A Small Colorado Town's Punny Signs Are Receiving National Attention

Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

Indian Hills, Colorado—population 1280—has become an unlikely tourist attraction thanks to one resident’s penchant for puns.

As spotted by My Modern Met, the town’s community center changes its roadside sign two or three times a week, and the messages will make you laugh or cringe—or maybe a little of both. “Terrible summer for Humpty Dumpty but he had a great fall,” one sign read. “I was struck by a bottle of of Omega 3 pills. Luckily, my wounds were only super fish oil,” read another.

The mastermind behind these signs is Vince Rozmiarek, a volunteer at the community center and pun-maker extraordinaire. “I've been copied on lots of photos of people posing with the sign,” Rozmiarek tells Mental Floss. “It kind of put us on the map.”

Beyond puns, messages on the signs fit into a few different categories: general jokes, random musings (like “What happened to Old Zealand?”), support for local sports teams, and playful jabs at the local police. Rozmiarek said he’s been writing messages for five years now and has never repeated a sign. He does, however, use puns he finds online from time to time.

The first sign he put up was a rather convincing April Fools' prank. “We have a heavy police presence in the town of Morrison, which is next to Indian Hills, and they run a ton of speed traps,” Rozmiarek told My Modern Met. “The sign said ‘Indian Hills annexed by Morrison, slow down.’ Many people believed that prank, and the amount of attention it brought was really surprising.”

One of his proudest signs is a Denver Broncos-related pun that went viral following their 2015 Super Bowl game against the Carolina Panthers. The message, which referenced the last names of two Broncos players, read: “Breaking news! Large Panther eaten by giant Ware-Wolfe.”

"It is a challenge to come up with fresh ideas, but I try to keep it interesting,” he says. To see more signs like these, check out the photos below or head to the Indian Hills Community Sign Facebook page.

A police vehicle pulls up to a sign reading "Slow Down! Cops hide behind this sign."
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

A sign reads "Police toilet stolen! Cops have nothing to go on."
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

A sign reads "Drugs are not the answer, unless the question is Narcotics - 5 letters"
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

A sign reads "My friend in Quebec is a heavy drinker. In fact he drank Canada Dry."
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

A sign reads "The last thing I need is a burial plot."
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

A sign reads "Puns about communism have no class."
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

A sign reads "The man who invented Velcro has died. RIP."
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

A sign reads "Research shows that 6 out of 7 dwarves aren't happy."
Courtesy of Vince Rozmiarek

[h/t My Modern Met]

Why Do We Call a Leg Cramp a Charley Horse?

iStock.com/Jan-Otto
iStock.com/Jan-Otto

If you’re unlucky enough to have experienced a charley horse—a painful muscle spasm or cramp in your leg—then you may have found yourself wondering what this nonsensical phrase even means. Who is this Charley character? Where did he come from? And what does he know about my pain?

Like the words flaky and jazz, this term likely entered the language from the baseball field. While the idiom’s etymology isn’t 100 percent certain, archived newspaper articles suggest it was coined by a baseball player in the 1880s. We just don’t know which player said it first, or why.

According to a January 1887 article in the Democrat and Chronicle, the phrase was well-known to baseball players at the time—but to the average person, charley horses were as enigmatic as “an Egyptian hieroglyphic.” That year, charley horses were mentioned in a slew of newspapers across America, and some attempted to tackle the phrase’s murky origin. “Nearly every sporting journal gives a different version as to how the term charley horse originated in baseball circles,” the Oakland Daily Evening Tribune reported at the time.

The likeliest tale, according to the paper, centered around John Wesley "Jack" Glasscock, a shortstop who at the time was playing for Indianapolis. At some point a few years earlier, the player had strained a tendon in his thigh during a game and afterwards went home to his farm, where his father looked after a lame old horse called a "Charley horse." When the senior Glasscock saw his son limping along, he reportedly exclaimed, “Why, John, my boy, what is the matter; you go just like the old Charley horse?” John supposedly shared the funny turn of phrase with his teammates, and from there it spread. Similar accounts were reported in other newspapers, but they were attributed to various other players.

Other reports say the phrase has nothing to do with a live animal, but rather the fact that an injured player, while running, resembles a rocking horse or a child riding astride a wooden hobby horse.

The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson details a few other theories. In two versions of the same basic tale, Orioles or Chicago Cubs players went to the races and bet on a horse named Charlie who "pulled up lame in the final stretch." The next day, a player pulled a tendon in his leg and was said to resemble “our old Charlie horse.”

Alternatively, its origin may relate to an old workhorse that was tasked with pulling a roller across the infield. “Often in the 1800s, old workhorses kept on the grounds of ballparks were called Charley. The movements of the injured, stiff-legged ballplayers were likened to the labored plodding of these old horses, and the injury itself eventually became known as a ‘charley’ or ‘charley horse,'" Tim Considine wrote in 1982's The Language of Sport.

It also appears that charley horse originally implied a much more serious injury—or perhaps there was a bit of hysteria surrounding a condition that seemed new and scary in the late 19th century. The Democrat and Chronicle described a charley horse as a “giving way of one of the small tendons of the leg” and said an injured baseball player might need an entire season to recover. Another article from 1887 said ballplayer George Van Haltren’s relatives were worried he would get a charley horse, “although they do not know what that is.” He was said to have been “very fortunate” because he had “not yet encountered the terrible charley horse.”

For comparison, Healthline.com now says charley horses “are generally treatable at home” by stretching, massaging, or icing the afflicted area, although the muscle pain can linger for up to a day in some cases. So there you have it. We may never know the exact etymology of the charley horse, but the next time you get a sharp pain in your leg, you can thank an old-timey ballplayer for making your struggle sound so silly.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Which Language Did English Borrow These Words From?

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