For the most part, I dabble in lighthearted stuff, trivia and local history for example, leaving the serious topics to the heavyweights of column writing. Thus I was surprised – and amused – when a reader wrote to pick apart a column that mentioned the price of food and clothing 60 years ago. What I should have done, the writer said in a castigating tone, was indulge in (heaven forbid) serious journalism and compare the buying power of the dollar now and in the ’30s.

In contrast, another reader telephoned to tell me how much she and her friends enjoyed the column and were looking forward to more like it. Like most readers, the caller accepts this column for what it is – entertainment, pure and simple.

Questioning the intelligence of readers by stating the obvious – that in 1934, for example, a $5 pair of pants costs $60 today – isn’t the purpose of this column. On the other hand, entertaining readers and testing the reasoning power at the same time is cricket. Starting with my favorite type of puzzle, the rebus, here’s a light summer quiz. I hope you find it entertaining and a bit of a strain on your brain. But no nasty letters please if you have any difficulty working everything out.

The rebus is a kind of visual pun where words or phrases are represented by pictures of letters. For example AALLLL translates into the well-known phrase “all in all.” Now, try your hand at the following, covering the answers first.

  1. GEGS (A kind of food);
  2. Some common phrases) DEATH/LIFE; poFISHnd; COF FEE; LA BOR; HOU SE; TIASTITCHME; DOTHEPE; HE/HIMSELF; All/word.


  1. Scrambled eggs.
  2. Life after death; a big fish in a small pond; coffee break; division of labor; a house divided; a stitch in time; the inside dope; he’s beside himself; it’s a small wonder after all.

Read the following sentence once, and only once slowly, counting the number of F’s: FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY. How many F’s did you find? Answer- Five. Most people only get three.

Read this nursery rhyme and then figure out the question posed in the last line: As I was going to St. Ives/I met a man with seven wives/Every wife had seven sacks/Every sack had seven cats/Every cat has seven kits/Kits, cats, sacks, wives/How many were going to St. Ives?

Did you fall into this language trap by multiplying 7 times 7 times 7 times 7 and adding one for the man? The answer is one. Only the speaker was going to St. Ives. The man, wives, sacks, cats, etc., were going from St. Ives.

Here are some proverbs that have been garbled up a bit with pompous words. Translate them into the more familiar form.

  1. The temperance of the aqueous content of a metallic receptacle under unremitting surveillance does not attain its level of evaporation.
  2. Freedom from incrustations of grime is contiguous to rectitude.
  3. Pulchritude reposed within the optic parameters of the receiver.
  4. Persons deficient in judgement hasten to undertake that for which winged celestials hesitate to assume responsibility.


  1. A watched pot never boils.
  2. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  3. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  4. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

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