Sunday, July 16, 2006


It was in the 1950’s that Denys Parsons first made ‘SHRDLU’ a household name with the publication of It Must Be True: It was all in the Papers with illustrations by Ronald Searle.

‘SHRDLU’ , along with ‘ETAOIN’ and ‘CMFWYP’ represented the first three columns of keys on the compositor’s type-setting machine (similar to the ‘QWERTYUIOP’ of the typewriter/computer keyboard) but, in Parson’s fertile imagination, ‘Shrdlu’ took on life as the wanton mischief-maker responsible for all the gaffes, howlers and misprunts that daily found their way into books, newspapers and magazines and onto the signage of contemporary life…

“Sexi-detached Bungalows, new £3500”

“It is not considered polite to tear bits off your beard and put them in your soup”

"WANTED: Unlimited number of fig-leaves. Telephone Brighton -------, after 7 pm"

"Order Rings by Post: state size or enclose string tied round finger”

“To the Fairy Glen - five minutes walk. BEWARE HEAVY LORRIES”

Other volumes - such as Can it Be True and All Too True followed illustrated by noted cartoonists of the day and the material stood the test of time into the 1960s as a series of popular paperbacks beginning with Funny Ha Ha and Funny Peculiar...

"One person was arrested last night on suspicion of being concerned with this morning's murders"

"If the motion were passed, no strike action would be taken by NALGO without a ballet of all its members"

"JACK'S LAUNDRY: Leave your clothes here, ladies, and spend the afternoon having a good time"

And a notice that might well still be on display outside the Doge’s Palace in Venice: “DO NOT INTRODUCE DOGS, STICKS, SUITCASES, TRESTLES ETC…”

Many of the oddities and sillinesses gleaned by Parsons are as amusing today as when they were first perpetrated forty or fifty years ago: “We offer foam rubber cushions at rock bottom prices...”

One can only speculate on what a very jolly website he would have created if he had been writing and collecting into the era of the Internet!

I'll leave you with this shocking piece of news: “FATHER OF TEN SHOT DEAD - Mistaken for rabbit...”


Anonymous said...

i wonder if this is the same denys parsons who was a psychical researcher in the 1940s, and something of an authority on dowsing - anything on the blurb of these books about that?

Brian Sibley said...

Not that I can see... But you have me intrigued!

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