(Found) Machine that vacuums adjectives and adverbs from a paragraph


New Member
Feb 6, 2021
Looking for a short story from the 1960s (I think), a guy's uncle wrote a fishing column for the newspaper, too flowery, too long. Someone gives him a machine that vacuums the adjectives out of the text; became a great column. You could adjust it -- just vacuum the big adjectives, etc. Machine needs to be emptied and the adjectives drift into a conversation. They look like little pieces of colored cellophane, floating in the air. Hilarious and I've searched everywhere for it. I think it was in one of those anthologies like "best science fiction" (?)
Well, the drifting cellophane words don't match the story on a similar theme, "The Language Clarifier" by Paul J. Nahin, but that is such an arresting (by the feds, ha) story that if it doesn't help your search by eliminating stories, or by finding similar themes, that you will nevertheless always be glad that you read it.
Great story, thanks! "Toss you in the slammer and throw away the key", if only computers would talk like that, maybe we could understand them. It's not the one I was thinking of but I enjoyed it! Thanks,
Don’t know this one, but I wish it was a reality - posting a link to it in “Critiques” would have saved a whole load of time and trouble over the years...
Is it "Cousin Len's Wonderful Adjective Cellar" by Jack Finney?
Oh nice find, that seems to match very well with the OP's question!

This sounds like the adverts for Grammerly I get every time I open Youtube.
Don Watson’s book on Weasel Words would be a good follow-up book to read ;-)
I am grateful to this answer, because I think I found the Cousin Lem's story through this page.

I've already prized The Language Clarifier for years. (Lost it and took me more years to find it.)
Any other SF stories on this theme of semantics, words, meanings are appreciated.

There are great stories about having to figure out a way to communicate with really *alien* aliens, as opposed to Star Trek aliens who look like people with different noses.

But this... genre?... type?.... theme that addresses our most treasured illusions in communication is fun.
I always thought it was more of a fantasy story that gets grouped with sci-fi because there is a machine of sorts involved.
I always thought it was more of a fantasy story that gets grouped with sci-fi because there is a machine of sorts involved.
In 1959 I'm not sure if people generally distinguished between sci-fi and fantasy. However, I realize now that I first saw it in an anthology of Jack Finney stories, called "The Third Level". Most of them really are SF but I guess this one was tossed in as well. Perhaps Finney felt it should have a wider exposure than in the Lady's Home Journal, where it was apparently published originally, definitely not a world-class sci-fi journal.

I'm sure that I once owned the paperback: it had some great Dali-type art on the cover

which is why I probably found it in the first place, perhaps at a second hand paperback bookstore that I used to haunt when I was about 12 years old. It was probably hiding in the rows of ACE double novels. It must have been thrown out, when I left home, along with my (now precious) collection of Superman and Uncle Scrooge comics. These lost comics are considered valuable now, only because everybody's parents threw them out when they left home.

I really like the image of these tiny pieces of transparent cellophane with words printed on them, drifting through the air and melting when they hit the sidewalk.
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