The 10 Greatest Literary Tweets Of All Time

by Robin Bloor on January 20, 2011

The web is awash with lists of tweets from famous movie stars, famous sportsmen, famous politicians, famous rock stars, famous comedians and so on. But sadly there is a dearth of literary tweets by famous authors and playwrights. So to even up the imbalance a little, we have compiled a list of  the 10 greatest literary tweets on record:

  1. “Out, damn’d Spot! out, I say!” ~ tweeted twice by Lady Macbeth while trying to put the dog out on a rainy Scottish night. (Macbeth – William Shakespeare)
  2. “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” ~ tweeted by T S Eliot after complaining about the desperate lack of coffee spoons at Starbucks. (The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock – T S Eliot)
  3. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present.” ~ tweeted by Scrooge to explain why he wouldn’t be sending anyone Christmas presents in the holiday season. (A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens)
  4. ” . . . every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.” Peter Pan wikileaking the secret of how to rid the earth of its plague of fairies. It provoked tens of thousands of “I don’t believe in fairies” tweets – setting a Twitter record. (Peter Pan – J M Barrie)
  5. “My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create.” Frankenstein’s monster vainly tweeting instructions to scientists around the world after failing to encounter a suitable mate on and (Frankenstein – Mary Shelley)
  6. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” ~ Hamlet letting Horatio know that he was a crap philosopher, via Twitter. (Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – William Shakespeare)
  7. “Call me Ishmael.” ~ tweeted by Captain Ahab when trying to recruit crew to sail on the ill-fated Pequod in search of Moby Dick, the great white whale. (Moby Dick – Herman Melville)
  8. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” ~ Jane Austen’s most famous tweet in her long campaign against gay marriage among the landed gentry and aristocracy in the UK. (Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen)
  9. “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest — Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” Pirates tweeting their record breaking achievement of standing 15 men on a single rib cage prior to making their submission to the Guinness Book of Records. (Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson)
  10. “Off with his head!” ~ The Queen of Hearts’ immediately tweeted reaction, on hearing that Julian Assange and Wikileaks had revealed that the roses in her garden were being painted red. Records indicate that her tweet preceded by months noted tweets by various US politicians and pundits calling for the same. (Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll)

Any reader who can improve on this list is invited to do so – by comment, email or tweet.

See also: The 10 Most Important Tweets of All Time


10 Words You Don’t Know That Won’t Stay In Vegas

by Robin Bloor on December 31, 2010

No matter what your level of anosognosia, the annoying STD you contract in Vegas will not stay in Vegas. Anosognosia is “a disbelief in the existence of a disease one has contracted.” But sadly, microbes don’t care whether you believe in them or not, otherwise penicillin would be out of a job and on food stamps. And, of course, there’s no biological imperative that confines those microbes to Vegas or even the state of Nevada.

As you might expect, there are quite a few obscure words, aside from anosognosia, which relate to things that are “Vegas in nature” and we have assembled more than ten of them. Most of them are not confined by the Las Vegas city limits and hence are found in some measure elsewhere, but their center of gravity is surely in Vegas. Here they are:

1. Aleatory. There is no other place on earth like Vegas. With a mere half a million residents, it would be quite small, were it not for the roughly 2 million visitors staying in the city at any given time, outnumbering the residents 4 to 1. Only 100,000 of these are likely to have come to Las Vegas specifically to gamble – a mere 5% – but nevertheless 87% of them will bet on something before they leave.

Each year about $6 billion is spent on gambling in Las Vegas.
 Clearly, for many people, having an enjoyable time in Vegas is an aleatory thing, or possibly a very aleatory thing. You may have gone to Vegas on holiday or you may be attending one of the thousands of business conferences that bloom and die there each year. You may even have gone there to gamble; to attend some poker tournament or other. If the last of these possibilities is the case then having an enjoyable time is purely aleatory.

Aleatory means “dependent on chance,” or “pertaining to gambling or luck.”

2. Asphalia. There are those who will maintain that winning at Poker has nothing to do with luck and to some extent that’s true – the less talented players regularly lose to the more talented ones. But nevertheless, Poker is awash with asphalia and Vegas is awash with Poker. Indeed, the game of Poker could have been named asphalia. It might have been had people wanted to name the game for what it was about, in the way that pick-up-sticks and hide-and-seek are named.

