The mystery scribble

I wrote about this on Facebook yesterday, but now (at Ellen Kaisse’s urging) I’ve managed to get an image of the mystery scribble to preserve in my WordPress archives.

The set-up: I sometimes jot down stuff from dreams during the night, usually just a word or two, but occasionally something longer. (Not infrequently this is pointless; because of my disabled right hand, I often can’t read my own handwriting.) A message from the middle of last night appears to say:

circuses engines — need recovery from moon craters

I am baffled. Don’t know whether that’s because I’m reading the message wrong, or whether the idea is just loony. (I also sometimes get hot inspirations about linguistics in my dreams, and these always turn out to be incoherent or stupid. No benzene rings for me. More detail below.)

Later: well, maybe “churches engines”; I reject “carcuses engines” (carcasses engines?), but none of the possibilities make any sense.

An entertaining digression from Ellen K.:

Are you sure it doesn’t say ‘frog oj’? (very old grocery list story of Arnold’s that cracks me up every time I think of it.)

(It was, of course, intended to be “froz oj”, for “frozen orange juice”. But then the damn frogs hopped into it.)

Linguistics dreams. A 3/14/13 posting of mine, here in its entirety:

Night before last my sleep was tortured by endless linguistics dreams — in this case, dreams about morphology. My linguistics dreams are intense and vivid; they always concern some pressing analytic issue, touched off by some data file, website, or publication which always turns out to exist only in my dream. On several occasions I’ve wakened and gone to the computer to find this material, realizing in the process that the idea I’m checking on makes no sense at all; I go back to sleep and the dream returns full-strength. I keep thinking that I really should be taking notes on my thoughts.

When I wake up during this process I always try to shift myself to sex dreams; they are much more pleasant and they have the possibility of a satisying resolution. But that never works.

Good ideas sometimes come to me on long solitary walks. And often in the shower. But never in my dreams. No Kekulé carbon rings for benzene for me — but then Kekulé is said to have had the image of a snake biting its tail come to him in a day-dream reverie, not a nighttime dream.

4 Responses to “The mystery scribble”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I wonder if the first word could be “circuits”? Not that this would make the whole any clearer.

    “Frog oj” called up an ancient memory for me: This piece from The New Yorker of May 16, 1959, which for some reason has stuck in my mind (yes, from just after I had turned 13).
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1959/05/16/the-frog-grass-problem

    • Ellen Kaisse Says:

      Robert, I just read the New Yorker article. It gave me the kind of helpless giggles that bring tears to the eyes, and is, indeed, very reminiscent of frog oj. I wonder what frog grass was! Thanks for the article!!

  2. Ellen Kaisse Says:

    Are you positive the first letter of the first word is C? That diagonal stroke near the bottom is just a stray mark? It looks a little like the diagonal mark that is part of the E of the second word. But not much.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I’m impressed by Ellen’s willingness to keep puzzling at this. She had experience in coping with my poor handwriting even back before the ulnar nerve damage (in 2003) that significantly disabled my right hand and made my handwriting often inscrutable, even to me. I can now write perfectly legibly, but it requires that I grit my teeth and write very slowly and painfully, with conscious attention to every movement. An exercise that I reserve for special occasions, like signing my name.

      It’s also true that my abilities vary from day to day I have “bad hand days” when trying to write at all incites dramatic electric-shock pain down my right arm from elbow to the tips of my fingers (even my little finger, which is totally non-functional, bent over uselessly, but still hurts). But also more normal days, when the pain is just a dull background. More important, a lot of the muscles in my right hand have atrophied — yes, I did long periods of physical therapy, but it didn’t help, because the nerves no longer worked and didn’t regenerate — so there’s only so much compensation I can manage.

      But, beyond the handwriting problem, I’m baffled by the *content* of my nighttime message: moon craters?

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