Telling Alaric about the wonderful books of Richard Lederer (official site), which no lover of English language puns and mistakes can be without, inspired me to look for online examples of his famous collections of bloopers - notably humorous errors from children’s history essays / exams which he’d painstakingly put together to hilarious effect.
I was delighted to find lots of them. Here are my fave Lederer links, on history, music etc – enjoy!
Unofficial history of the world (excerpts: Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies… A myth is a female moth… Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock… Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his poor subjects by playing the fiddle to them… During this time, people put on morality plays about ghosts, goblins, virgins, and other mythical creatures… The government of England was a limited mockery. From the womb of Henry VIII Protestantism was born. He found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee… Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen." As a queen she was a success. When Elizabeth exposed herself before her troops, they all shouted "hurrah."…)
The revised non-standard bible (excerpts: The first five books of the Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Laxatives, Deuteronomy, and Numbers… Saddam and Gomorrah were twins... The Seventh Commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery… The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him… He preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage. A Christian should have only one wife. This is called monotony…)
American history, the unofficial version (excerpts: Christopher Columbus discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic… Finally, the colonists won the War and no longer had to pay for taxis… Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of independence, which says that all men are cremated equal and are well endowed by their creator… 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… Lincoln debated John Kennedy in 1960. Kennedy won because he looked better than Lincoln, who had pallor due to his assassination… Thomas Edison invented the pornograph, and Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick Raper, which did the work of a hundred men… World War I made the 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… the Watergate Scandal, which ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.)
Shakespeare according to students (excerpts: He lived at Windsor with his merry wives, writing hysterectomies, tragedies, comedies, and errors… In one of Shakespeare's famous plays, Hamlet rations out his situation by relieving himself in a long soliloquy… During the banquet scene, Lady Macbeth is afraid her husband will expose himself in front of his guests. Then Lady Macbeth gets kilt… Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet… In Anthony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra reclined to become Mark Anthony's mistress. She took the Roman Empire one man at a time… The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained...)
Classical music stuff (excerpts: The principle singer of 19th-century opera was called pre-Madonna. At one time, singers had to use musicians to accompany them. Since synthesizers came along, singers can now play with themselves… A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals… I know what a sextet is but I'd rather not say… Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between, he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic… Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. Beethoven was so deaf he wrote loud music…)
Books by Lederer which I own:
- Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon the English Language
- The Revenge of Anguished English: More Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language and
- Fractured English: A Pleasury of Bloopers and Blunders, Fluffs and Flubs, and Gaffes and Goofs
If you like this kind of humour, see also my posts on:
- tech innuendo (and another), unintentionally naughty comment, rude food,
- funny names, and nominative determinism (jobs that reflect names)
- ad (and another inappropriate but funny ad), funny misprint, proverb misquote (ouch!), user instructions, restaurant menu typo, I quite like this surreal one, eggcorns (see the eggcorns database), and also funny signs and funny place names
- a rather pseudy “brand statement”.