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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Personal ads didn't have to be long and complicated to be fascinating. Here are a few one liners that might have back stories rich with mystery and intrigue. And when you get to the last one, well, be prepared for some excitement.

This reads: "C.W.F. - If you are not back in one week will publish your name and your family's; have all information. NICHOLS."

Blackmail! Okay, I shouldn't find this funny - that's quite a threat. I wonder what would be revealed? I wonder what C.W.F. did and why he/she had to run away? It might have nothing to do with romance, of course, so not necessarily connected to the theme of this blog, but you guys don't mind, do you? Somehow I suspect gambling debts. Or maybe unwanted pregnancy. It could be anything!

The next is even shorter: "I consent - She may write. Shall not interfere."

Now this one is super interesting, because, of course, I have posited that correspondence ads are between people who can't let anyone know they're writing each other. If a third party consents (Parent? Guardian? Sibling?), why did they need the personals to communicate anymore? Why not just, you know, let these two people write each other normal letters? I wish I had the scoop here. In one line, both of these ads have conjured up whole novels of 19th century romance! Maybe I should write this book.

And finally, folks, this is just about one of the most exciting things I've seen in quite some time. I only saw it this morning (no, despite years of research, I have not read every ad I've collected. There are thousands) and I can't believe I missed it before. Here it is, in all its glory:

It says: "The advertiser's concealed riddle is read. Such ingenuity shall be rewarded."

Can anyone tell why I'm so psyched to see this? Well, if you guessed that it came only a few weeks after the conclusion of the Sadda Rang and Lalla Rang saga, you'd be right! Oh man, this is so cool. Not that it really helps me discover who or what the two Rangs were, and I suppose there is some chance that this ad has nothing whatsoever to do with that series. But really? I'll bet it does. And what I can say, which I couldn't before, is that those ads were definitely targeted at someone, or some people, specifically and that it was meant to be a riddle. If only I could figure out what it meant.

Even though Sadda and Lalla may never be in my dissertation (although hopefully if I get to write a book they'll make their way there), it is still so satisfying to see another clue. These are the moments that I really enjoy what I'm doing.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Anonymous July 23, 2009 at 9:36 PM  

Have you tried running the names through an anagram solver? Fooling around got me things like "garlands" and "raglans," and of course "ads" and it may well be a proper name...

It'd be insanely well concealed, if so, and might require context we don't have any more, but it's a thought...

Pam July 24, 2009 at 8:25 AM  

I'd never really thought of doing that! What an interesting idea. Maybe when I go to the write the book; as I mentioned, they're not going to be in my dissertation =( so it's not worth the time right now. But thanks for the suggestion!

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