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The Bride of Anguished English: A Bonanza of Bloopers, Blunders, Botches, and Boo-Boos
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The Bride of Anguished English: A Bonanza of Bloopers, Blunders, Botches, and Boo-Boos

by Richard Lederer, Jim McLean (Illustrator), Jim McLean (Illustrator)

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Fans of Richard Lederer's Anguished English series will cherish this newest installment of the author's latest chronicle of the gifts and gaffes of our oddball language. From headlines to menus, student papers to politicians' speeches, every embarrassing example is true-and wonderfully funny.


Fans of Richard Lederer's Anguished English series will cherish this newest installment of the author's latest chronicle of the gifts and gaffes of our oddball language. From headlines to menus, student papers to politicians' speeches, every embarrassing example is true-and wonderfully funny.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Lederer has fashioned an enviable career—to the tune of some 2000 books and articles, if the cover blurb is to be believed—out of collecting puns, typographical errors, mangled metaphors, accidental double entendres, and other linguistic faux pas that are guaranteed to induce giggles in those of us inclined, whether by nature or nurture, to find such philological shenanigans giggle-inducing. I'm sure there are certain people in this wide world of ours who fail to see the humor in a sports headline like "Grandmother of eight makes hole in one" or a restaurant sign announcing that "Shoes are required to eat inside" or the household hint that "Lettuce won't turn brown if you put your head in a plastic bag before placing it in a refrigerator," but why in the world would anyone want to associate with such people? For the rest of us, each new book by Lederer offers the delightful prospect of opening to any page at random and enjoying at least half-a-dozen hearty chuckles. Although a fair number of the supposedly genuine "bloopers, blunders, botches, and boo-boos" presented on these pages were probably penned long ago by some professional humor writer—e.g., "The American Revolution began because the English put tacks in their tea"—even the hoariest chestnuts in Lederer's collection are sure to seem fresh and new to some student who picks up one of his books and discovers for the first time that the English language can be a lot more fun than his excruciatingly dull eighth-grade English teacher may have led him to believe. And that, in my opinion, would be a lesson well worth learning. Category: Literature & Language Arts. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high schoolstudents, advanced students, and adults. 2000, St. Martin's, Griffin, 178p. illus.,
— Jeffrey Cooper; Writer/Editor, Long Island, NY

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.44(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

We Kid You Not

The sins of the fathers, the Second Commandment tells us, shall be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. And so shall the fluffs and flubs and goofs and gaffes of the fathers (and mothers), albeit in a much more innocent form. Children are rich natural sources of fresh bloopers. Some of the brightest pearls in my collection fall from the mouths of babes who are scarcely older than babies.

    For example, an eight-year-old girl submitted this gem about "people" to her teacher:

People are composed of girls and boys, also men and women. Boys are no good at all until they grow up and get married. Men who don't get married are no good either. Boys are an awful bother. They want everything they see except soap.

My ma is a woman and my pa is a man. A woman is a grown-up girl with children. My pa is such a nice man that I think he must have been a girl when he was a little boy.

    Schoolteachers love adding such writing to their collections of "kiddisms" and keep journals of the amusing things their students have said. Some send these slops of the pen and slips of the lips to me so that I can share them with you:

    • A nursery-school teacher had spent half an hour dressing her kiddies for their outdoor playtime, pulling on boots, zipping and buttoning coats, matching mittens and gloves. As she finished struggling with Jennifer's boots, she let out a sigh of relief.Then Jennifer tugged on her arm and announced, "These boots aren't mine, Teacher."

    With a groan the teacher knelt down and pulled off the boots. "Do you know whose boots these are, Jennifer?"

    "Sure. They're my sister's. Mom makes me wear them anyway."

    • On the first day of school, the kindergarten teacher said, "If anyone has to go to the bathroom, hold up two fingers."

    A little voice from the back of the room asked, "How will that help?"

    • A third-grader announced that he had been to an upholstery farm. "What?" he was asked, and again he said that he had visited an upholstery farm. When asked to explain what he had seen there, he said, "Why, turkeys and chickens, of course."

