Language

To a Thesaurus

O precious codex, volume, tome,
Book, writing, compilation, work,
Attend the while I pen a pome,
A jest, a jape, a quip, a quirk.

For I would pen, engross, indite,
Transcribe, set forth, compose, address,
Record, submit–yea, even write
An ode, an elegy to bless–

To bless, set store by, celebrate,
Approve, esteem, endow with soul,
Commend, acclaim, appreciate,
Immortalize, laud, praise, extol

Thy merit, goodness, value, worth,
Experience, utility–
O manna, honey, salt of earth,
I sing, I chant, I worship thee!

How could I manage, live, exist,
Obtain, produce, be real, prevail,
Be present in the flesh, subsist,
Have place, become, breathe or inhale

Without thy help, recruit, support,
Opitulation, furtherance,
Assistance, rescue, aid, resort,
Favour, sustention, and advance?

Alack! Alack! and well-a-day!
My case would then be dour and sad,
Likewise distressing, dismal, gray,
Pathetic, mournful, dreary, bad.

Though I could keep this up all day,
This lyric, elegiac, song,
Meseems hath come the time to say
Farewell! Adieu! Good-by! So long!

— Franklin P. Adams, collected in Carolyn Wells, The Book of Humorous Verse, 1920

In a Word

bemissionary
v. to annoy with missionaries

His Mark

The longest word in Shakespeare appears in Act V, Scene 1 of Love’s Labour’s Lost:

O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words.
I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word;
for thou art not long by the head as
honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier
swallowed than a flap-dragon.

It’s the ablative plural of the Latin honorificabilitudinitas, “the state of being able to achieve honors.” And it can be rearranged to spell hi ludi, F. Baconis nati, tuiti orbi, which means “These plays, F. Bacon’s offspring, are preserved for the world.”

So that settles that.

Misc

  • Q is the only letter that does not appear in any U.S. state name.
  • 6455 = (64 – 5) × 5
  • North Dakota’s record high temperature (121°F) is higher than Florida’s (109°F).
  • UNNOTICEABLY contains the vowels A, E, I, O, and U in reverse order.
  • “An odd thought strikes me: We shall receive no letters in the grave.” — Samuel Johnson

Anagrams

SOFTHEARTEDNESS = OFTEN SHEDS TEARS
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE = I’LL MAKE A WISE PHRASE
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON = OUR BEST NOVELS IN STORE
HORATIO NELSON = ON, THEN, O SAILOR
SAINT VALENTINE’S DAY = NAY, A LASS INVENTED IT
THE UPHOLSTERERS = RESTORE THE PLUSH
TO CAST PEARLS BEFORE SWINE = ONE’S LABOR IS PERFECT WASTE
ANIMOSITY = IS NO AMITY

PRINCESS DIANA can be rearranged to spell ASCEND IN PARIS.

In a Word

abuccinate
v. to announce with a flourish of trumpets

Certainly, Officer

It’s said that police sergeants in Leith, Scotland, used this tongue twister as a sobriety test:

The Leith police dismisseth us,
I’m thankful, sir, to say;
The Leith police dismisseth us,
They thought we sought to stay.
The Leith police dismisseth us,
We both sighed sighs apiece;
And the sigh that we sighed as we said goodbye
Was the size of the Leith police.

If you can’t say it, you’re drunk.

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%B9_%D0%91%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9_2.jpg

picqueter
n. one who arranges artificial flowers for a living

Arnold Bennett was surprised to find no fresh flowers in George Bernard Shaw’s apartment.

“But I thought you were so fond of flowers,” he said.

“I am,” Shaw replied, “and I’m very fond of children too, but I don’t chop their heads off and stand them in pots about the house.”

