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Lord Orsam's Dictionary Corner

What is it with the obsession the Chief Diary Defender has with the dictionary?

Only recently, on 4 April 2024, she posted on Casebook:

"I still wonder why a dictionary was not used if the Barretts did the deed."

Here, incidentally, is the best dictionary in existence but there may be other good ones:

The Chief Diary Defender's dictionary obsession first revealed itself on 11 January 2017, only a few months after the Orsam Theory of the diary's origins was formulated.

At this time, she was desperate for arguments as to why the Barretts could not have created the Maybrick diary.

One of her desperate arguments, made on 5 January 2017, was that Mike was too stupid to have authored the diary because he was known to have confused the word "orgasm" with "organism" and thought that the 9/11 terrorist attack occurred on 9th November 2001.

I responded on the same day by pointing out to her that Mike's account of the forgery was that he had his "sensible wife" (to use the Chief Diary Defender's own description of her) write out everything for him which would have ensured that any such silly muddles of the sort she mentioned would have been corrected before pen went to paper.

Six days later, deliberately misunderstanding what I had said, and pretending the issue was one about spelling, she posted the below in response:

"She made an unholy mess of spelling the word rendezvous then, for a sensible woman. No dictionaries available in March/April 1992?"

So began the dictionary obsession.

I responded on the same day, by asking:

"How does the word "sensible" translate to "incapable of making a spelling mistake?".

This question was never answered.

Then I said:

"The thing about dictionaries is you only use them if you think you can't spell a certain word. If you think you know how to spell that word then having all the dictionaries in the world isn't going to help you".

Her response came five days later on 16 November 2017:

We can see that she avoided my question about why being sensible translates to being a good speller, with a silly non-response:

"Via the dictionary Anne could have consulted?"

No dictionary will define "sensible" as meaning the ability to spell words correctly, so her non-answer was not only evasive but also wrong as a factual matter.

Then, surprise surprise, rather than focusing on what Anne would have done in 1992, we were given a lecture on what she, the Chief Diary Defender herself, would have done when forging the diary, despite admitting that she is a highly unusual creature in that she tends to be "completely anal about checking" (no shit, Sherlock: not about checking facts, of course, just spelling and grammar) and thus proving that she is a very bad example for this situation because most people are not completely anal about checking their spelling.

In fact, it's very clear that her dictionary obsession follows entirely from her own anal personality. If she had been forging a diary, you see, she would have checked all the spellings by using a dictionary (but of which particular words isn't clear, does she mean all of them just in case she got one wrong?) and she can't seem to understand how someone else, like Anne Barrett, might have decided not to do this, even if they owned a dictionary, about which more later.

So we can see that the full reply in her main paragraph to my point that one doesn't use a dictionary if one thinks one is able to spell, was:

"If I only think I know how to spell a word I tend to be completely anal about checking - even in emails which are not for public consumption. I suspect our diarist included the odd misspelling and shaky grammar (in a style similar to those humorous pieces in Punch) to help portray "Sir Jim" as a jumped up, self-important nobody, who fancied he was a lot smarter and better with words than he actually was. But if correct spelling had been considered at all important by Mike and Anne, I would have expected a dictionary to have been consulted at hand rather than leave things by chance."

The fact of the matter is that her own personal preference as to what she would have done is irrelevant. Her own speculative belief, unsupported by any evidence, as to what Mike and Anne would have done is, equally, of no consequence whatsoever. Did the Barretts even own a dictionary? I'll come back to that.

She then added a ludicrous question to me, being:

"So who do you have down as the one who was so sure rendezvous was spelled rondaveau that they didn't bother to check? Mike? Anne? Both?"

We can see that she converts my talking about someone who thinks they can spell a certain word into someone being "so sure" they can do so, which wasn't what I said at all. She assumes, without evidence, that if that person had been uncertain, they would have checked the spelling in a dictionary. Well she, herself, might have done so, being, as she admits, "completely anal", but I suspect that most people wouldn't bother. And that's if they actually owned a dictionary in the first place, about which we have no knowledge with respect to the Barretts.

