[Ads-l] conundrum supper

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Apr 2 16:01:31 UTC 2015

Offering a "conundrum supper" seems to have been a fad in genteel society
in the 1890s and perhaps earlier.  The earliest occurrences in the Proquest
newspapers I have access to is 1891, but in as much as those stories don't
explain the term, it must have been more or less familiar.    The first
item quoted below is the earliest to explain; the second, from Google
Books, offers sample conundrums.


>From 6 to 8 o'clock a conundrum supper was supper was served in the dining
room, and the manner in which the menu was gotten up caused much sport.
Unique and amusing terms were applied to the various kinds of foods, and
when one sent in an order, unless he happened to guess correctly, he was
apt to be surprised at what the waiter brought on.
Hartford Courant, June 4, 1892, p. 6

Woman's Auxiliary . . . of Spokane Typographical Union, gave its first
reception. . . .  ***  The unique feature was the "Conundrum Supper," a
California importation by the president, Mrs. Foster.  The bill of fare
contained such strange items as "A Group of Islands" (sandwiches).
"Backbone of HIstory" (dates), "Things without Ends" (doughnuts).  However,
the translations were not given on the bill; that was left to the wit of
the person ordering.  The supper was served in courses and was the occasion
of much merriment.
Typographical Journal, Volume 24, 1904

George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998..

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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