A Field Guide

Medieval sportsmen invented collective nouns for everything from owls to otters. Less well known are the terms they invented for people — this list is taken from Joseph Strutt, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, 1801:

  • a state of princes
  • a skulk of thieves
  • an observance of hermits
  • a lying of pardoners
  • a subtlety of sergeants
  • a multiplying of husbands
  • an incredibility of cuckolds
  • a safeguard of porters
  • a stalk of foresters
  • a blast of hunters
  • a draught of butlers
  • a temperance of cooks
  • a melody of harpers
  • a poverty of pipers
  • a drunkenship of cobblers
  • a disguising of tailors
  • a wandering of tinkers
  • a malapertness of peddlers
  • a fighting of beggars
  • a blush of boys
  • a nonpatience of wives
  • a superfluity of nuns
  • a herd of harlots

In a Word

clinomania
n. an excessive desire to stay in bed

“The happiest part of a man’s life is what he passes lying awake in bed in the morning.” — Samuel Johnson

In a Word

hallelujatic
adj. containing hallelujahs

Hmm

subtle-bias letter shift

This Sceptred Isle

There was a young fellow named Cholmondeley,
Who always at dinner sat dolmondeley.
His fair partner said,
As he crumbled his bread,
“Dear me! You behave very rolmondeley!”

Said a man to his spouse in east Sydenham:
“My best trousers! Now where have you hydenham?
It is perfectly true
They were not very new,
But I foolishly left half a quydenham.”

A young Englishwoman named St John
Met a red-skinned American It John
Who made her his bride
And gave her, beside,
A dress with a gaudy bead Frt John.

There was a young vicar from Salisbury
Whose manners were quite halisbury-scalisbury.
He went around Hampshire
Without any pampshire
Till his bishop compelled him to walisbury.

(Thanks, Gavin.)

Too Late

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Assassination_of_Henry_IV_(Henry_IV,_King_of_France;_Fran%C3%A7ois_Ravaillac)_by_Gaspar_Bouttats.jpg

After François Ravillac assassinated Henry IV of France in 1610, it was discovered that

HENRICUS IV GALLIARUM REX (“Henry IV, King of the Gauls”)

can be rearranged to spell

IN HERUM EXURGIS RAVILLAC (“From these Ravillac rises up”)

His predecessor, Henry III, was also assassinated–his killer’s name, Frère Jacques Clement, can be anagrammed to spell C’est l’enfer qui m’a créé — “hell created me.”

Punctual

‘Mind your stops’ is a good rule in writing as well as in riding. So in public speaking, it is a great thing to know when to stop and where to stop. The third edition of a treatise on English Punctuation has been recently published, with all needful rules for writers, but none for speakers. The author furnishes the following example of the unintelligible, produced by the want of pauses in the right places:

Every lady in this land
Hath twenty nails upon each hand;
Five and twenty on hands and feet.
And this is true, without deceit.

If the present points be removed, and others inserted, the true meaning of the passage will at once appear:

Every lady in this land
Hath twenty nails: upon each hand
Five; and twenty on hands and feet.
And this is true without deceit.

Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, June 1855

See “Ambiguous Lines.”

“Palindromic Conversation Between Two Owls”

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barnie.JPG

“Too hot to hoot!”
“Too hot to woo!”
“Too wot?”
“Too hot to hoot!”
“To woo!”
“Too wot?”
“To hoot! Too hot to hoot!”

– George Marvill, New Statesman weekend competition, May 5, 1967

In a Word

accismus
n. feigned disinterest in a desired object

His and Hers

Many masculine nouns can be converted to feminine with a suffix, as HERO-HEROINE and HOST-HOSTESS.

Name a feminine noun that can be converted to masculine with a suffix.

Click for Answer

It Begins

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AA_snowstorm.JPG

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth sed, and bloweth med,
And springth the wude nu–
Sing cuccu!

— English round, 1260

Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.

— Ezra Pound, 1917

The names of the 12 months can be anagrammed into these lines:

Merry, durable, just grace
My every future month embrace;
No jars remain, joy bubble up apace.

But poet and journalist George Ellis (1753-1815) summed them up this way:

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Moppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.

In a Word

hindermate
n. a companion who hinders; opposite of helpmate

Fitting

checkbook

… balances. The bottom half of each letter mirrors the top.

In a Word

unlove
v. to cease to love

Targeted Advertising

New York florist Max Schling once placed an ad in the New York Times that was written entirely in shorthand.

Hundreds of curious businessmen passed the ad on to their secretaries, requesting a translation.

The secretaries read: “When getting flowers for the boss’s wife, remember Schling’s Florist.”

Formal Speech

A puzzle by Isaac Asimov:

What word in the English language changes its pronunciation when it is capitalized?

Click for Answer