    • A teacher was giving a lesson on the circulation of the blood. Trying to make the matter clearer, he said, "Now, boys and girls, if I stood on my head, the blood, as you know, would run into it, and I would turn red in the face."

    "Yes, sir," the students agreed.

    "Then why is it that while I am standing upright in the ordinary position, the blood doesn't run into my feet?"

    A little fellow shouted, "'Cause your feet ain't empty."

    • The kindergarten teacher was showing her class an encyclopedia page picturing several national flags. She pointed to the American flag and asked, "What flag is this?"

    A little girl called out, "That's the flag of our country."

    "Very good," the teacher said. "And what is the name of our country?"

    "'Tis of thee," the girl said confidently.

    • During academic practice, students were asked to name our national anthem. One student answered, "The Star-Strangled Banner."

    • "Does anyone know what a pasture is?" asked the fourth-grade teacher.

    A hand shot up, and a pupil volunteered, "He's the guy at church!"

    "No," corrected a classmate. "The guy at church isn't called a pasture. He's called a miniature."

    • When a six-year-old was presented with a photograph of a mummy and was asked what a mummy is, he replied, "A mummy is a dead person wrapped in toilet paper."

    • Miss Mayfield had been giving her second-grade students a lesson on science. She had explained about magnets and showed how they could pick up nails and other bits of iron. Now it was question time, and she asked, "My name begins with the letter 'M,' and I pick things up. What am I?"

    A little boy in the front row said, "You're a mother."

    Who else but a mother (except, on occasion, a father) picks up things so thoroughly? And who else but a mother picks up and records the darndest things that kids say?:

    • A mother was putting away dishes in the kitchen when she heard her son call from the den, "Mom, come quickly. I learned how to make babies in school today."

    She almost dropped the dishes and had just composed herself when he again called, "Mom, come and see what I learned about making babies."

    When she finally arrived, her son beamed enthusiastically and said, "See, Mom, you can change the y to i and add es to make babies."

    • A mother was pleased with the card her son had made her for Christmas but was puzzled as to the scraggly-looking tree from which many presents dangled. From the very top hung something that looked strangely like a bullet. She asked him if he would explain the drawing and why the tree itself was so bare, instead of a fat and bushy pine tree. "It's not a Christmas tree," he said. "It's a cartridge in a pear tree."

    • A four-year-old girl was having a hard time grasping the concept of marriage. Her mother took out the wedding album, thinking visual images would help, and explained the entire service to her daughter. Once finished, Mother asked if the little girl had any questions, and the tike replied, "Oh, I see. Is that when Mommy came to work for us?"

    • Grandma decided to find out if her granddaughter had learned her colors yet. She pointed out object after object and asked the child what color each one was. Granddaughter answered each challenge correctly. Grandma was having so much fun that she continued. Finally, the child headed for the door and, pursing her lips, said, "Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these yourself!"

    • A mother took her four-year-old son to a friend's birthday party, where the father of the birthday boy had rented a cotton-candy machine for the day. The visiting child refused to try any cotton candy, whimpering, "Mommy, you shouldn't eat insulation!"

    • Another four-year-old boy was out in his backyard when he noticed a friend of his mother smoking a cigarette.

    "What are you doing?" asked the tike.

    "Smoking," explained the grown-up.

    To which the child replied, "Don't you know that if you keep doing that you'll get canceled?"

    • A three-year-old boy went with his dad to see a litter of kittens. On returning home, he breathlessly informed his mother, "There were two boy kittens and two girl kittens."

    "How did you know?" his mother asked.

    "Daddy picked them up and looked underneath," he replied. "I think it's printed on the bottom."

    • Another three-year-old put his shoes on by himself. His mother noticed the left was on the right foot. She said, "Son, your shoes are on the wrong feet."

    He looked up at her with a raised brow and said, "Don't kid me, Mom. I know they're my feet."

    • A mother and her young son returned from the grocery store and began putting away the groceries. The boy opened the box of animal crackers and spread them all over the table.

