n. one who repeats the same words needlessly
This self-describing (and otherwise pointless) sentence contains exactly 95 spaces, 66 apostrophes, 1 open parenthesis, 1 close parenthesis, 40 commas, 1 hyphen, 1 period, 4 ’0′s, 13 ’1′s, 9 ’2′s, 7 ’3′s, 8 ’4′s, 5 ’5′s, 4 ’6′s, 4 ’7′s, 4 ’8′s, 4 ’9′s, 2 ‘O’s, 2 ‘T’s, 12 ‘a’s, 2 ‘b’s, 10 ‘c’s, 7 ‘d’s, 21 ‘e’s, 3 ‘f’s, 4 ‘g’s, 8 ‘h’s, 13 ‘i’s, 7 ‘l’s, 5 ‘m’s, 16 ‘n’s, 12 ‘o’s, 10 ‘p’s, 8 ‘r’s, 53 ‘s’s, 9 ‘t’s, 2 ‘u’s, 2 ‘w’s, 3 ‘x’s, and 3 ‘y’s, including a single Oxford comma.
THREE NONILLION THIRTEEN TRILLION NINETEEN BILLION contains:
At least two numbers produce similar results in Spanish:
SEISCIENTOS ONCE NONILLONES SETECIENTOS DIECISEIS
UN OCTODECILLÓN DOSCIENTOS CINCO NONILLONES SEISCIENTOS CINCO
In 1853, a writer to Notes & Queries observed that the third line of Gray’s Elegy can be transposed 11 different ways while retaining its sense:
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.
The weary ploughman plods his homeward way.
The weary ploughman homeward plods his way.
The ploughman, weary, plods his homeward way.
The ploughman weary homeward plods his way.
Weary the ploughman plods his homeward way.
Weary the ploughman homeward plods his way.
Homeward the ploughman plods his weary way.
Homeward the ploughman weary plods his way.
Homeward the weary ploughman plods his way.
The homeward ploughman weary plods his way.
The homeward ploughman plods his weary way.
“It is doubtful whether another line can be found, the words of which admit so many transpositions, and still retain the original meaning,” he wrote. Forty-two years later, the editors of Miscellaneous Notes and Queries proved him right, filling four pages with 252 transpositions:
Plods the ploughman, weary, his homeward way.
His weary way the homeward ploughman plods.
Homeward plods his way the ploughman, weary.
His homeward way the weary ploughman plods.
The weary ploughman homeward plods his way.
The homeward ploughman, weary, his way plods.
The weary ploughman plods his way homeward.
Plods the weary ploughman his way homeward.
Weary, the ploughman plods his homeward way.
His way homeward plods the weary ploughman.
Plods, weary, the ploughman his way homeward.
Weary his way plods homeward the ploughman.
The ploughman, weary, homeward plods his way.
His way plods homeward the ploughman, weary.
Homeward, weary, the ploughman his way plods.
They even offered a year’s subscription to any reader who could add to the list. I can’t tell whether anyone took them up on it — perhaps they were too tired.
An ignorant Yorkshireman having occasion to go to France, was surprised on his arrival to hear the men speaking French, the women speaking French, and the children jabbering away in the same tongue. In the height of the perplexity which this occasioned, he retired to his hotel, and awakened in the morning by the cock crowing, whereupon he burst into a wild exclamation of astonishment and delight, crying, ‘Thank goodness! there’s English at last!’
– Tit-Bits From All the Most Interesting Books, Periodicals and Newspapers in the World, Dec. 10, 1881
n. one who cannot read
n. money or necessities for a journey
- A TOYOTA’S A TOYOTA is a palindrome.
- Lee Trevino was struck by lightning in 1975.
- KILIMANJARO contains IJKLMNO.
- 39343 = 39 + 343
- “Money often costs too much.” — Emerson
Guy Debord’s 1957 autobiography, Mémoires, was bound in a sandpaper cover so that it would destroy any book placed next to it.
adj. liable to sin
Chinese poet and palindromist Su Hui lost her husband to a concubine in the fourth century. To console her grief and to lure him back, she composed an ingenious array of 841 characters that can be read forward, backward, horizontally, vertically, and diagonally:
Each seven-character segment corresponds to a poetic line, and can be read in either direction. At the end of each segment, “you encounter a junction of meridians and can choose which direction to go,” explains anthologist David Hinton. “You can begin anywhere, and the poem ends after four lines have been chosen. This structure generates 2,848 possible poems.”
It’s said that Su Hui’s husband was so moved that he sent away the concubine and rejoined her.
Visiting London for the first time in 1912, Russian poet Samuil Marshak asked a man on the street, “Please, what is time?”
