Abaddon Books

Word Nerd: Fish and and and and and Chips

4 years ago

Quickie for you.

According to the internet, these sentences come from Martin Gardner’s Aha! Gotcha, a book of logic and mathematics puzzles written in 1982; but I first heard this story, probably twenty-five years ago, as being an exchange in the Letters to the Editor section of the Times, and frankly it’s a funnier story that way, so I choose to believe Gardner got it from the Times.

Anyway, goes the story, there were three letters sent into the Times, a few days apart.

Letter the First

Dear Sir,

I was extremely distressed to note that your front page article of this Monday featured a simple word repetition. I can think of no sentence in the English language in which the word “and” appears twice in succession.

Yrs,

Disgruntled

Letter the Second

Dear Disgruntled,

It’s curious that you should mention that; I was recently in the High Street of my local village, and happened to note that the signwriter still hard at work at the new eatery had left too little space between the words Fish and And and And and Chips.

Yrs,

Amused

Letter the Third

Dear Amused,

Salutary as your example is, perhaps it would have been clearer had you placed quotation marks before “Fish,” and between “Fish” and “and,” and “and” and “And,” and “And” and “and,” and “and” and “And,” and “And” and “and,” and “and” and “Chips,” and after “Chips.”

Yrs,

Thorough

Thought I’d share that with you.

David

As always, if you want to argue with me, or to chat about this shit, or to propose a topic for a future blog, let me know! Tweet us; Facebook us; let’s have an argument/chat.