Language

In a Word

philologaster
n. an incompetent philologist

nitigram
n. a second-rate epigram

cacography
n. poor spelling

“Adverbities of Eros”

Yesterday too little nevertheless
Thereupon notwithstanding everywhere
At that point next together the way that
Such as at length thus at the time as much as
Formerly less thither of yore
Here always in enough already near
Quite so sometimes almost a lot all right
Evermore such still within hard never
When hither wrongly once again
Forthwith gladly late in the day henceforth
Maybe drop by drop indeed all the way
Why face to face fast to be sure quasi
Immediately unhesitatingly
Thoughtlessly frontwards backwards squattingly
Non-stop post-haste suddenly from now on
In succession torrentially finally
Incessantly tomorrow emulously
Whereas along in turn now over there
Elsewhere today of course so there pell-mell
Outside there all of a sudden round about
No way in brief no better than so-so
Worse rather than better out worse and worse.

— Noël Arnaud

In a Word

macroscian
adj. casting a long shadow

umbratile
adj. pertaining to the shade

obtenebrate
v. to cast a shadow over

lucifugous
adj. shunning light

In a Word

vecke
n. an old woman

graocracy
n. government by old women

Put Upon

Letter to the Times, Oct. 14, 1939:

Sir,

If ordinary English usage counts for anything, an evacuee is a person who has been evacued, whatever that may be, as a trustee is one who has been trusted; for ‘evacuee’ cannot be thought of as a feminine French form, as ‘employee’ is by some.

Where are we going to stop if ‘evacuee’ is accepted as good English? Is a terrible time coming in which a woman, much dominated by her husband, will be called a dominee? Will she often be made a humiliee by his rough behavior and sometimes prostree with grief after an unsought quarrel?

Must sensitive people suffer the mutilation of their language until they die and are ready to become cremees?

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

F.H.J. Newton

Over and Out

If it’s a sin to end a sentence with one preposition, then presumably it’s even worse to end it with two. How far can we take this? For the August 1968 issue of Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics, Darryl Francis devised one sentence that ends with nine prepositions. If the Yardbirds’ 1966 single “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” were exported to Australia and then retrieved by a traveler, the question might be asked:

“What did he bring ‘Over, Under, Sideways, Down’ up from Down Under for?”

Inspired, Ralph Beaman pointed out that if this issue of the journal were now brought to a boy who slept on the upper floor of a lighthouse, he might ask:

“What did you bring me the magazine I didn’t want to be read to out of about ‘”Over Under, Sideways, Down” up from Down Under’ up around for?”

“This has a total of fifteen terminal prepositions,” writes Ross Eckler, “but the end is not in sight; for now the little boy can complain in similar vein about the reading material provided in this issue of Word Ways, adding a second ‘to out of about’ at the beginning and ‘up around for’ at the end of the preposition string. The mind boggles at the infinite regress which has now been established.”

In a Word

feriation
n. the act of observing a holiday

Ozymandias Without Es

I know a pilgrim from a distant land
Who said: Two vast and sawn-off limbs of quartz
Stand on an arid plain. Not far, in sand
Half sunk, I found a facial stump, drawn warts
And all; its curling lips of cold command
Show that its sculptor passions could portray
Which still outlast, stamp’d on unliving things,
A mocking hand that no constraint would sway:
And on its plinth this lordly boast is shown:
“Lo, I am Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, O Mighty, and bow down!”
‘Tis all that is intact. Around that crust
Of a colossal ruin, now windblown,
A sandstorm swirls and grinds it into dust.

(By Georges Perec, translated from the French by Gilbert Adair.)

In a Word

merry-go-sorry
n. a tale that evokes joy and sadness simultaneously

chantpleure
v. to sing and weep at the same time

Resemblance

Harry Mathews composed this limerick:

Young Dick, always eager to eat,
Denied stealing the fish eggs, whereat,
Caning him for a liar,
His pa ate the caviar
And left Dicky digesting the caveat.

Shouldn’t it rhyme?

Adam’s Wish

REVEL EVER, EVE! O EVE, REVEL EVER!

That sentence, composed by J.A. Lindon, can reproduce itself in two ways — it’s a conventional palindrome, and it produces a natural word square:

lindon word square

Green Party

Letter to the Times, Aug. 19, 1930:

Sir, In one of the loveliest gardens in the West of Scotland, opened freely on certain days to a vast public from Glasgow and that neighbourhood, courteous notices everywhere intimated that ‘Visitors are requested not to pick the flowers without leave.’ A waggish tourist went round with a paint brush, adding an ‘s’ to the word ‘leave,’ with the deplorable result that not only were flowers plucked, but whole plants — flowers, leaves, and roots — were excavated and carried off.

Yours, &c.

David Hunter-Blair

Topsy Turvy

http://books.google.com/books?id=iUoXAAAAYAAJ

This reversible magic square comes from Henry Dudeney’s Canterbury Puzzles.

Each row, column, and diagonal in the square totals 179.

Thanks to some clever calligraphy, this remains true when the square is turned upside down.