As to that, why don't we know? Did Keith Skinner ever even ask them if they owned a dictionary? If not, and the point is so important, why not? Did Caroline Morris-Brown herself, when she interviewed both Mike and Anne for her 2003 book, ask them if they had owned a dictionary in 1992? If not, why not? Is it because these Ace Detectives weren't interested in pursuing a line of enquiry that the Barretts were the forgers?

We can see from her post that Ms Morris-Brown then tried to throw doubt on the accuracy of the diary transcripts created by Shirley Harrison and Robert Smith by suggesting that the word in the diary that she was focusing on might not be "rondaveau" (per Harrison) or "rondavous" (per Smith) but might instead be "rendavous" or "rendevous". I'm pretty sure she did this because she knows that a dictionary is useless if you don't know what the first two letters (at least) of a word are. For had Anne looked for the word "rondaveau" or "rondavous", thinking it began "ro..." she wouldn't have been able to find it in the dictionary to know how to spell it properly. She's cunning as a fox is the Chief Diary Defender so she was trying to suggest that the word might be spelt "re..." in the diary thus enabling it to have been found in the dictionary.

But, by saying that it's not clear what the spelling is, she actually throws into sharp relief that the forger appears to have deliberately written the word "rendezvous" illegibly to ensure that no one could ever be sure it was wrong. It's just that their big mistake, which is understandable, was to fail to appreciate there is a "z" in the word. Even Caroline Morris-Brown admits that the word in the diary might be "rendevous" so that the omission of the "z" might have been the forger's only mistake in spelling the word. Funnily enough, when asked to spell "rendezvous" in January 1995 Anne Barrett revealed that she too was unaware that there is a "z" in it.

The oddest thing qbout the Chief Diary Defender's argument, though, is her statement that: "I suspect our diarist included the odd misspelling and shaky grammar (in a style similar to those humorous pieces in Punch) to help portray "Sir Jim" as a jumped up, self-important nobody, who fancied he was a lot smarter and better with words than he actually was." If that really was in the forger's mind - which seems very strange and unlikely to me - that could have been in Anne's mind too, as much as in anybody else's mind. In which case, why bother discussing it? It gets us nowhere as to who wrote the diary.

But what she always fails to consider is the possibility of the forger simply not caring about making spelling mistakes, on the basis that any mistakes could be passed off as Maybrick having made those mistakes which is, of course, exactly what did happen in respect of the True Believers and The Gullible who parrot that exact line to explain away the spelling and grammatical mistakes in the diary.

Anyway, my response to her was posted on the same day as follows:

"And if you are anal then everyone in the world must be too?"

This was never answered.

I went on:

"Well there we are then. A deliberate spelling mistake and no dictionary needed to be consulted."

Despite having solved the problem, she continues, as we will see, to rabbit on about dictionaries to this day.

My post continued:

"Well then, if you really think my unanswerable point that someone who thinks they know how to spell a word doesn't look it up is answered by your own "anal" behaviour, the answer must be that they either didn't consider correct spelling as important and/or as you suggest - included deliberate mis-spellings which Maybrick could have made."

There was never any response to this.

I asked her:

"Why are you wasting time with these non-points?"

This question was never answered. Indeed, there was never any reply to this post (which was a regular occurrence on her part). She ran away from the discussion but continued to mutter about dictionaries at regular intervals to this day.

In April 2018, in a discussion with Sam Flynn she couldn't help herself but raise it again.

"Did she not posses - POSSESS - a dictionary, for example? Did she not think to consult one?"

I'm not sure why she needed to give Sam Flynn an example of a spelling mistake here. Did she think he wasn't aware what one looked like?

As for the question of whether Anne possessed a dictionary, that is something we don't know because she and Keith Skinner never seem to have bothered to find out or even ask the question. In the mind of Anne Barrett, a legal secretary, who was a reasonable speller, she might well have thought she didn't need to own or use one when writing the diary. Why would she even have cared? It wasn't a spelling competition, was it? There was no requirement that every single word needed to be spelt correctly, was there?

But the Chief Diary Defender could not be stopped and, three days later, she asked RJ Palmer the same question:

"so again, I have to ask why she would not at the very least have consulted a dictionary, if she thought good spelling was important to making the project a success. That would have been the case regardless of her basic literary skills as a secretary at work."

But why would Anne have thought that good spelling was important to making the project a success? Who has ever said she would have thought such a thing?

