Lost in Translation


In January 1968, North Korea captured the American spy vessel Pueblo and held 82 crew members captive for 11 months. During the crisis, the North Korean government released the photo above, claiming that the Americans were apologetic and cooperating with their captors.

The Americans managed to send a different message — three of them are extending their middle fingers. They had told the Koreans this was a “Hawaiian good luck sign.”

Commander Lloyd M. Bucher found a way to accomplish the same thing verbally — he wrote the confession “We paean the DPRK [North Korea]. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung.”

One-Sided Story

In the runup to Thailand’s 2001 elections, Thai Rak Thai party founder Thaksin Shinawatra faced allegations of corruption. The Bangkok Post‘s “week in review” email examined the charges against him, his attempts avoid the media, his reputation, and the Internet’s reaction. It used these paragraph headings:

Thaksin cited
Thaksin sighted
Thaksin slighted
Thaksin sited

In Indexers and Indexes in Fact and Fiction, Hazel K. Bell writes, “Clearly the editor is an indexer manqué.”

In a Word

adj. long-winded

[Edmund] Falconer’s Oonagh, or, The Lovers of Lismona opened one evening in 1866 at half-past seven. By midnight most of the audience had left; by two o’clock in the morning only a few sleeping critics were still there. At three o’clock the stage crew brought the curtain down with the action still in progress and the play was taken off.

The Methuen Drama Dictionary of the Theatre, 2013


The word cliché was originally the French name for a printing plate that was prepared for convenience to print a commonly used phrase. The plates clicked as they were being used, and cliché is the past participle of clicher, a variant of cliquer, “to click.”

Interestingly, another name for this plate is stereotype.

In a Word


n. absence of marriage; the state or condition of being unmarried

adj. (of a woman) physically fit for marriage

n. sworn confirmation of one’s intent to marry

n. marriage a second time

Bad Music

In the November 2009 issue of Word Ways, Richard Lederer lists his favorite “eye rhymes” — if English made any sense, these would sound alike:

  • hoistsoloist
  • unitwhodunit
  • caredinfrared
  • statelyphilately
  • radiosadios
  • onlywantonly
  • overagecoverage

Even worse: beatgreatsweatcaveatwhereat and boughdoughenoughhiccoughloughthroughtroughthorough.

And shouldn’t encourage rhyme with entourage?

12/15/2015 A related image, from reader Jon Jerome:

radio shack adios


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Eight ways to pronounce the letter X, from wordplay maven Dmitri Borgmann:

eks: x-ray
gz: exist
gzh: luxurious
kris: Xmas
ks: sex
ksh: anxious
z: xylophone
__: faux pas

He adds three more: According to Webster’s Second Edition, xeres is an alternate name for sherry wine in which the X can be pronounced either as H or as SH. And arguably the X in except is pronounced like the letter K, as “the sibilant portion of the usual X sound has fused with the sound of the C immediately following.” If we accept these, then the total rises to 11.

(Dmitri A. Borgmann, “The Ultimate Homonym Group,” Word Ways 17:4 [November 1984], 224-228.)