In Poker, whatever the variant of the game, cards are dealt, and the players bet on whether the hand they hold is better than those of their opponents. The activity is asphalia pure and simple; wagering about the truth of something.

You might object to the need for such a word, given that all gambling is about betting on some outcome and could thus be classified as asphalia. But there are degrees. Poker is a different kind of gambling to, say, putting money on a horse or a football team or even feeding money into the mouth of a one-armed bandit. The poker player calculates probabilities and bets on his ability to confuse his opponents into believing that the hand he holds is either better or worse than it actually is. It’s mostly psychological.

An alternative but related meaning for asphalia is “the emphatic guaranteeing of what one is saying.” That’s the poker bluff delivered with style and panash.

3. Cestuan. Of course you may not be drawn to Vegas by ashphalian pursuits. It has other attractions. For example you may head there for cestuan entertainment. In which case, aside from buying a ticket, you are not putting any money at risk – unless you bet on the outcome of the contest. Cestuan entertainment is one of the world oldest sports; boxing and the word “cestuan” has the specific meaning of “pertaining to a boxer’s gloves.”

Let me explain.
 Fist fighting is at least 9000 years old. It is illustrated on an ancient Mesopotamian stone tablet that dates back that far, and can also be seen on Sumerian relief carvings and Egyptian reliefs.
The innovation of boxing gloves appears to have occurred around 2000 BC, not with the intention of softening the blows, but for protecting the knuckles. The earliest boxing gloves were simply purpose-designed leather straps.

You’ll not be surprised to discover that the Romans were big fans of boxing, both as a sport and, more viciously, as a gladiatorial contest. The gladiator boxers wore heavy leather straps on their arms to protect against blows and lead “cestae” over their knuckles both to protect them and add force to their blows. That’s where the word cestaun comes from – the Roman knuckle duster.

4. Philopornist. Vegas is just the place for the paphian philopornist who longs for erotogenic contrectation and construpation with some concupiscent fricatrice. Such engagements happen rather often, one is led to believe. But what does it all mean?

Taking the question philosophically, one could speculate on the nature of man, or at least the nature of horny men. But taking it philologically it simply means: Vegas is a suitable venue for debauched interactions with prostitutes. Or more precisely…

  • Paphian means pertaining to love, especially its sexual and illicit manifestations.
  • Erotogenic means producing erotic desire or sexual gratification
  • Contrectation is simply touching, but in the sexual way.
  • Constupration is sexual violation and debauchery
  • Concupiscent means lusty
  • And, a fricatrice is a prostitute.

As for the unexpected word philopornist, its Greek etymology gives it away. Philos is love and porne is Greek for prostitute. A pornographer was thus originally someone who wrote about prostitutes, which technically makes me a pornographer at this very moment.

5. Hymeneal. Vegas is famed for its hymeneal events, and even proclaims itself to be the hymeneal capital of the world. And well it might. Such events in Las Vegas may take place in a helicopter, in a hot air balloon, on a roller coaster, on a yacht or gondola on Lake Las Vegas, on a Mississippi style paddlewheel boat, in a wild west location close to Vegas, or simply in a convenient drive-thru location in Vegas itself.

And should you wish it, you can have an Elvis impersonator attend the event in any of these locations. There are estimated to be about 10,000 Elvis impersonators in the world and most of them seem to be in Las Vegas. In fact if Elvis is still alive, as some people still insist, then most likely he’s hiding in plain sight as an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas.

Hymeneal, as you may have guessed is an adjective meaning “relating to marriage.”  It’s origin is obviously in the word hymen, implying a virgin marriage, which I believe is also possible in Vegas.

6. Boniface. The number of hotel rooms in Las Vegas and the surrounding area has to be at least 1.5 million, given that there are two million or so people passing through at any point in time. However there are only 38 major hotels on the famous Las Vegas strip with no more than 40,000 or so rooms between them. In the city itself there are a mere 350 hotels and maybe no more 100 night clubs. There are only 95 actual casinos although the number of establishments with a gambling license is 1700 or so. The number of restaurants is 2500. (These figures are, of course, the best I can find at the time of writing, and they are far more likely to go up than down).

In any event this suggests that the number of bonifaces in Las Vegas is probably about equal to the number of Elvis impersonators, which seems like a reasonable balance to me. A boniface is a proprietor of a hotel, nightclub or restaurant.
 The word is an eponym, deriving from Will Boniface, a character in George Farquhar’s famous comedy play; “The Beaux’ Stratagem” (1707). You’ve never seen it? Shame on you.