If you simply invent out of thin air the notion that spelling was important for the forger then, of course, you create your own mystery as to why the forger didn't spell every single word correctly in the diary.

Even then, it does rely on the forger knowing what words they were unable to spell because otherwise they would have had to look up every single word. No one looks up every single word because most people of reasonable competence believe they can spell most words and, to the extent that some people might look up words that they're not sure about (or did before the advent of the internet), that assumes: (a) that they own a dictionary (b) that they know where it is in their home and (c) that they can be arsed to interrupt the very writing they are engaged in, rise out of their chair and get it.

But are we even sure that Anne didn't use a dictionary?

Let's just pause here to consider what words the forger spelt wrongly:

  1. rendezvous (possibly written as "rondaveau" or "rondavous")

  2. Capital (apparently written as "Capitol")

  3. unfaithful (written as "unfaithfull")

  4. pursuers (apparently written as "porsuers" or "persuers")

  5. commit (written as "comit" once but correctly spelt on two other occasions in the diary)

  6. committed (written as "commited")

  7. gouge (written as "gorge")

  8. Hammersmith (written as "Hamersmith" but not a word that would have been found in the dictionary)

  9. Thrill (written as "thill" but presumably just a slip of the pen)

  10. lucky (written as "luckey" but spelt correctly on three other occasions in the diary)

  11. controlling (written as "controling")

  12. bonnet (written as "bonnett")

  13. panic (written as "panick")

  14. shining (written as "shinning" but spelt correctly on five other occasions in the diary)

  15. where (written as "were" but spelt correctly two other occasions)

Not very many. Just fifteen wrongly spelt words, of which four are spelt correctly elsewhere in the diary indicating an obvious slip of the pen for those four, while a number of others such as "thill" must also just be slips of the pen. One can easily see why the Chief Diary Defender lasered in on "rendezvous" because, for all the other words that aren't correctly spelt - and I mean every single one of them - we can easily imagine that the forger thought they were able to spell those words, especially when one considers the volume of correctly spelled words in the diary (as below) which demonstrates that the forger was either a perfectly competent speller or did, in fact, consult a dictionary.

I haven't, incidentally, included "ridling" in the above list, which was presumably an attempt to write the word "writhing", because it's not exactly a spelling mistake (and a dictionary wouldn't likely have assisted) nor the of/off confusion because that's a grammar issue (and probably also just a slip of the pen).

Here is just a very small selection of correctly spelled words in the diary:

