saving Savvy, 2011)

October 4, 2011 (permalink)




September 7, 2011 (permalink)

Q: How can I open the door when there is no keyhole?

A: Break through it with words, blows, prayers, or music.

Leonora Carrington, The Stone Door

July 18, 2011 (permalink)

"The whole of life consists of nothing but questions which have taken on physical form and which bear the seed of their answer within them, and of answers which are pregnant with questions.  A man who sees anything else in it is a fool."
—Gustav Meyrink, The Golem

January 24, 2011 (permalink)

From our former outpost at Twitter:

Why do we praise people for making a "difference" when they're actually making a "sum"?

Gary Barwin wittily answers:

I think it's a product of the times.

June adds:

It just doesn't add up.

January 20, 2011 (permalink)

In the British comedy series "Absolutely Fabulous," a life coach gives this ridiculous "daily aim": "Have a great idea and write a pop song."  We couldn't help but think back on that line when we saw this advice:

Create a poignant rhetorical question, use it often, and make it yours.
—The Complete Idiot's Guide to Power Words




This frame is from the hilarious and endearing Mapp & Lucia series, based on E. F. Benson's novels.  We agree with Nigel Hawthorne here — well-chosen words don't write themselves!

December 31, 2010 (permalink)

Q: Why do I have to ask the questions?
A: Do you think that is the question to ask?
Geof Huth, personal correspondence

December 5, 2010 (permalink)

Jeff asks today's question:

Q: What is it about rhetorical questions?

A: Yeah, I know, right?

July 18, 2010 (permalink)

Gary Barwin asks:

I want to contract the word "don't" by leaving the appostrophe out.  Do I have to put it back in in order to take it out?

Here's our solution:



June 8, 2010 (permalink)

Q: "What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?" —Bertolt Brecht

A: The hole hovers in Swedenborgian space.

---

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt adds:

Having originated, of course, in Switzerlandborgian space.

Pitchinwoot writes:

The mice collect them for their Mouse Holes.



June 4, 2010 (permalink)



A still from Vertigo (a film irreparably marred by Kim Novak's clownishly painted on eyebrows).

---

June writes:

That's what Laura Palmer's mother said when SHE saw the white horse!

May 16, 2010 (permalink)

Q. And, after all, is not eating well what the culinary arts are all about?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. That was actually a rhetorical question. Aren't you supposed to be on break?

—humorist, playwright, neologist, palindromist, parodist, and wit Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

May 9, 2010 (permalink)


Photo via.
"I was surprised anybody had answered my rhetorical question."
David Farris, Lie Still, 2004

April 27, 2010 (permalink)

Q: Why can't we see peels of thunder?

A: Because they're the same color as the sky. —Jeff Hawkins



March 1, 2010 (permalink)

Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain" doesn't identify its subject, yet actor Warren Beatty has asserted that it's about him.  Beatty's assertion begs a question: if anyone takes "You're So Vain" personally, is he or she technically correct?

The answer is Yes!  According to Hugh Everett's "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics, every possible quantum vanity is realized.  In the many-branched tree of parallel universes, each and every vain human being is the true subject of Carly Simon's song.

---


This is very comforting! Imagine being vain enough to think YSV was about you, but finding out it wasn't. The very world might cease to revolve around one.

Technical question: Does Everett's theory still hold for values of "a" (a = age of vain individual) that are < Y (Y = years elapsed since song was written)? In other words, was Simon farsighted enough to build infinite references to unborn vain people into her song? 

Similarly, I note the problematics around individuals who were alive when the song was written but not yet vain, their vanity only to develop later on. In their case, I hypothesize a "critical vanity threshold," or CVT--the discrete moment at which someone's vanity has matured to the point where Simon's song begins to refer to him or her.

December 24, 2009 (permalink)

Q: What's more pedestrian than a painting of a bowl of fruit?

A: A painting of pedestrians.

(Thanks, Mike!)

Jonathan suggests a painting of the backside of a crosswalk signal.

November 12, 2009 (permalink)

Q: "Everything can't be Kafkaesque, can it?  I ask myself this over and over, even though I know it's a rhetorical question." —William Keckler

A: Yes, everything is indeed Kafkaesque, except at the antipodes, where everything is reversed.



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