• Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor in Doctor Who, is the father-in-law of David Tennant, who played the 10th.
  • Sharks are older than trees.
  • ABHORS, ALMOST, BEGINS, BIOPSY, and CHINTZ are alphabetical.
  • \displaystyle \sqrt{7! + 1} = 71
  • “The punishment can be remitted; the crime is everlasting.” — Ovid

“Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me!” — Pete Conrad, after becoming the third human to set foot on the moon

In a Word

adv. not long ago, recently, lately

n. liability to be forgotten

adj. expressed merely by a gesture

n. an inference; conclusion

Norbert Wiener of MIT was well known as an extreme example of someone who could get lost in thought. Once while walking on campus, Wiener met an acquaintance, and after a while he asked his companion: ‘Which way was I walking when we met?’ The man pointed, and Wiener said, ‘Good. Then I’ve had my lunch.’

— Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner, Loving and Hating Mathematics: Challenging the Myths of Mathematical Life, 2010

Fair Exchange


The Beggar’s Opera, by John Gay, premiered in 1728 at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, managed by John Rich.

It was an enormous success, becoming one of the most popular plays of the 18th century.

This “had the effect, as was ludicrously said, of making Gay rich and Rich gay.”

(From Johnson’s Lives of the Poets.)

Donkey Sentences

Every farmer who owns a donkey beats it. The pronoun it in this sentence seems to have a clear meaning. But does it? Normally the phrase a donkey refers to some particular donkey; the indefinite article a refers to something that exists. But here its meaning is more abstract — a donkey seems to refer to a whole class of unfortunate donkeys. And in that case the pronoun it seems to have nothing to point to.

Yet most readers have no trouble understanding the sentence. How?

In a Word

n. a huge or monstrous creature or beast

v. to wander through (a place)

n. taking food, feeding

adj. characteristic of or peculiar to a particular country or district

From October to December, a herd of elephants walks through the lobby of Zambia’s Mfuwe Lodge to reach the fruit of a wild mango tree.

At least three generations of one family has returned to the lodge to visit the tree.

Testamentary Matters

In December 1995, puzzlemaster Will Shortz challenged listeners of National Public Radio to write grammatical and understandable sentences that contained the same word four or more times in succession. The greatest number settled on the word will, which lends itself readily to such strings:

Will Will will Will his yacht? (Marianne Stambaugh)

So some got more ambitious:

Of his own free will, will Will will Will Jr. his dog? (Daniel Waldman)

Will, will Will will Will will to continue on? (Jennie Raymond)

The will Will will will Will will will Will to change his behavior. (Karan Talley)

Relatives wonder if the Will Will will will will Will Will Jr. any part of his father’s estate. (Alan Singer)

What will show how much affection Will had for Will? The will Will will will Will will: Will will will Will Will Shakespeare’s will! (Edgar Bley)

The purest entry came both from Jeff and Loni Doyle and from Bill Topazio — it concerns the bequest of G. Gordon Liddy’s 1980 autobiography:

Will Will will Will Will?

(A. Ross Eckler, “When There’s A Will …,” Word Ways 29:3 [August 1996], 151-155.)

In a Word


v. to signify, indicate, or make known to somebody that something is the case

n. honor, dignity, reverence

adj. distinguished, eminent, excellent

n. a fine rain falling from a cloudless sky

Momentous flights are sometimes marked by a “water salute” in which an aircraft passes under plumes of water sprayed by firefighting vehicles.

Here U.S. Air Force fire trucks salute a KC-135 Stratotanker, marking the final flight of Col. Corey Martin, commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, in Kyrgyzstan in 2013.

“Hannibal, Missouri”

Glimmering, gone — springtime stream
Lapping … road winding down
The shimmering hill. Hometown
Napping … sweet, solemn dream!
Dream solemn, sweet … napping
Hometown … hill shimmering … the
Down-winding road … lapping
Stream … springtime … gone, glimmering.

Willard R. Espy quotes this in his 1999 book The Best of an Almanac of Words at Play without citing the source. It’s by David L. Stephens.