The man said, “That’s a philosophical question. Why ask me?”
n. an unmarried person
Schedule of a bachelor’s life, from the Yorkshire Observer, Nov. 30, 1822:
At 16 years, incipient palpitations are manifested towards the young ladies.
17. Blushing and confusion occurs in conversing with them.
18. Confidence in conversing with them is much increased.
19. Is angry if treated by them as a boy.
20. Betrays great consciousness of his own charms and manliness.
21. A looking-glass becomes indispensible in his room.
22. Insufferable puppyism exhibited.
23. Thinks no woman good enough for him.
24. Is caught unawares by the snares of Cupid.
25. The connection broken off from self-conceit on his part.
26. Conducts himself with airs of superiority towards her.
27. Pays his addresses to another lady, not without hope of mortifying the first.
28. Is mortified and frantic at being refused.
29. Rails against the fair sex in general.
30. Seems morose and out of humour in all conversations on matrimony.
31. Contemplates matrimony more under the influence of interest than formerly.
32. Begins to consider personal beauty in a wife not so indispensible as formerly.
33. Still retains a high opinion of his attractions as a husband.
34. Consequently has no idea but he may still marry a chicken.
35. Fails deeply and violently in love with one of seventeen.
36. Au dernier desespoir! another refusal.
37. Indulges now in every kind of dissipation.
38. Shuns the best part of the female sex.
39. Suffers much remorse and mortification in so doing.
40. A fresh budding of matrimonial ideas, but no spring shoots.
41. A nice young widow perplexes him.
42. Ventures to address her with mixed sensations of love and interest.
43. Interest prevails, which causes much cautious reflection.
44. The widow jilts him, being as cautious as himself.
45. Becomes every day more averse to the fair sex.
46. Gouty and nervous symptoms begin to appear.
47. Fears what may become of him when old and infirm.
48. Thinks living alone irksome.
49. Resolves to have a prudent young woman as housekeeper and companion.
50. A nervous affection about him, and frequent attacks of the gout.
51. Much pleased with his new house-keeper as nurse.
52. Begins to feel some attachment to her.
53. His pride revolts at the idea of marrying her.
54. Is in great distress now to act.
55. Is completely under her influence, and very miserable.
56. Many painful thoughts about parting with her.
57. She refuses to live any longer with him solo.
58. Gouty, nervous, and bilious to excess.
59. Feels very ill, sends for her to his bed-side, and intends espousing her.
60. Grows rapidly worse, has his will made in her favour, and makes his exit.
n. an acronym whose derivation few can remember
- Dorothy Parker left her entire estate to Martin Luther King Jr.
- SOUTH CAMBRIDGE, NY contains 16 different letters.
- 45927 = ((4 + 5) × 9)2 × 7
- STONE AGE = STAGE ONE
- “You cannot be both fashionable and first-rate.” — Logan Pearsall Smith
Further ill-considered newspaper headlines gathered by readers of the Columbia Journalism Review:
MILK DRINKERS TURN TO POWDER (Detroit Free Press, Nov. 12, 1974)
COLUMNIST GETS UROLOGIST IN TROUBLE WITH HIS PEERS (Lewiston, Idaho, Morning Tribune, March 17, 1975)
STUD TIRES OUT (Ridgewood, N.J., News, March 30, 1978)
ALBANY TURNS TO GARBAGE (New York Daily News, Oct. 3, 1977)
PASTOR AGHAST AT FIRST LADY SEX POSITION (Alamogordo, N.M., Daily News, Aug. 13, 1975)
TIME FOR FOOTBALL AND MEATBALL STEW (Detroit Free Press, Oct. 19, 1977)
CHILD’S STOOL GREAT FOR USE IN GARDEN (Buffalo Courier-Express, June 23, 1977)
FARMER BILL DIES IN HOUSE (Atlanta Constitution, April 13, 1978)
DEAD EXPECTED TO RISE (Macon, Ga., News, Aug. 11, 1976)
CARIBBEAN ISLANDS DRIFT TO LEFT (Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 26, 1976)
NEW CHURCH PANNED (Albuquerque News, July 22, 1978)
CARTER TICKS OFF BLACK HELP (San Francisco Examiner, April 7, 1978)
DEER KILL 130,000 (Minneapolis Tribune, Dec. 7, 1967)
DRUNK GETS NINE MONTHS IN VIOLIN CASE (Lethbridge Herald, Oct. 30, 1976)
POLICE KILL MAN WITH AX (Charlotte Observer, Nov. 27, 1976)
YOUNG MAKES ZANZIBAR STOP (Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 4, 1977)
CHESTER MORRILL, 92, WAS FED SECRETARY (Washington Post, April 21, 1978)
PROSTITUTES APPEAL TO POPE (Eugene, Ore., Register-Guard, Dec. 18, 1975)
When the Carmichael, Calif., chamber of commerce received relatively few applications for its 1975 beauty pageant, the local Courier ran the headline FEW HAVE ENTERED MISS CARMICHAEL.
