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June 15, 2008


The genius & gleanings of Bombaugh

by quaesitor

I’ve no idea who Charles Carroll Bombaugh was but he was clearly some sort of literary genius. Thanks to a wonderfully pointless blog that I’ve recently come across (called Futility Closet), a number of his moments of brilliance have been granted a new lease of life (having previously been buried in his epic 1870 tome, Gleanings for the Curious from the Harvest-Fields of Literature). I’ve now ordered a recent edition book so hopefully will be able to share more. But for now, here are one or two tasters.

Death and Life

Of course, by itself, this looks like a string of meaningless letters. But as recent studies of the brain have shown, we find ourselves filling in the gaps immediately in the attempt to make sense of it all.

But context is king – and if you add just a few other letters, very different messages emerge, while leaving the original texts intact. Pretty cool, huh?

Now wrap your brain folds around this next one:

Got That?

Now, that is a word that may often be joined,
For that that may be doubled is clear to the mind;
And that that that is right, is as plain to the view,
As that that that that we use, is rightly used, too,
And that that that that that line has in it, is right–
In accordance with grammar — is plain in our sight.

OK – so that’s got that clear then. Finally, here’s a quiz

The Missing Vowel

In an old church in Westchester county, New York, the following consonants are written under the Ten Commandments. Supplying one vowel will bring sense. Can you work out the sensible advice being offered here?


You might get a crunchie bar if I’m very nice and can work it out.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 16 2008

    Oooh – I GOT it. (Spoiler alert – stop reading if you don’t want to know…) – Add the letter “e” sprinkled in liberally and get “persevere ye perfect men; ever keep these precepts ten.”

    Thanks for the fun. You’ll have to post the crunchie bar to the U.S. Or a pat on the virtual back with suffice.

  2. Jun 16 2008

    Well done, Wendy – great job. Well, you’ll have to have a virtual pat, or even a virtual crunchie (unless you come back to London)

  3. Jun 16 2008

    Ah, I couldn’t get what was going on with the ‘y’ Ye does work.

  4. Jun 16 2008

    As long as it’s virtual, I’ll have the king size. It’s only virtual calories anyway…

  5. I believe that Charles Carroll Bombaugh was a medical doctor who served as a surgeon in the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War.


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