  1. received

  2. decision

  3. sincerely

  4. believe

  5. frequently

  6. wares

  7. increasingly

  8. weary

  9. enquire

  10. contrary

  11. buffoon

  12. flourishing

  13. inclination

  14. endeavour

  15. courage

  16. campaign

  17. opportunity

  18. beginning

  19. pleasure

  20. whoring

  21. medicine

  22. encountered

  23. aches

  24. squeezed

  25. original

  26. screaming

  27. torment

  28. weather

  29. peace

  30. astonishment

  31. rosier

  32. obliged

  33. destroyed

  34. frequented

  35. fried

  36. momentum

  37. severely

  38. repel

  39. substantial

  40. bastard

  41. question

  42. pleasant

  43. revitalizes

  44. anticipation

  45. estimation

  46. drenched

  47. prone

  48. Middlesex

  49. location

  50. disappointment

  51. vanished

  52. doubts

  53. knife

  54. business

  55. vexed

  56. peach

  57. triumph

  58. disappointed

  59. particularly

  60. sour

  61. folk

  62. thimble

  63. various

  64. appetite

  65. pleasurable

  66. rhyme

  67. patience

  68. farthings

  69. wrench

  70. wearing

  71. gentle

  72. honour

  73. proud

  74. slaughterman

  75. chickens

  76. gracious

  77. accompany

  78. fright

  79. bounding

  80. desperation

  81. carriage

  82. scented

  83. kidney

  84. redeem

  85. apologised

  86. handkerchief

  87. vomited

  88. intolerable

  89. addresses

  90. overwhelming

  91. puzzle

  92. yearn

  93. nightmares

  94. dangling

  95. revenge

  96. tongues

  97. boil

  98. banish

  99. journey

  100. fiendish

  101. double

  102. vengeance

  103. fiendish

  104. respectability

  105. increasingly

  106. laughing

  107. lair

  108. lesson

  109. freshly

  110. carrots

  111. knowledge

  112. cleverest

  113. whims

  114. thrilled

  115. honour

  116. scandal

  117. meddling

  118. debt

  119. numbness

  120. participate

  121. visions

  122. aches

  123. tormented

  124. spurned

  125. dreaded

  126. courage

  127. unbearable

  128. favourite

  129. curse

  130. redressed

Some of those can be rather tricky to spell; "disappointment" for example is often spelt wrong. Many of them cannot be guessed phonetically. Clearly the diarist didn't mess up on "ie" or "ei" words. So, if a dictionary was not, in fact, used when writing the diary, our forger would have been perfectly justified in thinking of themself as a competent speller who just didn't need to constantly use a dictionary when writing English. They could spell English words pretty well. Sure the forger wasn't quite as clever as she thought herself to be (if we assume the forger was a female) but she only slipped up on a few occasions and a number of these spelling mistakes seem to be mere temporary lapses of the kind anyone can make if a bit tired or not concentrating properly. One can make a slip of the pen when writing just as much as one can make a typo when typing.

In short, for this forger, no dictionary was necessary, although that does, of course, assume that the correctly spelled words weren't checked in the dictionary, something about which we have no knowledge or information whatsoever.

But that is not going to stop Ms Morris from yapping on about dictionaries for ever.

This one was on 10 November 2021:

"I do find it slightly comical that where Dr. Flint's 'feel' let her down, the Barretts of Goldie Street just went for it and crossed their inky fingers, with not even a dictionary - old or new - as their guide".

The fact is that we have no idea if the Barretts, as forgers of the dictionary, used a dictionary or not. It's just an assumption that they didn't, on the basis of a very small number of spelling mistakes, or rather, in truth, just one mistake, being "rendezvous" Perhaps Anne couldn't find "rendezvous" in her dictionary because she couldn't spell it and, thinking that it wasn't in there because it was a French word guessed at it but did so illegibly to hide that fact. All the other spelling mistakes can be put down either to small slips or to a belief that the forger knew how the word was spelled but didn't bother to check. Perhaps the fact that so many words were spelled correctly - I've selected 130 but there were hundreds of them - indicates that a dictionary was used.

This one was also on 10 November 2021:

"Why didn't the diary author use a dictionary, at least to get their spellings right".

In fact, most spellings were right. We have no idea if a dictionary was used or not, or if the forger even possessed a dictionary.

This one is from 24 May 2022:

"Any ideas why she didn't think to consult a dictionary while drafting and transferring it into the photo album".

She hasn't even established that Anne didn't consult a dictionary. One single spelling mistake, for in truth, that's the only one that even hints at the forger not using a dictionary, does not demonstrate that one wasn't used.

This one is from 2023:

"When faking someone's private diary in the early 1990s, however, if you decide for some reason that their spelling must be perfect, your best bet would be to invest in a basic dictionary - if you can't borrow or steal one from your local library".

Erm, who decided that their spelling "must be perfect"? Is she assuming that this is what the Barretts would have decided before setting out to forge the diary? On what possible basis can she say this?

Her post indicates that she has no idea whether the Barretts did or not known own a dictionary. She sets out an imaginary rule that if they didn't have one they should bloody well have spent some of their own money to buy one (or even borrowed one) but that's only because she's set her own ground rules that the spelling in the diary needed to be perfect. If those were not the ground rules, the point is worthless.

And is she here, when she says "steal one from your local library", condoning or even advocating the theft of dictionaries from public libraries? That is what it sounds like. Orsam Books & Music would like to disassociate itself from such a shocking suggestion.

There is then the nonsense false point:

"If Anne's father helped out with the case, was it his budget that didn't run to a basic dictionary."

We just don't know if Anne did or not use a dictionary. We don't know if she considered using a dictionary. We don't know if she cared about getting all the spellings right. We don't know if she thought herself to be a competent speller who needed a dictionary. We don't know if Anne's father helped out with the case. But the Chief Diary Defender does love these nonsensical puzzles by which she creates, in her own mind at least, a "mystery" out of nothing.

This final one is a classic:

"Again we see this failure to consult a basic dictionary to check whether things like 'alude' is even word, which would have given them allude but not the meaning they were hoping for."

