Language

In a Word

whiskerine
n. beard-growing contest

Mindsight Fablelore

Here’s what English might look like if the Norman Conquest had failed:

To be, or not to be: that is the ask-thing:
is’t higher-thinking in the brain to bear
the slings and arrows of outrageous dooming
or to take weapons ‘gainst a sea of bothers
and by againstwork end them?

Author Paul Jennings composed this excerpt in 1966, 900 years after 1066. It uses words with Germanic roots in place of those with Greek, Latin, and Romance ones, which came to England with William the Conqueror. Jennings calls it “Anglish.”

In a Word

quisby
n. an idler

“Does a One-Legged Duck Swim in Circles?”

Recent winners of the Foot in Mouth Award, presented each year by the British Plain English Campaign for “a baffling quote by a public figure”:

  • 2005: Welsh politician Rhodri Morgan on the police: “The only thing which isn’t up for grabs is no change, and I think it’s fair to say it’s all to play for, except for no change.”
  • 2004: M.P. Boris Johnson on the television program Have I Got News For You: “I could not fail to disagree with you less.”
  • 2003: U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a news conference: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns–the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
  • 2002: Actor Richard Gere: “I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe and somebody said I was a snake, I’d think, ‘No, actually I am a giraffe.'”
  • 2001: English artist Tracey Emin: “When it comes to words, I have a uniqueness that I find almost impossible in terms of art–and it’s my words that actually make my art quite unique.”
  • 2000: Alicia Silverstone, quoted in the Sunday Telegraph: “I think that [the film] Clueless was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it’s true lightness.”

In a Word

xanthocomic
adj. yellow-haired

Noah’s Headache

This is a jaglion, a cross between a jaguar and a lion. Big cats interbreed pretty easily, which makes for some confusing nomenclature.

Cross a lion with a tiger and you get a liger or a tigon, depending on the parents’ sexes. Cross a leopard with a jaguar and you’ll get a jagulep or a lepjag. And if you cross a puma with a leopard you get the magnificently named pumapard.

You can even make hybrids of your hybrids. Cross your new jagulep with a lion you’ll have a lijagulep. Keep going and eventually you can make liards, jaguatigers, doglas, leotigs, tigards, tiguars, and liguars.

And theoretically, if you crossed a jaguar with a tigress … you’d get a jagger. Hmmm.

In a Word

quacksalver
n. one who falsely pretends to knowledge of medicine

In a Word

borborygmus
n. rumbling noise in the intestines

In a Word

cuniculous
adj. full of rabbits

In a Word

estival
adj. of, like or pertaining to summer

The Quick Brown Fox …

In 1984, British engineer Lee Sallows built a dedicated computer to compose a self-enumerating pangram — a sentence that inventories its own letters. It succeeded:

This pangram contains four a’s, one b, two c’s, one d, thirty e’s, six f’s, five g’s, seven h’s, eleven i’s, one j, one k, two l’s, two m’s, eighteen n’s, fifteen o’s, two p’s, one q, five r’s, twenty-seven s’s, eighteen t’s, two u’s, seven v’s, eight w’s, two x’s, three y’s, & one z.

Apropos

CLINT EASTWOOD is an anagram for OLD WEST ACTION.

“Errors of the Press.”

“The following paragraphs will shew how completely the sense is altered by the omission of a single letter of the word in Italics”:

  • “The conflict was dreadful, and the enemy was repulsed with considerable laughter.”
  • “Robert Jones was yesterday brought before the sitting Magistrate, on a charge of having spoken reason at the Barleymow public-house.”
  • “In consequence of the numerous accidents occasioned by skaiting on the Serpentine River, measures are taking to put a top to it.”
  • “When Miss Leserve, late of Covent Garden Theatre, visited the ‘Hecla,’ she was politely drawn up the ship’s side by means of a hair.”
  • “At the Guildhall dinner, none of the poultry was eatable except the owls.”
  • “A gentleman was yesterday brought up to answer a charge of having eaten a hackney-coachman for having demanded more than his fare; and another was accused of having stolen a small ox out of the Bath mail; the stolen property was found in his waistcoat pocket.”

Salem Register, 1827, quoted in The Olden Time Series, Vol. 6: Literary Curiosities: Gleanings Chiefly from Old Newspapers of Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, 1886

Trivium

The longest English word of one syllable is squirreled.

In a Word

squabash
v. to crush, smash, defeat

Ah

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MADONNA LOUISE CICCONE is an anagram of OCCASIONAL NUDE INCOME.

“Literary Curiosity”

From the Salem Observer, 1840:

“The following letter was written by a young gentleman to his ‘lady love,’ under the direction and eye of a rigid old father. The understanding, however, between the lovers, was, that she should read only every other line, beginning with the first. Love is full of expedients.”

Madam, —

The great love I have hitherto expressed for you
is false, and I find that my indifference, toward you
increases daily; the more I see of you, the more
you appear in my eyes an object of contempt. —
I feel myself every way disposed and determined to
hate you. Believe me, I never had an intention to
offer you my hand. Our last conversation has
left a tedious insipidity, which has by no means
given me the most exalted idea of your character;
your temper would make me extremely unhappy,
and if we are united, I shall experience nothing but
the hatred of my parents, added to their everlasting dis-
pleasure in living with you. I have, indeed, a heart
to bestow, but I do not wish you to imagine it is
at your service; I could not give it to any one more
inconsistent and capricious than yourself, and less
capable to do honor to my choice and to my family. –
Yes, Madam, I trust you will be persuaded that
I speak sincerely; and you will do me a favor
to avoid me. I shall excuse your taking the trouble
to answer this. Your letters are always full of
impertinence, and you have not the least shadow of
wit or good sense. Adieu! Adieu! believe me, I am
so averse to you that it is impossible for me ever to be
your affectionate friend and ardent lover.

— Quoted in The Olden Time Series, Vol. 6: Literary Curiosities: Gleanings Chiefly from Old Newspapers of Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, 1886

Trivium

The longest English word with only one vowel is strengths.

In a Word

spoffish
adj. fussy, officious

Trivium

The only common English word that has five vowels in a row is queueing.

In a Word

rutilant
adj. shining; glowing ruddily

In a Word

roscid
adj. dewy

In a Word

Ralph
n. the imp of mischief in a printing house

In a Word

pinguitude
n. fatness