adj. not to be spoken of, unmentionable
n. things to be passed over in silence
In 1975 Phoebe Winch discovered that the 100 standard Scrabble tiles reveal a hidden message:
I AM DIETING. I EAT QUINCE JELLY. LOTS OF GROUND MAIZE GIVES VARIETY. I COOK RHUBARB AND SODA, WEEP ANEW, OR PUT ON EXTRA FLESH.
I wonder how well it works …
St. Louis teacher William Kottmeyer compiled this list of “spelling demons” in 1973. Which of these words is misspelled?
n. the part of the night immediately before daybreak
- Fathers can mother, but mothers can’t father.
- The Mall of America is owned by Canadians.
- Neil Armstrong was 17 when Orville Wright died.
- LONELY TYLENOL is a palindrome.
- 258402 + 437762 = 2584043776
- “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” — Plutarch
Edward Gorey’s pen names included Ogdred Weary, Raddory Gewe, Regera Dowdy, D. Awdrey-Gore, E.G. Deadworry, Waredo Dyrge, Deary Rewdgo, Dewda Yorger, and Dogear Wryde. Writer Wim Tigges responded, “God reward ye!”
William Barnes (1801-1886) loved language too well. He had written poetry in Standard English from an early age, but in his 30s he switched to the local Dorset dialect, which he felt was more linguistically pure:
Oh! it meäde me a’most teary-ey’d,
An’ I vound I a’most could ha’ groan’d —
What! so winnèn, an’ still cast azide —
What! so lovely, an’ not to be own’d;
Oh! a God-gift a-treated wi’ scorn
Oh! a child that a squier should own;
An’ to zend her awaÿ to be born! —
Aye, to hide her where others be shown!
A philological scholar, he had come to feel that Dorset speech, true to its Anglo-Saxon origins, was the least corrupted form of English, and best suited to paint scenes of rural life. “To write in what some may deem a fast out-wearing speech-form may seem as idle as the writing of one’s name in snow on a spring day,” he wrote. “I cannot help it. It is my mother tongue, and it is to my mind the only true speech of the life that I draw.”
His contemporary admirers included Tennyson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Thomas Hardy, but unfortunately he was right: As Standard English increasingly outmoded his beloved dialect, his poems passed into an undeserved obscurity.
“Had he chosen to write solely in familiar English, rather than in the dialect of his native Dorsetshire, every modern anthology would be graced by the verses of William Barnes,” wrote Charles Dudley Warner. “By reason of their faithfulness to everyday life and to nature, and by their spontaneity and tenderness, his lyrics, fables, and eclogues appeal to cultivated readers as well as to the rustics whose quaint speech he made his own.”
An antigram is a word or phrase whose letters can be rearranged to produce an opposite meaning:
ABET = BEAT
ABOMINABLE = BON, AMIABLE
ADVERSARIES = ARE ADVISERS
ANTAGONIST = NOT AGAINST
BOASTING = IT’S NO GAB
COMMENDATION = AIM TO CONDEMN
CONVENTIONAL = I VOTE NON-CLAN
DEFIANT = FAINTED
DEMONIACAL = A DOCILE MAN
FASHIONABLE = FINE? HA, A SLOB!
FILLED = ILL-FED
FORBID = BID FOR
HIBERNIANS = BANISH ERIN
HOME RUN HITTER = I’M NOT RUTH HERE
HONESTLY = ON THE SLY
HONOREES = NO HEROES
INDISCRIMINATE = DISCERN AIM IN IT
INNERMOST = I NEST ON RIM
LEGION = LONE GI
NOMINATE = I NAME NOT
PROSPEROUS = POOR PURSES
ROUSING = SOURING
THOMAS A. EDISON = TOM HAS NO IDEAS
TIMBERLESS = TREES, LIMBS
WOMANISH = HOW MAN IS
Without any rearrangement at all, IMPARTIALLY can be read as I’M PART, I ALLY. And DEFENCE is DE-FENCE!
n. the space between a bed and the wall
Cynthia Knight published this dialogue in the Journal of Recreational Linguistics in 1984 — apart from the italicized words, it’s composed entirely from two-letter state postal abbreviations:
MS. INGA LANE, paid cook
NEAL DEMSKY, lame vandal
PA (akin), many-decade lama
Arcade game near Marineland
Concorde de la Mode
Pail, cane, alpaca
NEAL: Decoct, maid! Almond wine! Deal?
INGA (in coma): Ma! Papa! Come near me! Alms!
NEAL (florid): Mine meal! Moil, Inga!
INGA (in pain): Demand in vain!
NEAL aria, or pavane
INGA (in code): Deny; hide mail; scar me! Oh, inky condor, come! Oh, mend me!
PA: Hi, Inga. Come ride; wide lane? Mom’s game.
INGA (wail): Candor, OK? Pact?
(“Who can finish this absorbing story?”)
n. a person who has the least possible faith in something