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Reply #8: There doesn't seem to be [View All]

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vino Donating Member (93 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-29-06 04:04 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. There doesn't seem to be
a complete explanation. This page

has a good summary.

... know immediately what you mean by a green-ink letter, or one written by a member of the green-ink brigade. Since they are terms largely restricted to Britain (though I have come across a couple of isolated references in American publications) some background would seem to be a good idea.

The term refers to a particular kind of letter writer, who claims that he is the victim of some injustice, or who composes long and vehement complaints against a person or an organisation, or who believes that a numerical calculation based on the name of the Prime Minister shows hes an agent of the devil, or who is sure that invisible rays are being beamed into his house by his next-door neighbour to cause him injury, or who puts forward a thesis which, if adopted, will lead inevitably to world peace.

... The earliest example I know of (many thanks to Fred Shapiro of Yale Law School for his help in finding it; he would like me to mention that hes Editor of the forthcoming Yale Dictionary of Quotations) is dated 8 March 1985 and is once again from the Guardian: Our elected legislature was taken over lock, stock and barrel by the green ink brigade. ...Subscriber Anelie Walsh e-mailed from Australia following the first appearance of this piece to mention that it turns up in Carl Sagans book The Cosmic Connection (1973):

There came in the post an eighty-five-page handwritten letter, written in green ball-point ink, from a gentleman in a mental hospital in Ottawa. He had read a report in a local newspaper that I had thought it possible that life exists on other planets; he wished to reassure me that I was entirely correct in this supposition, as he knew from his own personal knowledge. ...
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