Episode 72: Nonsense

Friday, April 6th, 2018

For this episode let us join the ‘frumious Bandersnatch’, Dr. Sam Willis, and the ‘hey diddle diddle’ of history, Professor James Daybell, as they confound you with waffle and piffle and twaddle to bring forth the unexpected history of nonsense. Our linguistic limerick-ists will take you on a journey from Edward Lear’s Nonsense Omnibus (1943) to Alexander Montgomerie’s The Cherry and the Slae (1597) and the origins of ‘Hey diddle diddle’, from ‘The Quangle Wangle’ and his Beaver hat to the 2-seater jam-powered frog in Russell Hoban’s 1975 Near Thing for Captain Najorkand from the Charles I’s Lieutenant General George Digby, Earl of Bristol, and secret ciphers to the unknown writing system used in the Voynich Manuscript.  

Sam and James will do away with the foolish and the absurd to discover that this unexpected history is actually all about: political criticism and satire, cryptography and hidden messages, linguistic forms and language, knowledge and philosophy.  

There’s a bit of Bod Dylan and John Lennon along the way and listen out for Professor Daybell’s impromptu jazz scat performance. 

‘As Charms are nonsense, Nonsense is a charm.’    (Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1734) 

‘On the Nong Ning Nang, All the mice go Clang!’   (Spike Milligan, On the Ning Nang Nong, 1959) 


More Podcasts


24, 11, 2020 - James and Sam come to grips with the terrifying history of FEAR! And it’s fascinating; .... Read More

Episode 25: Sweat

28, 2, 2017 - ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’ (Winston Churchill). For this .... Read More


8, 2, 2021 - In this episode, the Histories of the Unexpected duo, James and Sam, take to the skies to swoop .... Read More

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up to date with Histories of the Unexpected