    "What are you doing?" his mother asked.

    "The box says you can't eat them if the seal is broken," the boy explained. "I'm looking for the seal."

    • Mother (to her six-year-old son): What sound does a cow make?

    Son: Moo.

    Mother: What sound does a duck make?

    Son: Quack, Quack.

    Mother: You're such a smart little boy. Can you tell me what sound a frog makes?

    Son (after hesitating): Bud. Life.

    • A little boy was upset with himself. When his grandfather asked him what was the matter, he spluttered, "Gramps, I wrote down the wrong homework assignment and spent the whole evening studying something I didn't have to know until next week!"

    • A mother was telling her little girl what her own childhood was like: "We used to skate outside on a pond. I had a swing made from a tire. It hung from a tree in our front yard. We rode our pony. We picked wild raspberries in the woods."

    The little girl was wide-eyed, taking this in. At last she said, "I sure wish I'd gotten to know you sooner!"

    • A little girl was diligently pounding away on her father's word processor. She told him she was writing a story. "What's it about?" he asked.

    "I don't know," she replied. "I can't read."

    • "Do you want a boy or a girl?" an adult asked the little boy about his mother's pregnancy. Parroting the proverbial answer he had so often heard from his parents, he replied, "We don't care if it's a boy or a girl, just as long as it's wealthy."

    • Lisa was now seven and took a special pride in her growing vocabulary. Referring to an American history lesson, she announced, "We learned about the American Constipation, Mommy."

    • When her mother's sister appeared at the door, a little girl exclaimed, "Ooh, Auntie. Tm so glad you've arrived 'cause Daddy said your visit today was just what we needed!"

    • A little boy found the old family Bible and started thumbing through the pages. As he was turning the yellowed pages, a pressed tree leaf fell out. Wide-eyed, he exclaimed, "Hey, this must be where Adam and Eve left their clothes!"

    • A small boy wrote in a Christmas card to his aunt, "And I want to thank you for all the presents you have sent in the past, as well as all the ones you are going to send me this Christmas."

    • A new neighbor asked the little girl next door if she had any brother and sisters. She replied, "No, I'm the lonely child."

    • Hurrying to get his morning off to a good start, a young father was surprised when his six-year-old son brought him a cup of freshly made coffee.

    Delighted, he thanked the thoughtful youngster.

    He realized, however, that he was drinking the worst cup of coffee he had ever tasted. With a forced, grateful smile, he finally reached the bottom of the cup, where he found a small, green, plastic army man.

    Patiently he asked his son, "Why is there an army man in my coffee?"

    Proudly his son responded, "Daddy, don't you listen to the man on TV? He says, 'The best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup'!"

    Before continuing to read this book, please note the following warnings: Do not submerge The Bride of Anguished English in water. Remember that this book is not to be used as a flotation device and may be harmful if swallowed. Please discard if seal is broken. Do not share this book with others without warning them of possible side effects, which may include uncontrollable laughter and tears.

    Actually, tears of laughter have been proved to carry away toxins found in cells of people under stress. These tears differ from those produced from an irritant to the eye, such as when cutting an onion. May you shed many a tear of laughter as you trip the light fantastic humor of this book.


• Auntie, the gray in your hair makes you look very extinguished.

• One day I will enter Pooh-Bear-ty.

• We're watching the story of E.T., the Extra Cholesterol.

• [Looking at twins in a baby carriage]: There's the baby—and there's the co-baby!

• Everybody should try to have a grandmother, especially if you don't have television, because grandmothers are the only grown-ups who have got time.

Chapter Two

American History
According to
Student Bloopers

Citizens of the United States can be divided into two groups. The first is composed of people who speak and write English clearly, crisply, concisely, and communicatively. I shall not mention them again in this book—and, frankly, I'm not sure that they really exist.

    The other group is composed of people who fudge their facts, mix their metaphors, confuse their clichés, slaughter their syntax, and dangle their participles in public. These are the happily unaware, whose interpretations are unclouded by doubt. These are the people who create the mangled meanderings that Funk would never tell Wagnall and that Merriam would never confide to Webster.

