Tag Archives: by Richard Lederer

Anguished English . . . and a good laugh (Thanks–I needed that)




The past couple of weeks of my life have been, well–different–to say the very least. Full of pain, grief and sorrow.  Lots of tears–little laughter. There hasn’t been a whole lot to lighten the mood.

Anyone who has ever been charged with the responsibility of closing out a deceased person’s worldly affairs, along with sorting through their most personal belongings–will surely understand.

The emotions range from wanting to cry, to wanting to scream, and/or just wanting to get back into the bed in the morning and pull the covers up over the head, and stay that way all day.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done–thank you very much big brother. And I mean that too. Because after all is said and done–it is an honor. Dale selected me for the task. And that was because he trusted me, loved me, and probably wanted me to grow in the experience.

And I have.

Even at the ripe old age of sixty-five, I feel I’ve become just a little bit more of a grown-up in the last two weeks.

What I haven’t had much of lately is a darned good laugh.

Well, that changed today. With the discovery of one of Dale’s favorite old books. A 1987 Dell paperback called Anguished English, by Richard Lederer. Dale had read me passages from it many times in the past–and it never failed to produce a few good chuckles and lighten the mood.

It did the same today.

Dr. Richard Lederer (born May 26, 1938) is the author of more than forty books about language, history, and humor, including his best-selling Anguished English series. His works range from bloopers and puns to word origins and word games to pets, and American history.

Raised in West Philadelphia, and a Harvard man to boot, Dr. Lederer is a world-renowned author, teacher, and speaker on the subject of puns, oxymorons, and anagrams.

He is what he himself calls a “Verbivore,” a word he coined himself. His works include such titles as: “Get thee to a Punnery” (1988) “Crazy English”  (1989) “The Word Circus” (1998) “A Man of my Words” (2003).


Richard Lederer
Richard Lederer


I’d like to share a few of the wonderful examples of “Anguished English” that Dr. Lederer provides in his book. In doing so, I am aware that I might perhaps skirt the edge of the “fair use doctrine,” and therefore provide a link at the end of this article for readers to purchase “Anguished English,” if they wish. I highly recommend it.

Excerpted from the book (in italics) . . .

During the early years of space exploration, NASA scientist Wernher von Braun gave many speeches on the wonders and promises of rocketry and space flight. After one of his talks, von Braun found himself clinking cocktail glasses with an adoring woman from the audience.

“Dr. Von Braun,” the woman gushed, “I just loved your speech, and I found it of absolutely infinitesimal value!”

“Well then,” von Braun gulped, “I guess I’ll have to publish it posthumously.”

“Oh yes!” the woman came right back. “And the sooner the better!”

It helps to know the meaning of words–especially if you are going to converse with one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century.

One of the most hilarious sections of the book deals with unintentionally funny signs. As I sat on the floor, in front of the bookcase, in the very room where my brother passed away just a couple of weeks ago, instead of being morose and bereft—I roared in laughter.

It was a welcomed change. Thanks brother, for keeping that book all these years. It was, like you—there when I needed it.

At a restaurant-service station: Eat here and get gas. (Don’t even think of trying the tacos)

At a Santa Fe gas station: We will sell gasoline to anyone in a glass container. (And don’t throw stones either)

In a Michigan restaurant: The early bird gets the worm! Special shoppers’ luncheon before 11AM. (Would you like fries with that?)

On a delicatessen wall: Our best is none too good. (But we are known for our honesty)

On the wall of a Baltimore estate: Trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.—Sisters of Mercy. (Can’t wait to meet the Mother Superior)

On a long established New Mexico dry cleaning store: Thirty-eight years on the same spot. (And we’ll stay with it for as long as it takes)

In a Los Angeles dance hall: Good clean dancing every night but Sunday. (There may be a movie in this somewhere)

In a Florida maternity ward: No children allowed. (Now that may actually be a good idea)

In a New York drugstore: We dispense with accuracy. (I know I’ve been to this store before—and somehow survived)

In the offices of a loan company: Ask about our plans for owning your home. (Talk about truth in lending)

In a New York convalescent home: For the sick and tired of the Episcopal Church. (And honestly—who isn’t?)

On a Maine shop: Our motto is to give our customers the lowest possible prices and workmanship. (Bringing meaning back to “Made in America”)

At a surprising number of military bases: Restricted to unauthorized personnel. (Remember: Military Intelligence is an oxymoron)

On a display of “I love you only” Valentine cards: Now Available in multi-packs. (Liar, liar, pants on fire!)

In a funeral parlor: Ask about out layaway plans. (Does that come with the “flip-top” box?)

In a clothing store: Wonderful bargains for men with 16 and 17 necks. (It’s gonna be a little crowded in that collar)

In a Tacoma, Washington, men’s clothing store: 15 men’s wool suits–$10.00—They won’t last an hour! (Sometimes there is just no substitute for quality)

On an Indiana shopping mall marquee: Archery tournament. Ears pierced. (That’s going to leave a mark)

On an Ohio highway: Drive slower when wet. (always slows me down)

And last, but certainly not least—my personal favorite: In the window of an Oregon general store: Why go elsewhere to be cheated, when you can come here? (I know I’ve shopped here before)

You get the idea. It’s a wild and wacky world out there—full of loveable and bumbling shop and store, and other business owners—and well signed to prove it.

Dr. Lederer’s book is crammed with wonderful examples of the misuse of the English language.

Some headlines:

Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing. (It’s a miracle)

Defendant’s speech ends in long sentence. (Would somebody please just shoot him?)

Asbestos suit pressed. (Neatness counts)

Doctor testifies in horse suit. (Very snazzy)

Complaints about NBA referees growing ugly. (Hey—it’s a natural process)

Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers. (Police brutality run rampant)

Tuna biting off Washington Coast. (I’m guessing it has something to do with global warming)

Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan. (It’s time those dead people got organized)

Two convicts evade noose: Jury hung. (Just try rounding up another twelve)

Man held over giant brush fire. (That’s what you get for being an arsonist)

Traffic dead rise slowly. (Zombie apocalypse?)

South Florida aliens cut in half by new law. (That’ll fix ‘em for sure)
Give it a read if you would like to smile for awhile.

Or maybe—just when you need a good old-fashioned belly laugh.

It might be just what the Doctor ordered.


Thanks for reading. See you all again in a few days with something new.

Until then . . . Goodnight.


Dumb joke of the day: What’s the difference between Roast Beef and Pea Soup? Well . . . anyone can roast beef.




Books by Dr. Richard Lederer