In a Word

lubberwort
n. food that makes one idle and stupid, food of no nutritive value, junk food

Misc

  • A pound of dimes has the same value as a pound of quarters.
  • The French word hétérogénéité has five accents.
  • 32768 = (3 – 2 + 7)6 / 8
  • Can you deceive yourself deliberately?
  • “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” — Thomas Paine

In 2000, Guatemalan police asked Christmas revelers not to fire pistols into the air. “Lots of people die when bullets fall on their heads,” National Civilian Police spokesman Faustino Sanchez told Reuters. He said that five to ten Guatemalans are killed or injured each Christmas by falling bullets.

Signs and Portents

Writing in a prison diary in 1943, Ho Chi Minh discovered a lesson in Chinese ideographs:

Take away the sign (man) from the sign for prison,
Add to it (probability), that makes the word (nation).
Take the head-particle from the sign for misfortune:
That gives the word (fidelity).
Add the sign for man (standing) to the sign for worry,
That gives the word (quality).
Take away the bamboo top from the sign for prison,
That gives you dragon.

People who come out of prison can build up the country,
Misfortune is a test of people’s fidelity.
Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit.
When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.

On his release, he started the August Revolution.

In a Word

epigamic
adj. attracting the opposite sex

altrigenderism
n. the state of development in which one becomes attracted to members of the opposite sex

Allergic?

mayonnaise circle

Write the word MAYONNAISE in a circle and read it backward and you get I ANNOY AMES.

Make of that what you will.

(From Word Ways, February 1968.)

Symmetry

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illu_adrenal_gland-es.png

Reversing the Dutch word for kidney, NIER, gives the French word for kidney, REIN.

Slenderizing

What’s unusual about this sentence by Harry Mathews?

Once brought into this country, partly imprudent gray barbers marry expatriate, parrying the frictions of tried friends such as Mary, the sorry crook with no work at hand, who is now without a murmur getting pastry.

It remains a sentence when you remove the Rs:

Once bought into this county, patly impudent gay babes may expatiate, paying the fictions of tied fiends such as May, the soy cook with no wok at hand, who is now without a mumu getting pasty.

Inside Out

Every great work inspires variants. Here are the opening lines of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not:

You know how it is there early in the morning in Havana with the bums still asleep against the walls of the buildings; before even the ice wagons come by with ice for the bars? Well, we came across the square from the dock to the Pearl of San Francisco café to get coffee and there was only one beggar awake in the square and he was getting a drink out of the fountain. But when we got inside the café and sat down, there were the three of them waiting for us.

We sat down and one of them came over. ‘Well,’ he said.

‘I can’t do it,’ I told him. ‘I’d like to do it as a favor. But I told you last night I couldn’t.’

‘You can name your own price.’

‘It isn’t that. I can’t do it. That’s all.’

And here are the opening lines of Lynn Crawford’s To Have Not and Have:

Few understand it here late in the evening in Oslo with the divas wide awake still opening, closing doors after even fuel company planes fly in fuel for the fires. Well, I navigated to the walkway extending from shore to the Sow’s Ear café to drop off brandy and there were several divas awake spooning meals out of bowls. But when I got inside and leaned on the bar, there was one running from me.

I continued standing and several more ran from me.

‘Hey,’ they carolled.

‘I can do it,’ I told them. ‘I told you this morning it was impossible. But I can do it for a fee.’

‘We name your fee.’

‘Agreed. I can do it. And something else –‘

This is an example of antonymy, a technique invented by the French experimental writing group Oulipo in which each designated element in a text is replaced with its opposite.

A simpler example: “To not be and to be: this was an answer.”

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daniel_Lambert.jpg

aletude
n. corpulency

gundygut
n. a voracious eater

“Imprisoned in every fat man a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out.” — Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave, 1944

“Outside every fat man there was an even fatter man trying to close in.” — Kingsley Amis, One Fat Englishman, 1963

Next Stop …

Until 2007, this unassuming railway station in North Wales went by the name Gorsafawddacha’idraigodanheddogleddollônpenrhynareurdraethceredigion.

This was an attempt to outdo Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a village on the island of Anglesey, for the distinction of the longest place name in Europe.

Perhaps because of the apostrophe, the bid was little recognized, and in 2007 the name was reduced, rather drastically, to Golf Halt.

See Succinct.

Inventory

Why would anyone ask a question with 76 spaces, 60 apostrophes, 33 commas, 1 question mark, 2 ‘0’s, 3 ‘1’s, 5 ‘2’s, 14 ‘3’s, 7 ‘4’s, 5 ‘5’s, 5 ‘6’s, 3 ‘7’s, 2 ‘8’s, 3 ‘9’s, 2 ‘W’s, 9 ‘a’s, 3 ‘c’s, 3 ‘d’s, 6 ‘e’s, 4 ‘h’s, 4 ‘i’s, 3 ‘k’s, 2 ‘l’s, 4 ‘m’s, 6 ‘n’s, 8 ‘o’s, 4 ‘p’s, 3 ‘q’s, 3 ‘r’s, 39 ‘s’s, 5 ‘t’s, 4 ‘u’s, 3 ‘w’s, and 3 ‘y’s?

(Thanks, Chris.)