    These citizens of America start fracturing at an early age, as young scholars in our nation's schools. Witness this fractured chronicle of American history composed entirely of certified, genuine, authentic, unretouched student fabrications. Not a one, of course, was written by a child of yours:

Christopher Columbus discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic Ocean. Little did he know that he had just begun history!

His ships were named the Nina, the Pinta Colada, and the Santa Fe. Columbus knelt, thanked God, and put the American flag in the ground. Tarzan is a short name for the American flag. Its full name is the Tarzans and Stripes.

Later, Jamestown was discovered by King James the One and named after him. King James persuaded the Queen to give him the land, and he sent a gang of settlers over here in 1607.

The Pilgrims crossed the ocean in hardships. This was called the Pill's Grim Progress. These people always wore old shoes with a big buckle on the top of them. The men wore pants that only came a little ways past their knees, and the girls wore funny bonnets.

The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died, and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all this. The Pilgrims appointed Thanksgiving, and it soon became a national holiday all over the world.

One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks in their tea. The Boston Tea Party wasn't what we would think of if we thought of a tea party. It was a raid where they threw all the tea into Boston Harbor, which they all drank. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without stamps. Paul Revere's Ride wasn't as famous as some people make it. He had to have the help of Longfellow on it. Mr. Revere started his famous ride in Lexington, which is in Philadelphia, and paddled by canew to Boston. Then he rode through the streets yelling, "Too warm! Too warm! The Red Colts are coming!"

During the Revolutionary War, the Red Coats and Paul Revere were throwing balls over stone walls. The dogs were barking, and the peacocks crowing. Finally, General Corn Wallace surrendered, and the war was over. When General Burgundy surrendered to Sara's Toga, the colonists won the war and no longer had to pay for taxis.

America was founded by four fathers. Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, were two singers of the Decoration of Independence, which says that all men are cremated equal and are well endowed by their creator. John Hancott signed first because he was president and a very heavy man.

Franklin had gone to Boston carrying all his clothes in his pocket and a loaf of bread under each arm. He invented electricity by rubbing two cats backwards and declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot stand!" Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.

George Washington led the United States to what it is today, while Ben and Dick Arnold were terrible traitors. Washington crossed the Delaware River, married Martha Custis, and in due time became the Father of Our Country. The difference between a king and a president is that a king is the son of his father, but a president isn't. Washington was a very social man. He had big balls, and everyone enjoyed them. His farewell address was Mount Vernon.

Soon the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the Constitution, the people have the right to bare arms. After the Constitution was finished, Washington and Franklin added the bill for rice.

Mexico was conquered by Kotex. De Soto was one of the cruelest conquerors there ever was. When Indians got in his way, he just ran right over them. That's probably why they named a car after him.

In the middle of the 18th century, all the morons moved to Utah. In the early 19th century, Lois and Clark explored the Louisiana Purchase. They became well-known all over the world and in foreign countries. Traveling by stagecoach in the Old West was dangerous because you had a good chance of being stopped by bandits and being robed and plungered. The two greatest marshals of the Old West were Wyatt Burp and Wild Bill Hiccup. General George Custer extinguished himself at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest precedent. Lincoln's mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his very own hands. When Lincoln was president, he wore only a tall silk hat. He said, "In onion there is strength."

Lincoln was president during the Civil War. Matthew Brady, a filmer, took a picture of it. The Civil War was started by John Brown, a rabbit abolitionist, and Harriet Bitcher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabinet. They caused the Southern states to succeed. After the Civil War, General Lou Wallace wrote Gone with the Wind and Bend Her.

Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope. He spoke at the dedication of a dormitory for the wounded soldiers who died at Gettysburg.

He also freed the slaves by signing the Emaciation Proclamation. Lincoln debated John Kennedy in 1960. Kennedy won because he looked better than Lincoln, who had pallor due to his assassination.

On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. At first, the president's wife didn't take notice of him slumped over in her lap. She thought he had just snoozed off as usual. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane actor. This ruined Booth's career.