7. Josser. The Cirque Du Soleil was born in 1984 and first ventured into Vegas at the tender age of 9, in 1993. Since then it has invaded Vegas taking prime venue after prime venue hostage. It has conquered the strip and (at the time of writing) has 7 shows running concurrently. They are: Mystère, O, Zumanity, Ka, The Beatles LOVE, Believe and Viva Elvis.

Remarkably, what is now the most famous circus in the world was founded by three jossers, Guy Laliberté, Daniel Gauthier and Gilles Ste-Croix. Laliberté was a folk musician and busker who learned the art of firebreathing. He met up with Gauthier and Ste-Croix, while helping to organize a summer fair in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1979. Gauthier and Ste-Croix managed a hostel for performing artists called Le Balcon Vert. They had the idea of organizing the residents of the hostel into a performing troupe.

So Ste-Croix staged a neat publicity stunt, walking 90 km (56 miles) from Baie-Saint-Paul to Québec City on stilts. This earned the trio a grant from the Québec government, which kept them solvent for a while. Then in 1983 the Québec government gave the three jossers a grant of $1.5 million to host a production in 1984 as part of Québec’s 450th anniversary. Laliberté named this production “Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil.”

The rest is geography. The Cirque Du Soleil first toured Québec State, then toured Canada and then toured the whole of North America and then toured the world and finally it invaded Vegas. And much of it has stayed in Vegas.

Jossers, by the way, are people who are not born to the circus, but perform in a circus.

8. Nimptopsical, crapulous, stocious and temulent. A friend of mine was sitting at a bar in a plush Vegas hotel, drinking with a lady friend and shooting the breeze with the bar man. Suddenly their attention was drawn to middle-aged sometime-blonde who drifted into the bar in a rather unsteady way. She was clearly the worse for wear, which is to say nimptopsical, crapulous, stocious and temulent (any single word or any combination works fine).

She sat on a stool in front of a table with a slot machine embedded in its surface and reached into her handbag to get some money from a purse. Unfortunately, because of her (nimptopsical, crapulous, stocious and temulent) condition, she wasn’t quite capable of transferring her dollar bills into the maws of the gambling machine. Also unfortunately, in the process of attempting this, because of her (nimptopsical, crapulous, stocious and temulent) condition she suddenly lost control of her urethral sphincter – which is to say that she began to urinate down her legs and over the stool she sat on, with apparent abandon.

The bar man was quick to respond to the situation. He ceased his breeze-shooting, grabbed a walkie-talkie and contacted someone somewhere else in the building.

He said: “Hey, can you send some help, we’ve got a 314 down here.”

After only a few minutes had passed three men appeared, two of whom escorted the lady away, possibly to her room, or possibly out of the hotel. Meanwhile the third did what was possible to clean up the mess and return everything to the state it was before the nimptopsical, crapulous, stocious and temulent woman appeared on the scene.

My friend wasn’t sure whether he was more impressed with the speed with which the incident was resolved or the fact that the bar man had a specific code to describe the event and clearly knew the code by heart.

9. Chrematist: The people who go to Vegas with the idea that they will somehow beat the odds are generally deluded, but it’s easy to become deluded. Consider the following statement made to me by a mathematician called Claude, who was studying to be an actuary, but who was also an incurable gambler and a one time drinking friend.

If you know just one number, yes just one number, which the roulette ball will not land on, then you can win at roulette.

Technically this is true for a roulette wheel with just one zero, depending on what odds are offered. But the simple fact is that you don’t know one number that the ball won’t land on. And you never will. Nevertheless, my acquaintance spent many months visiting gambling clubs across the world, regularly losing money trying to discover the edge that would make him a fortune.

He used to say, “I’m searching for a regularity. I’m searching for a regularity.”

After months of debates and much analysis over many lunches and bar conversations, we eventually discovered a regularity. The regularity was that Claude always lost money. So we formulated a theory that in order to win in gambling games it was only necessary to find a person who was clearly a perennial loser, like Claude, and place bets that are the opposite to those he places. You would need to pick the right gambling games, but roulette or craps would work fine.

We never got round to testing this theory but if you think it will work then, be my guest.

The people in Las Vegas who are not gambling are those who own the casinos. Every single gambling game in the Casinos is stacked against the customer to some degree; the roulette wheel, craps, Keno, Black Jack, etc. The same is true of the one-arm-bandits.

