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Anguish Languish

Anguish Languish, an ersatz language constructed from English language words, was created by Howard L. Chace, who collected his stories and poems in the book Anguish Languish (Prentice-Hall, 1956).[1] It is not really a language but rather a homophonic transformation created as a work of humor. Example: "Mural: Yonder nor sorghum stenches shut ladle gulls stopper torque wet strainers." This means: Moral: Under no circumstances should little girls stop to talk with strangers.

Chace offered this description: "The Anguish Languish consists only of the purest of English words, and its chief raison d'etre is to demonstrate the marvelous versatility of a language in which almost anything can, if necessary, be made to mean something else." His story "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" is "Little Red Riding Hood" re-written with similar-sounding words substituting for the original folk tale. A professor of French, Chace wrote "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" in 1940 to demonstrate that the intonation of spoken English is almost as important to the meaning as the words themselves. It was first published in Gene Sherman's "Cityside" column in the Los Angeles Times in 1953, reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle and in the first issue of Sports Illustrated in 1954.[2][3]



After Arthur Godfrey read "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" on one of his programs, thousands of requests for copies of the story prompted the publication of Chace's stories and nursery rhymes in Anguish Languish, illustrated with cartoons by Hal Doremus.[1]

In Anguish Languish, a single word replaces several in the correct version (e.g., "evanescent" from "if it isn't"), and sometimes several words replace one longer word ("on forger nut" for "unfortunate"). Every word can be found in most collegiate dictionaries, with the exception of "icer" (which is in Merriam-Webster's Unabridged).

Although written with a serious purpose in mind, the humorous aspects cannot be ignored, especially with Chace's additions of phrases not in the traditional stories ("A nervous sausage bag ice!" for "I never saw such big eyes!") and added plot twists.


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