Archive for 1998

ZZ: What’s That up in the Sky?

The word that was my favorite Hangman word for years has six letters, none repeating. It makes a good Hangman word if the guessers guess according to the frequency table— Oh, okay, I suppose I have to take time out here to explain the frequency table, for those who don't do cryptograms. It's a list […]

YY: Re + Bus

My parents showed me this when I was a kid; I think they'd known it from childhood: YYUR YYUB ICUR YY4ME They had to explain to me how to read it. "YY" is "two Ys," or "too wise"; the whole thing is thus "Too wise you are, too wise you be; I see you are […]

XX: Go Fish (Reader Comments and Addenda)

Jacob Mattison suggests that the fish symbol derives from the loaves-and-fishes story recounted in John 6. (I guess a loaf was too hard to draw.) He points out a couple of other New Testament mentions of fish: eating fish after the resurrection (John 21), and Jesus telling Peter to catch a fish to pay taxes […]

XX: Go Fish

I always wondered where the X in "Xmas" came from. Or rather, I thought I knew: I thought it symbolized a cross. But recently it occurred to me that the similarity in sound between the words "cross" and "Christ" is an accident; "crossmas" doesn't really make any sense. So why the X? Maybe I was […]

WW: Round and Round We Go

I'm always amused by jokes and rhymes and poems that go in loops. For instance, when I was a kid, my father told me, "Pete and Re-Pete went out in a boat. Pete fell overboard. Who was left?" I answered, "Re-Pete," and he of course said, "Pete and Re-Pete went out in a boat..." Along […]

VV: Onset, Nucleus, Coda

Note: if you can't read ASCII IPA notation, go learn it. It's not hard. The sounds made by most consonant symbols are obvious, though this week's column contains some exceptions, and there aren't many common vowel symbols to learn. Several months ago I deconstructed the idea of verbs and nouns; now I'm going to go […]

UU: Dots and Lines

[Note: This week's column requires a graphical browser for best effect. Apologies to those reading in a text-only browser.] Is it a maze? Instructions for a chicken dance? Or perhaps a giant structure in the desert which can be understood only from an aerial perspective, providing evidence of ancient astronauts? Whatever it is, it can […]