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The Case of the Migrant Howlers

To Sherlock Holmes, 221B Baker Street, London.

Dear Mr Holmes. We earnestly seek your assistance in identifying the internet pranksters who have recklessly changed the domicile of a classic collection of hilarious howlers.

We have found dozens of websites that wrongly attribute the funny phrases to schools in Gorton (Manchester), Springdale (Arkansas), Springdale (Texas) and Huntsville (Alabama). We have emailed several of those places, and none of them knows anything of these obviously British-born gems.

One of the many websites claiming that the howlers originated in Springdale Arkansas is the charmingly named House of Rattling Phlegm. Others are jokecompany, iamstrange, yunk, (Russia), seek8, false-reality,,,, phirons.freeserve, michaelonline, and the so aptly-named Media Thief.

A newletter posted by a Wisconsin (US) group called CANOE (Citizen Action Network for Our Environment) quoted one of the howlers with these words:

Q: Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.

A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep, and canoeists.

- Actual test answers from students at various schools in the Huntsville, Alabama metropolitan area.

We find all these contradictory sources highly confusing. They reinforce the widely-held view that one cannot believe all one reads on the internet.


Reply from Sherlock Holmes.

221B Baker Street, London.

Although I have long since retired, I, like many others of my generation, spend much of my extensive leisure time these days assiduously searching the Net, in a never-ending search for clues.

I must observe, with considerable sorrow, that many of the cyber world's webmasters don't have a clue. They blithely ignore copyright and often change words from original sources, or compound the damage by fearlessly copying from another site, without checking its accuracy.

In response to your inquiry, I have discovered to my satisfaction that the true source of those whimsical juvenile inaccuracies can be ascertained by visiting a London website called REVISE.IT.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,




  1. "Monotony means being married to the same person for all your life."

  2. Use the word "judicious" in a sentence to show you understand its meaning
    "Hands that judicious can be as soft as your face..."

  3. "The tides are a fight between the Earth and Moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water in the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight."

  4. "Dew is formed on leaves when the sun shines down on them and makes them perspire."

  5. "A super-saturated solution is one that holds more than it can hold."

  6. Name the four seasons. Salt, mustard, pepper, vinegar

  7. "Mushrooms always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas."

  8. "To keep milk from turning sour: keep it in the cow."

  9. "The body consists of three parts - the brainium, the borax and the abominable cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abominable cavity contains the bowels, of which there are five -a, e, i, o and u."

  10. "For Fainting: Rub the person's chest or, if a lady, rub her arm above the hand instead. Or put the head between the knees of the nearest medical doctor."



Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted June 2003

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