Sunday, December 29, 2019

Literary Curiosities & Factoids

Image result for literary images

I enjoyed reading a copy of The Literary Life and Other Curiosities:  Revised and Expanded by Robert Hendrickson.  The 25-year-old book is a compendium of literary curiosities and treats that should delight bibliophiles.

Here are some interesting factoids presented in the book:

·         The word typewriter came from American Christopher Latham Sholes, who patented the very first commercial typewriter in 1868.

·         The term “the pen is mightier than the sword” came from an 1839 play, Richelieu, by Edward Bulwer Lytton.

·         The most prolific published author in modern times is Kathleen Lindsay of South Africa.  She wrote 904 novels under six pen names.  She died at the age of 70 in 1973.

·         Did you know the famous line: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” comes from Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning?

·         Lipograms are books that purposely do not contain one or more letters of the alphabet.

·         A sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet is a pangram.

·         P.E.N. (International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists) turns 100 in 2021.

·         Which writer has been written the most about in books?  No. 1: Shakespeare. No. 2: Dante. No. 3: Goethe. No. 4: Cervantes. No. 5: Dickens.

·         The author of Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, claims to have fathered over 500 illegitimate children.

·        A bibliopole is simply a book dealer, while a bibliotaph is one who conceals or hoards books, keeping them under lock and key, and a biblioclast is somebody who destroys books for any reason, ideological or not.  A bibliophile is someone who collects and treasures books either for their value or for what’s in them, and a bibliomaniac is a bibliophile gone bonkers, one who loves books to the point of madness.

·         America’s first book club was the Book-of-the-Month Club, founded in April 1926.

·         E is the most commonly used letter in English.  It is followed in order of use by t, a, i, s, o, n, h, r, d, l, u, c, m. f, w, y, p, g, b, v, k, j, q, x, z.

·         The twelve most commonly used written English words:

1.      the
2.      of
3.      and
4.      to
5.      a
6.      in
7.      that
8.      is
9.      I
10.  it
11.  for
12.  as

Language Oddities
Did you now that William Shakespeare used 22,000 different words in his plays, which was a significant percentage of recorded words back then.  The Old Testament, by comparison, only uses 6,000 unique words.  The average American uses only a few thousand words in everyday speech while the very educated may use 30,000 to 60,000 words.

According to I Hear America Talking, a 1976 book by Stuart Berg Flexner, the four most common words spoken in English are I, you, the A.  I and you accounted for 10% of all informal conversation.

The American Heritage Word Frequency book of 1971 said the top 10 most commonly written words were all three or few letters long.  “That” was the longest word used.

Home to Dead Writers
Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery houses the remains of many literary greats, including Moliere, Colette, Daudet, Romains, Provst, Balzac, Apollinaire, Abelard and Heloise. The brilliant writers rest all over the place.  At Cambridge, Massachusetts in Mount Auburn Cemetery, we can find Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bartlett and Amy Lowell.  In London’s Highgate Cemetery you’ll find buried Karl Marx, George Eliot, Coleridge, and Mrs. Henry Wood.  Other cemeteries housing literary heavyweights include Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (Concord, MA), Forest Hills Cemetery (Boston), and Bunhill Fields (London).  The Novo-Divichy Cemetery in Moscow houses Chekhov, Gogol, Lenin, Stalin, and John Reed.  The Woodlawn Cemetery in New York houses Melville, Victor Herbert, George M. Cohan, and Nellie Bly. 

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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