The Cat in the Tricorne Hat

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In "Trends in book titles" (8/5/2022) I discussed the title-page complexity's of P. Sproson's 1740 work "THE ART of READING: OR, THE ENGLISH TONGUE MADE Familiar and easy to the meanest Capacity", and observed that "There's also more to say about Mr. Sproson's reader".

One thing to start with: Sproson provides a series of  reading lessons featuring sequences of words of increasing length and complexity. And some of them achieve a sort of accidental Seuss-ish poetry, e.g. this section of  a lesson "consisting of words not exceeding two letters in each":

is my ox to go
my ox is to go
of us or to us
of me or to me
to us or of us
to me or of me
is it to be so
it is to be so
to be so it is
is it so to be
it is so to be
is it so to me
is it so to us

to me it is so
to us so it is
to us it is so
is he to go in
to go in he is
he is to go in
be ye to go in
am I to go in
I am to go in
ye be to go in
to go in ye be
am I to go up
to go up I am
if so be we go
if we be to go




  1. Rick Rubenstein said,

    August 6, 2022 @ 6:59 pm

    An amusing, if misguided, excercise. From a language-learning standpoint, surely any gain from words this short being easy to scan is more than cancelled out by their relative opaqueness and grammatical complexity.

  2. Kristian said,

    August 7, 2022 @ 3:54 am

    Is it for language learning or for learning to read?

  3. Wanda said,

    August 7, 2022 @ 11:10 am

    Initially I was surprised that they had the phrase "to go," as in takeout food, back then. But then I realized that I was really misunderstanding the first sentence.

  4. Scott Mauldin said,

    August 8, 2022 @ 2:33 pm

    The only one that I can't make much grammatical sense of is the penultimate line, "if so be we go". Does that mean anything to anyone? Is it like "if it be so, we go"?

  5. Kate Bunting said,

    August 9, 2022 @ 6:13 am

    Scott Mauldin – 'If so be' is an archaism for 'if it happens that' –

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