The 19th century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat by Robert Fulton caused a network of rivers to spring up. Samuel Morse invented a code of telepathy. Eli Whitney invented the spinning gin. Thomas Edison invented the pornograph and the indecent lamp. Macaroni invented the wireless telephone. Andrew Carnegie started the steal business. Goethals dug the alimentary canal. And Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick Raper, which did the work of a hundred men.

The First World War was caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by an anahist. During the early part of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson urged the people to stay in neutral. He brought up the League of Nations, but it never did much except write a lot of letters, declare war on people, and try to beat peace into them. Then Wilson had many foreign affairs, and America entered the war. The unfortunate soldiers spent day after day up to their wastes in filth.

World War I made people so sad that it brought on the Great Depression. Then the New Deal tried to make sure that the stock market will never happen again.

Charles Limburger was the first man to ever cross the Atlantic alone. He wanted to go by regular airlines, but he couldn't afford to buy a ticket. When he got to Paris, all the French people shouted, "Bonzai!"

World War II happened when Adolph Hitler and the Knotsies had erotic dreams of conquest all over Europe. Hitler always liked to call himself Der Furor, but his real name was Messer Smith.

Franklin Roosevelt won a landslide and went over there and put a stop to Hitler, who committed suicide in his bunk. We dropped the atomic bomb on Kamakazi, a heavy industrious city, and three days later on Nicaragua. Finally, World War II ended on VD Day.

Martin Luther had a dream. He went to Washington and recited his Sermon on the Monument. Later, he nailed 96 Protestants in the Watergate Scandal, which ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.


• Early Egyptian women often wore a garment called a calasiris. It was a sheer dress which started beneath the breasts which hung to the floor.

• The Greeks invented three kinds of columns—corynthian, ironic, and dorc.

• William Tell shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son's head.

• Life during the Middle Ages was especially difficult for the pheasants.

• Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.

Chapter Three


A boy came home from school with his exam results. "What did you get?" asked his father.

    "My marks are under water," said the boy.

    "What do you mean 'under water'?"

    "They're all below 'C' level."

    Striving for vocabulary growth, a teacher asked his students, "What is the opposite of sadness?"

    "Joy," volunteered Marjorie.

    "And the opposite of depression, Billy?"


    "And you, Clem, how about the opposite of woe?"

    "I believe that would be giddy up."

    Those two anecdotes are made-up, but the real-life answers that students commit to test papers often keep students' grades below 'C' level, in a state of woe:

    What is the capital of Italy?


    Why did the London theaters close between 1592 and 1594?

    Because of the Dark Ages. There was no light to be able to watch the play at night.

    Characterize Henry VII and Henry VIII.

    Henry VII and Henry VIII were two-door kings.

    What is Alzheimer's?

    Imported beer.

    Who is Louis Armstrong?

    The first man on the moon.

    Who was Count Basle?

    A vampire.

    Students often revise history, geography, and literature beyond recognition. While scribbling away in an exam room, students often conjure up facts and events that have never existed. The blunders, bloopers, boo-boos, botches, bungles, and boners you are about to read were cheerfully committed by students and scholars all around the world. These classroom classics prove that, as one student penned in a composition, "Adolescence is that time in life between puberty and adultery":

    • No human beings were around during the Ice Age because it was the pre-stork era.

    • The Greeks, with the help of the messy Potamians, invented history. The Greeks were a happy lot. They were always running races, throwing things, and jumping over things. This caused them to invent the marathon.

    • The Acropolis of Athens contained the Parthion, the Erectum, and the Esophagus, a temple to the war god.

    • In the Iliad, written by Homer, great worriers battle for honor, treasures, and women.


Excerpted from The Bride Of Anguished English by Richard Lederer. Copyright © 2000 by Richard Lederer. Excerpted by permission.

Meet the Author

Richard Lederer is the author of more than two dozen books on language, including the bestselling Anguished English series, and most recently, Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay. He co-hosts a weekly radio program on NPR in San Diego, and speaks throughout the country. He lives in San Diego, California.

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