How many times *did* Sherlock Holmes say 'Elementary'?

Posted on January 27, 2015

It is now common knowledge (well, if it is on Snopes, it must be common knowledge, right?) that Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, My Dear Watson”. But anyone who has read the books has probably noticed the word flit in and out of his speech.

So, in the canon text, how many times did Holmes say just the word “Elementary?”

The first published Holmes story

The first published Holmes story

This site has a pretty good selection of formats in which to download the canon works, thus making this a pretty easy question to answer.

$ grep -ne '[Ee]lementary' cano.txt
712:     mastering more elementary problems. Let him, on meeting a
12309:     though rather elementary, but I must go back to business, Watson.
27150:     "Elementary," said he.  "It is one of those instances where the
44895:     "Interesting, though elementary," said he as he returned to his
46102:     your Esquimau. The detection of types is one of the most elementary
59667:     tin box, and an elementary book on botany, there are instructive days
64083:     with a mischievous twinkle. "It belongs to the same elementary class
68387:     the root of the matter. Still, elementary as it was, there were

Only eight instances in total, which is rather fewer than I expected.

Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest
difficulties, let the enquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems.

All this is amusing, though rather elementary, but I must go back to business, Watson.

As I perceive that your boots, although used, are by no means dirty, I cannot doubt that you are at present busy enough to justify the hansom.

“Excellent!” I cried.

“Elementary,” said he.

“Interesting, though elementary,” said he as he returned to his favourite corner of the settee.

The detection of types is one of the most elementary branches of knowledge to the special expert in crime, though I confess that once when I was very young I confused the Leeds Mercury with the Western Morning News.

With a spud, a tin box, and an elementary book on botany, there are instructive days to be spent.

“It belongs to the same elementary class of deduction which I should illustrate if I were to ask you who shared your cab in your drive this morning.”

Still, elementary as it was, there were points of interest and novelty about it which may excuse my placing it upon record.


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