In Dante’s Inferno, a sign above the gate to hell reads LASCIATE OGNI SPERANZA, VOI CH’ENTRATE.

There are many ways to translate this (Robert Ripley claimed to find 100), but a common one is ABANDON YE ALL HOPE WHO ENTER HERE.

By an unlikely coincidence, this yields ABANDON Y.A.H.W.E.H.

(Discovered by Dave Morice.)

Some Odd Words

Doubtful but entertaining:

Several sources define vacansopapurosophobia as “fear of blank paper” — it’s not in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it’s certainly a useful word.

I’ve also seen artiformologicalintactitudinarianisminist, “one who studies 4-5-letter Latin prefixes and suffixes.” I don’t have a source for that; it’s not in the OED either.

In Say It My Way, Willard R. Espy defines a cypripareuniaphile as “one who takes special pleasure in sexual intercourse with prostitutes” and acyanoblepsianite as “one who cannot distinguish the color blue.”

In By the Sword, his history of swordsmen, Richard Cohen defines tsujigiri as “to try out a new sword on a chance passerby.” Apparently that’s a real practice.

And one that is in the OED: mallemaroking is “the boisterous and drunken exchange of hospitality between sailors in extreme northern waters.”

(Thanks, Dave.)


The letters in OVERSUFFICIENTLY can be rearranged to spell the English number names for 1, 4, 5, 7, 10, 14, 15, 40, 45, 47, 50, 51, 57, 70, and 74.

The letters in A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE can spell 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 17, 18, 19, 30, 31, 33, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 43, 47, 48, 49, 70, 71, 73, 75, 78, 79, 80, 81, 83, 85, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 93, 95, 97, 98, and 99.

And the latter can also spell 26 numbers in the form “one-and-twenty,” from ONE-AND-THIRTY to EIGHT-AND-NINETY.

(Rex Gooch, “Number Names in Words and Phrases,” Word Ways 34:4 [November 2001], 254-258.)

In a Word

adj. able or skillful

n. a book lover

n. a short method of teaching

n. the intelligent direction of effort toward the achievement of an end

Mathematician Theodor Molien was fluent in German, Estonian, French, Swedish, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Norwegian.

“Read a hundred novels in a language,” he liked to say, “and you will know that language.”

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In the February 2003 issue of Word Ways, Dave Morice nominates PEPPERTREE as the “holy grail” of wordplay. PEPPERTREE is a “pyramid word” — it contains 1 T, 2 Rs, 3 Ps, and 4 Es:

peppertree - 1

But it contains two shorter pyramid words, PEPPER and PEP:

peppertree - 2


  • All the letters in PEPPERTREE can be typed on the top row of a typewriter.
  • PEPPERTREE’s vowels are drawn from the first half of the alphabet, its consonants from the second. The vowels occupy odd-numbered positions in the alphabet, the consonants even.
  • Written in capitals, all the letters in PEPPERTREE contain vertical lines. Half contain curves and half don’t; half contain closed spaces and half don’t.
  • In lowercase each letter has one line and one curve.
  • E appears 4 times and T once; if A = 1, B = 2, etc., then E + E + E + E = T.
  • The PEPPERTREE is an EVERGREEN, and each of these words contains the letter E, its only vowel, four times.

Altogether, Morice lists 26 ways in which PEPPERTREE is notable for its letters, pronunciation, and meaning, making it “an evergreen of the most alphabetic kind.” The whole list is here.

(Dave Morice, “Peppertree: The Logological Holy Grail,” Word Ways 36:1 [February 2003], 3-5.)

Silver and Gold

I know of only one triple pun that is also an accurate touché. A visitor who came in upon the wife of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree while she was giving her daughter a geography lesson, asked the child: ‘What is the capital of the Rothschilds?’ Answered the mother: ‘Bering Straits.’ (The Baring family, it is perhaps permissible to add, were the great rival English bankers.)

— Louis Kronenberger, The Cutting Edge, 1970


While writing for the Charleston News and Courier, journalist Frank Gilbreth Jr. made a study of the local language. “Although, as everyone knows, Charlestonians speak perfect English,” he wrote, “residents of many other sections of the United States unfortunately do not. Ironically, these sloppy talkers from elsewhere complain sometimes, while visiting the Holy City, that they cannot understand the pure and clear accents of Charlestonians.” He offered a glossary:

ABODE: wooden plank

AIN’T: sister of one of your parents

BALKS: a container, such as a match balks

BALL: to heat a liquid until it bubbles

CANADA: politician running for public office

FAINTS: a barricade of wood or brick

FORKS: bushy-tailed animal hunted by riders in red coats

MINE EYES: salad dressing

SEND WISHES: items of food made with bread, handy for a picnic

TOY: cravat

WRETCHED: the long name for the nickname “Dick”

“A person desiring to maneuver a car to the curb might ask a pool-lease-man, ‘Cain I police pack hair?’ To which the pool-lease-man would doubtless respond, ‘No, you cain not.'”

Eventually he published a dictionary under the pseudonym Lord Ashley Cooper, and the paper sold it for 25 cents a copy. I don’t know whether it did any good. The whole thing is here.

Extraordinary Lengths

A number of German writers intentionally suppressed the letter ‘r’ (as did also a fair number of Italians), of whom the eighteenth-century German poet Gottlob Burmann (1737-1805) is perhaps the most amusing: he is reported to have hated the letter ‘r’ to such an extent that in 130 poems he never used it and refused to pronounce his own last name.

— Laurence de Looze, The Letter & the Cosmos, 2016