Vo­cab

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Hav­ing fun with hid­den eggs

Tra­di­tion­ally an Easter egg hunt hap­pens when chil­dren set about find­ing Easter eggs hid­den by adults – an ac­tiv­ity that com­bines a game with tra­di­tion. Yes we know it’s June, but bear with us.

When com­puter gi­ant Atari con­cealed game pro­gram­mer’s name War­ren Robi­nett in its video game Ad­ven­ture the term Easter egg was broad­ened for the first time to also mean an in­ten­tional hid­den mes­sage or in­side joke in a com­puter pro­gram (and now in DVDs as well). But they’ve been around as name­less gags for a long time now – you only need to think of Al­fred Hitch­cock’s cameo ap­pear­ance in ev­ery one of his movies for a quick ex­am­ple.

More vo­cab-rel­e­vant are lit­er­ary Easter eggs. They range from the ca­su­ally harm­less to the re­ally com­plex and deep and, while they are not cru­cial to the plot or the mean­ing of a book, if you dis­cover one your read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­comes all the more en­joy­able.

In his Sher­lock Holmes short story, The Cop­per Beeches, pro­tag­o­nist Vi­o­let Hunter lives in a street called Mon­tague Place. This is the same street where the story’s author, Sir Arthur Co­nan Doyle, lived.

The well-loved As­terix comics poke fun at an­cient and cur­rent cus­toms and pol­i­tics, spoofing ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the fall of the Ber­linWall. The comics are rife with cameos: Cleopa­tra is drawn as Liz Tay­lor; Kirk Dou­glas is a Ro­man slave Spar­tak is in As­terix and Obe­lix All At Sea; and Win­ston Churchill turns up as English chief­tain ‘Myk­ing dom­fora­nos’ (spoofing the Richard III line “My king­dom for a horse!”) in As­terix in Bri­tain.

On the other hand Tintin author Hergé in­cor­po­rated his own visage in crowd scenes, ev­ery chance he got.

The grand­daddy of them all is surely Lewis Car­roll, who slyly pro­claimed his ge­nius as a math­e­ma­ti­cian through­out the Alice books, es­pe­cially Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in­Won­der­land. It took even pro­lific science writer Martin Gard­ner a whole book ( The An­no­tated Alice) to write about th­ese Easter Eggs.

A strik­ing ex­am­ple and more lit­er­ary Easter eggs next week!

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