Literary Puns Too Painful for Words

Researching the Sherlockian parodies and pastiches for the next volume in the 223B Casebook project should be a sedate, calm affair. Not as upsetting as, say, debating the Hugo nominations or going on Twitter.

And it hadn’t been, until I got to the Catesby’s Cork Lino ad. I’ve read a lot of parodies (and published some of them on this site), but none like this landmine of humor.

Running in The Strand magazine in 1904, it’s your typical Sherlock ad, in which the great detective appears to solve the case while at the same time praising the advertiser’s product. Here it is:

Catesby's Cork lino ad with bad literary puns

Click to enlarge, but be wary of the landmine.

Here’s the sentences that, until I did my research, set me off:

“I called on Herlock to get his opinion about the colour of some Catesbys’ Cork Lino I had chosen for my floors. The extraordinary man was breakfasting, and his fare was, you will hardly believe me, a Plato’ Lamb and Bacon.”

Searching “a Plato’ Lamb and Bacon” led me to “The Comic Song Book,” edited by J.E. Carpenter and published in the 1860s. The line comes from the clumsily titled “Household Words” — “All the Year Round” — a reference to the two magazines edited by Charles Dickens.

Sung to the tune of “Oh, Susanna,” it tells the story of a happily married man and his literary wife. She’s a “Cyclopaedia on two legs” and “a fount of wisdom” but she keeps him up all night.

At first, the jokes are innocuous: “I’m sure she’s quite the sage, and I am quite the goose! (Yes, of course they dig you in the ribs with the italics.) “And if she’s not ‘a learned pig” she is a learned bore.” (Ouch).

Then I came across this verse, which left me shattered. Take it a line at a time, perhaps one a day, and stop if you feel dizzy or are operating heavy machinery:

When I sit down to take a meal all learnedly she’ll jaw, sir;
For all the time she sees me chaw, her conversation’s Chaucer;
And when she feeds herself, she reads, and never seems mistaken—
“At dinner, I admire,” says she, “my Plato, Lamb, and Bacon.”

I thought about typing the lyrics in, but I don’t think I can take that right now. When I come out of the hospital, perhaps I may. In the meantime, here are the screenshots.

And please, don’t share this. Think of the children.