See News to Us.
v. to wander aimlessly
INCONSISTENT is an anagram of N IS, N IS NOT, ETC.
Europe once had a state whose official language was Esperanto. When boundaries were redrawn after the Napoleonic wars, a dispute arose regarding the border between Prussia and the Netherlands, and a sliver of 3.44 square kilometers became a no man’s land known as Neutral Moresnet. In 1908, German immigrant Wilhelm Molly proposed making the territory into the world’s first Esperanto-speaking state. They rechristened the area Amikejo (literally, “friend-place”) and adopted a national anthem, and the International Esperantist Congress even decided to move its headquarters from The Hague to the new “world capital” of the international language.
But it wasn’t to be. Germany overran the tiny territory as World War I broke out, and it was formally annexed by Belgium in the Treaty of Versailles.
Somewhat related: In 2004 deaf journalist Marvin T. Miller proposed building the “world’s first sign language town,” a community whose common languages would be American Sign Language and written English. Miller chose a site in South Dakota and named it Laurent, after Laurent Clerc, who co-founded the country’s first school for the deaf. But the project appears to have stalled due to lack of funding.
What’s unusual about this poem, composed by James Rambo for Word Ways, May 1977?
Use fulsome howl or direst word in galling us; toil over a shoddy ode?
Listen, dressed in gyves, tiger, allies fall, ensnared in timeless eras, mentally in agony, essays in gall.
Outwit Hades, ignore verses, you real lover? Come!
Useful somehow, Lord, I rest, wording all in gusto I love.
Rash odd yodel is tendresse; dingy vestige rallies fallen snared.
In time, lesser as men tally, I nag on — yes, say, sing all out — with a design.
O reverses, you’re all overcome!
The two stanzas are spelled identically.
THAT’S ONE SMALL STEP FOR A MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND — NEIL ARMSTRONG
is an anagram of
AN EAGLE LANDS ON EARTH’S MOON, MAKING A FIRST SMALL PERMANENT FOOTPRINT
What’s the worst dictionary in the world? It appears to be Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language: Handy School and Office Edition, published in the late 1970s by Book-Craft Guild, Inc. While on vacation in 1994, Christopher McManus of Silver Spring, Md., had to rely on HSOE to arbitrate word games, and he quickly discovered that it had no entry for cow, die, dig, era, get, hat, law, let, may, new, now, off, old, one, run, see, set, top, two, who, why, or you. In fact, of 1,850 common three- and four-letter words that McManus found listed unanimously in seven other dictionaries, HSOE omitted fully 46 percent. At the same time it included such erudite entries as dhow, gyve, pteridophyte, and quipu.
“To find took, one must know to look under take,” McManus writes, “and disc is listed as a variant only at the disk entry.” The volume includes a captioned illustration of a raft, but no entry for raft!
It’s not clear what happened, but McManus suspects that the book was assembled from blocks of typeset copy, about 40 percent of which disappeared during publication. “Since the erstwhile publisher, Book-Craft Guild, is not listed in current publishing directories, definitive explanations are not available.”
(Christopher McManus, “The World’s Worst Dictionary,” Word Ways, February 1995)
(Note that this doesn’t indict all Webster’s dictionaries — most invoke Webster’s name only for marketing purposes.)
v. to delight oneself
In 2004 wind energy company Gamesa Energy UK announced plans to erect a 40-meter test mast in a field outside the Welsh village of Llanfynydd.
The villagers value their seclusion, and the area is home to three endangered bird species — the red kite, the curlew, and the skylark.
So they changed the town’s name to Llanhyfryddawelllehynafolybarcudprindanfygythiadtrienusyrhafnauole, which means “a quiet beautiful village, an historic place with rare kite under threat from wretched blades.”
At 66 letters, this surpassed Anglesey’s Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch as the longest place name in the United Kingdom, attracting some media attention and free publicity for the village’s battle against the energy company.
The change lasted only a week, but it served its purpose. “It might seem that changing the name of the village for the week is a bit of a joke, but we could not be more serious,” villager Meirion Rees told the BBC. “If our community is to be overshadowed it might as well change its name and its identity.”
There was a young fellow named Weir
Who hadn’t an atom of fear;
He indulged a desire
To touch a live wire,
(‘Most any old line will do here!)
– Anonymous, quoted in Carolyn Wells’ Book of American Limericks, 1925