One might say that the owners of the casino hotels are not just successful business men, they are chrematists; people who study wealth as a science. They have identified one of the least speculative ways to make money. They have spotted a supreme regularity and they are mining it for all they are worth. They are betting against Claude and millions of others like him.

10. Insapory. Insapory means tasteless. Las Vegas is insapory by any reasonable definition – an almost perfect marriage between surrealism and kitch, with a dash of ersatz thrown in. Fiction could not have invented any place like it. What will our great great grandchildren think of this place? What will future civilizations think?

Walking along the strip one time I fantasized about a world 10,000 years on, which – having been destroyed by some global disaster – was gradually seeing the return of civilization.

One day, a clutch of well educated archaeologists notice a large mound in the Nevada desert and decide to embark upon an archaeological dig. “This must have been an ancient town of some kind,” they reason, “for there is evidence that a river once flowed close by.” They wonder who could have lived in such an inhospitable area.

After months of digging they begin to make remarkable discoveries. They unearth a Sphinx-like statute: “Must have been an ancient Egyptian settlement,” they conclude. They discover a statue of Caesar: “Maybe this was a settlement of an Italian tribe that intermarried with Egyptians,” they postulate. They unearth a faux Statue of Liberty: “A little like a statuesque relic found in the North East, possibly  built by the same tribe,” they theorize. They discover the remains of a tower identical to one found in Paris, Europe: “Perhaps this was a French settlement?” they muse. Some relics indicate gondolas similar to the ancient boats of Venice in the Mediterranean. Then there are Chinese statues, African relics and so on.

Eventually one of the archaeologists dares to suggest that this place was actually the location of  the legendary “United Nations” where representatives from all tribes around  the world met to discuss the political issues of the day.

Amongst the ruins they run into one strange artefact again and again, which they can make no sense of whatever. They find so many of them that they realize that these devices must have had immense importance. They consist of a metal case and three revolving wheels on which strange glyphs are inscribed. Sometimes the glyphs are of fruit and the number 7 often appears on these strange wheels.

Opinion is divided among the archaeologists. Some are convinced that these are religious devices, rather like the prayer wheels that were found in ancient Tibet. One of the archaeologist reconstructs one of these devices and discovers that by feeding a round flat token into a slot, the wheels would spin, sending prayers up to heaven. One suggests that should the wheels stop with the same three glyphs in a row, then surely this would be taken as a good omen sent by the gods to the supplicant.

Other archaeologists pose a different theory. They suggest that these machines are nothing more nor less than voting machines. Indeed, the machines represented a unique randomizing approach to resolving disputes. They hypothesize that representatives from all nations would gather in a large auditorium and debate  the issues of  the day, and a motion would be presented to be voted on. However, in order to prevent tribes banding together deceitfully to create alliances that could force a particular outcome, each delegate would register their vote by placing a round flat token in the slot of one of these machines. The wheels would spin, but only those delegates whose machines came up with three identical glyphs would get to vote. Because of this it would be impossible to rig the outcome of any vote.

Years pass and neither theory gains the upper hand. Many learned articles are written, and angry academic disputes flare up every once in a while. But somehow it never gets resolved. Were those machines prayer wheels or were they voting devices?


10 Beautiful Words You Don’t Know

August 9, 2010

There are lots of words that mean or imply “beautiful.” Here’s a list pulled from a thesaurus: adonic, adorable, aesthetic, alluring, attractive, becoming, blooming, bonny, bright, charming, classy, comely, dainty, dapper, dazzling, delicate, elegant, enchanting, exquisite, fair, fascinating, fine, glamorous, glossy, glowing, gorgeous, graceful, handsome, lovely, magnificent, picturesque, pretty, quaint, refined, resplendent, rosy, seemly, shapely, shining, sparkling, splendid, spotless, spruce, stylish, sublime, superb, svelte, winsome. My guess is you know […]

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Horse Race For The Honeymoon-Is-Over Cup

August 6, 2010

I have to thank Candace Clemens for passing this YouTube clip on to me. Already seen by hundreds of thousands. Destined to be watched by millions.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-20

June 20, 2010

Obesity is the #1 health problem among dogs (and in the US, their owners too I expect). I’m drinking my problems away. Since I have a drinking problem, this could take a while. Only in America do they have Braille on drive-thru ATM machines

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