Puzzles, posts, news and general word-chat.

Diabolically Arcane

Bingo. You’ve reached David Astle dot com, a carnival of words, puzzles and more words. Welcome aboard, and have fun.

Loading tweet...


11 October, 2012

Ben Schmidt is a Princeton history grad with a bent for pop culture. Ben in fact has a very cool job, as fellow at the Harvard Cultural observatory: a bit like Gotye meets Galileo.

Though the stuff to really catch my eye is Ben’s work with words out of time, in particular the language used on Mad Men and Downton Abbey. Check out his blog Prochronisms to admire the degree of scrutiny.

Ben will feed each episode’s script through a time-senstive piece of software to create an inky language-cloud, where the density belongs to period phrases, while the outliers are historical booboos. Focus group, say, was not a thing of 1965. If they did exist, they went by another label. Same goes for on hold, or callback, or big deal.

Subtle stuff too, like huge favour, you OK, say hi and wearing makeup‘ Even Ben’s own station in life – grad student – was not a said thing in 1965. Mouse around and marvel at the mishaps, and proof of how quickly English can evolve.

What about you? Enjoying a show lately? Heard a phrase that seemed out of place? Our out of class, or culture? When Lady Crawley utters bad hair day on Downton Abbey, you know Ben Schmidt will be all over it.

comments powered by Disqus

Gargantuan News

Yep, my Gargantuan Book of Words is big & full of words. Not just English but secret codes, Papuan pidgin, Zulu worms, sound FX, funny goldfish, letter origami. You get the drift? It's big. It's fun. And it's out now


Gargantuan Book of Words

Sneeze words. Fake pasta. Viking slang. Gargantuan is a jumbo jumble of puzzles & games, mazes & quizzes, tailor-made for that wordy wonderkid in your life. Or anyone in love with letters, secret codes, puns, rhymes, emoji & all things languagey. More here 

read more +


Packed with games, pickles, codes and cheesy puns, Wordburger is your chance to be a champion puzzler in 20 quick bites. Ideal for wordy kids keen to open a new language door, or grown-ups who want to cut their cryptic teeth. Click here. 

read more +


Riddles in song, in code, in pictures. From Ireland & Wonderland, Einstein & Pompeii. Riddledom reveals 101 wry questions from 50+ languages & shares their secrets. A book to unlock culture via conundrum. Order here.

read more +

Recent Comments

Riddledom Rave

If you missed my riddle chat with Richard Fidler, then feel free to slurp the podcast at http://ab.co/1I9t1x5

Text-speak is creeping into Scrabble. Where do you sit?
OBVS I'm fine with it
Entrenched stuff - like LOL and OMG - but no more.
Words With Friends, maybe. Scrabble, no
Let the 'real' dictionaries decide first
Just the handy stuff, like FAQ and EUW
I mean, WTF?! No way
See Results