A Tale of Two Places –

In an earlier posting I describe a fun word-game in which the word “pants” is substituted into quotes or lyrics of sentences. We used to play it at a company I started back in 1997, and I always thought we were the inventors of it (alcohol was involved!) We had another game that we played, which was the elaborate retelling of Official Jokes. There were 3 (the lion hunter joke, the parrot in the fridge joke, and the kennedy assassination joke) and since we all knew them, for some reason it was screamingly funny to hear someone trying to tell an old joke in a new way.

Christopher Hitchens apparently had a word-game he taught Salman Rushdie, which consisted of coming up with titles of movies, best-sellers, songs or sayings that didn’t quite make it. Like the title of this posting, which is one of Jenna’s (and is one of my favorites)

The game is at 50:48

unhappies copyHitchens’ version is “what would such-and-such be titled if it were a Robert Ludlum novel?”  That generalizes to titles that didn’t quite work.

Like Charles’ Dickens “Tale of Two Places”

“The Lion, The Witch, and The Dresser” by C. S. Lewis.

Then there’s Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Rock” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to a Nice Place.”

“Fifty Shades of Grey: the Greying”

Michael Moorcock’s “Elric of Melbourne” was a high school favorite. As was Heinlein’s “The moon is a harsh mother.”


I grew up reading Willard Espy’s “Almanac of Words at Play” [amazon]  It’s a lot of such silliness and it did its share of teaching me a fondness for verbal games.


  1. says

    I highly recommend that you find recordings of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue”. Full of this kind of word play. It’s often to be found via the BBC iPlayer, but not at the moment. Some episodes have probably been posted to YouTube.

  2. cartomancer says

    Ben Elton put some of these based on Shakespeare plays into his Shakespeare-in-the-style-of-Blackadder sitcom “Upstart Crow” last year.

    The Merchant of Guildford
    Seventeen Gentlemen of Verona (that one needs a bit of trimming)
    The Taming of the Vole
    A Midsummer Night’s Whimsical Old Tosh
    A not very funny story about errors

  3. says

    The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. – Samuel Clemens.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    And, of course, the ancient and honorable tradition (invented by Confucius) of adding “in bed” to each fortune read from a Chinese fortune cookie.

  5. Brian English says

    There was this near-mistep from Gaius:
    De altercatione gallica

    And this one by Scipio was not recorded, thankfully:

    Carthago inclamata est!

    I await my deserved corrections Carto. :)

  6. says

    That reminds me of Austen’s other great work “Sense and Political Correctness Gone Wild.”
    I loved that one when I was in high school.

    Brian English@#6:
    I think I read that one by Caesar, it was pretty brief, though.
    If you like military history, I also recommend Sun Tzu’s “The Art of Squabbling.”