The Greatest Invention since the Alphabet

Word and Idea Chart 001In an advert which caught my eye in the January 19th 1951 issue of John O’London’s Weekly is a description of ‘The Greatest Invention since the Alphabet ‘, the ‘Idea and Word Chart’ which ‘ gives the right word at a glance ‘. It bears the recommendation of no less an authority that ‘famous author‘ Gilbert Frankau, who declared it ‘ the best adjunct that I have so far discovered –it is not going to leave my desk.’

Unfortunately, like so many ‘adjuncts‘ this piece of kit wasn’t available to examine in shops. So aspiring authors had to send away for a ‘ free specimen… embodied in a descriptive brochure ‘.

In what way ‘ The Idea and Word Chart ‘ differed in its function from the excellent and best-selling Thesaurus of Dr Roget we are not told. We are offered a rather feint and distinctly unhelpful image of an octagon- shaped piece of card in which a pensive-looking man—possibly Mr Frankau—is depicted at the vortex of a whorl of words and concepts that includes the unfortunate juxtaposition of ‘ passageways ‘ and ‘desires’.

Those readers still sceptical regarding its usefulness or indeed uniqueness would have done well to investigate the publisher of the Chart. In those days before the Internet made such a task easy, wordsmiths wanting to know more about The Psychology Publishing Company of Marple, Cheshire, might have asked in bookshops for other works issued by them. Unfortunately, a personal visit to north Cheshire would probably have been more fruitful, despite the fact that only a box number is offered as an address. Undaunted, the more determined investigator might have trawled past issues of John O’London and similar literary magazines on the trail of the elusive publisher. There, if they would go back to at least 1945, they might find adverts from The Psychology Publishing Company of ‘Psychology House’ promoting such aids to self improvement as Effective Speech, including public speaking, mental training and the development of personality by Dwight E Watkins, MA., Ph.D, or Your Nerves: how to release emotional tensions by Louis Edward Bische (1948).Abebooks also suggests that a company at the same address was active in the same field of publishing in 1995.

We still don’t know how ‘The Idea and Word Chart’ actually works, but surely some aspiring journalists or admirers of Mr Frankau’s novels must have sent off for this amazing invention c 1951. If they are still alive and fans of Jot 101, we would urge that they log on with details. We are dying to learn more. Honestly. [R.M.Healey]



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