In a Word

n. one who has left civilization and returned to the wilderness

Sarah Bishop was a young lady of considerable beauty, a competent share of mental endowments and education; she possessed a handsome fortune, but was of a tender and delicate constitution, enjoyed but a precarious state of health, and could scarcely be comfortable without constant recourse to medicine and careful attendance. She was often heard to say that she had no dread of any animal on earth but man. Disgusted with her fellow-creatures, she withdrew from all human society, and at the age of about twenty-seven, in the bloom of life, resorted to the mountains which divide Salem from North Salem: where she has spent her days to the present time, in a cave, or rather cleft of the rock, withdrawn from the society of every living being.

— G.H. Wilson, The Eccentric Mirror, 1813

In a Word

n. the full moon

In a 1961 letter to his aunt, J.R.R. Tolkien declared that this word is beautiful even before it is understood, and wished he could have the pleasure of meeting it again for the first time. “And surely the first meeting should be in a living context, and not in a dictionary, like dried flowers in a hortus siccus!”

Heated Words

Make the following experiment: say ‘It’s cold here’ and mean ‘It’s warm here.’ Can you do it? — And what are you doing as you do it? And is there only one way of doing it?

— Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 1953

True Enough

We have heard of the fall of Lucifer, and the fall of Cromwell, and the fall of Wolsey, but one of the pleasantest tumbles upon record was that of a Mr. John Fell, who, when he removed from one part of the metropolis to another, wrote over his door—I Fell from Holborn Hill.

A Collection of Newspaper Extracts, 1842

Mouth Fun

Say aloud:

Whittle it a little, it’ll fit.

A noisy noise annoys a noisy Noyes.

The Icelandic sentence Barbara Ara bar Ara araba bara rabbabara, besides being fun to say, is spelled with only three letters. It means “Barbara, daughter of Ari, brought only rhubarb to Ari the Arab.” (Thanks, Sigurður.)


If a train remains at the station from two to two to two-two (from 1:58 to 2:02), a passenger who misses it must wait from two-two to two to two.

Tom, while playing a game of Scrabble against Dick, who, while considering the last word that Harry (who had had HAD) had had had had, had had HAD, had had HAD. Had HAD had more letters, he would have played it.

Wouldn’t the sentence “I want to insert a hyphen between the words Fish and And and And and Chips in my Fish And Chips sign” have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Chips — and after Chips?

Every spring, the town of March in Cambridgeshire holds a “long, flat, pointless walk” across the Fens to Cambridge. “It has no purpose other than to be called the March March march.” There is an associated song, which is sometimes called the “March March March March.”