Friday, January 23, 2009


Do you long to have your writing not merely published on paper but etched into stone for the ages? You can — for the simple price of a granite slab. Some of the cleverest, pithiest words ever penned, or rather carved, have been on gravestones in the form of epitaphs. (But how disconcerting to know that your life can be summarized in words few enough to fit on a kneehigh stone.)

Although getting your epitaph carved on your gravestone does come with the unfortunate condition that you be deceased, you can take consolation in this: you can write your own. The British collector of epitaphs, W.H. Howe wrote: "Sometimes (epitaphs) were written by their subject, who feared to leave his reputation to his surviving friends and to — truth."

Howe compiled a collection of epitaphs in a little book entitled: "Everybody's Book of Epitaphs: Being for the Most Part What the Living Think of the Dead." My wife found it at the McCracken County Library semi-annual book sale yesterday at our church, St. Paul Lutheran, where she filled a bag for $7.

Some of the epitaphs contained in the collection are lengthy, glorious monstrosities; others morbid condemnations; others touching tributes. The best are humorous quips.

Here lies interr'd beneath these stones
The beard, the flesh, and eke ye bones
of Wrexham's clerk, old Daniel Jones

An author:

A photographer:
Taken from life

Dr. Potter, archbishop of Canterbury:
Alack and well a-day
Potter himself is turned to clay

Sir John Strange:
Here lies an honest lawyer:
That is Strange

Here lies 2 brother by misfortun serounded
One dy'd of his wounds, and the other was drownded

Friday, January 9, 2009



A former colleague from Texas sent a link to the Merriam Webster Online page on the topic of mondegreens. A mondegreen is "a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung."

"The ants are my friends" for "The answer, my friend (is blowing in the wind)." Bob Dylan
"There's a bathroom on the right" for "There's a bad moon on the rise." Credence Clearwater Revival

Do you have a mondegreen? Ever think you knew the lyrics to a song only to discover later you were wrong? Ever hear your kids singing the wrong words to a song?

Style Invitational

If you enjoy wordplay, I encourage you to check out the Washington Post's "Style Invitational" online, now approaching week 800, with a new call for entries each week. The Jan. 3 edition posted results of week 794's contest "for headlines a la those in the satirical newspaper the Onion.

My favorites
Fourth place: Image of Tortilla Mysteriously Appears on Stature of Virgin Mary.
Second place: "'Liberal Elitist Press' Condemned by Ignorant Lowlife Redneck Hatemongers."
First place: "In Final rip to Beijing, Bush Calls on Premier to 'Tear Down This Wall.'"