It's funny that Morris-Brown is criticising Anne for not using a dictionary when preparing the transcript while saying, at the same time, that the forger didn't use a dictionary when writing the diary, thus, to any rational person, actually indicating that Anne and the forgery may be the same individual!

(I didn't, incidentally, include "alludes" in the my list of spelling mistakes because that word is actually spelt correctly in the diary. It's just that the forger muddled up "elude" with "allude" which isn't, at heart, a spelling issue (and a dictionary probably isn't going to help if you were simply using it to check spelling rather than meaning).)

But the reason I describe this post as a classic is because we can see that the Chief Diary Defender tells us how anal she was with spelling even when writing in her own personal diary, as she said:

"I have done this kind of thing all my life and have an example in my own diary from 1965, where at the age of eleven I cross out something I've just written because I'm not sure of a particular spelling, rewrite it using easier words and then explain why it looks a mess.".

One might ask: if spelling was so important to her at the age of eleven, why didn't she use a dictionary?


3 May 2024

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May 03

I wasn't there and don't know, but it seems unlikely that the Diary researchers would have willingly cut ties with Anne Graham. Why would they retain their fascination for the diary but no longer communicate with the woman at the heart of the mystery if they had a choice? Rather, it appears that when Anne ended her association with Paul Feldman (for whatever reason) she pointblank told Keith and the others that she would no longer discuss the diary. The authors of Inside Story wrote that this would be her last public statement. And so, it was. Twenty years later, she is still silent. They can't prove their case without her (Eddie denies everything--and denies even knowing Barrett…

Lord Orsam
May 03
Replying to

Yes, she might have said 20 years ago that she wouldn't speak further about the diary but has Keith ever approached her since to ask if she's changed her mind? If not, it's unforgiveable. If he has, why not tell us what happened when he did so? As for young Caroline, I suggested many years ago that it would be worth speaking to her but the Chief Diary Defender stepped in to try and shut down that line of enquiry. If Keith Skinner is serious in saying that it would be irresponsible and shameful not to bust a gut to speak to the people involved in this saga who are still alive, what has he done to attempt to disco…


May 03

The idea that the spelling errors in the diary were deliberate is a bizarre one. Occasionally, writers like Mark Twain or (I think) J. D. Salinger have created characters who wrote misspelled letters or diaries, but the bad spelling or bad grammar was always so extreme and over-the-top and deliberately humorous that the audience immediately recognized the gag. The spelling errors in the diary aren't anything like this; they are too scattered and inconsistent to create any similar effect. They are simply spelling errors, full stop.

The former President of the United States frequently sends out late night "tweets" with spelling errors. His more fanatical followers believe that he is a man of such great intellectual gifts that these error…

Lord Orsam
May 03
Replying to

This is my view exactly. Mistakes would have been flagged and obvious for comic effect, otherwise the reader doesn't know they're typos or not. No proper literary author would wish to create confusion and uncertainty of that nature. The errors in the diary are clearly just errors by the author. It's kind of astonishing that anyone could even think that they are deliberate and be so firmly wedded to the idea.


May 03
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Who says the person you are impersonating was a spelling champion anyhow? I have always found the hard-core Diary defenders - e.g. it could not have been the Barretts - to be so insufferably arrogant and superior. After you found the 'smoking gun' of the ad for a Victorian diary with blank pages their response was vile. They did not have to agree with its implications, but to not even concede it was, umm, problematic was beyond delusional. I myself believe the so-called Howard Hughes "Mormon Will" to be authentic, but I do not sneer at those who regard it as a crude hoax (which was the official judgement of a civil court). But the attitude of the hard-core anti-Barrett…

Lord Orsam
May 03
Replying to

I've never received a coherent answer from any diary defender as to why Mike and Anne Barrett couldn't jointly have created the diary. Nor, from everything I've read, can I think of a good reason why they couldn't have done it. Even worse, I fear that most of the investigators into the diary during the 1990s discounted the idea, so that obvious lines of inquiries that should have been followed were ignored. For the last 20 years they've been chasing excitedly after electricians but appear to have come up with nothing. Keith Skinner is supposed to have said in September 2017: "Here is a modern mystery where the principal players are still with us. It would be irresponsible for…

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