Archive for November, 1997

V: That Lovede Venerie

Q: What has four wheels and flies? A: A garbage truck. ...No, wait. I got the punch line right but the wrong question. Let's back up and try that again. Q: Johnny, name a collective noun. A: A garbage truck! I read that joke in I don't know how many riddle books as a kid, […]

U: A Capital Idea (Reader Comments and Addenda)

I recently encountered the term "TWAIN," referring to scanner-related software. I vaguely wondered what it stood for, but assumed it was just some boring computer acronym. So I was delighted when Don Monson coincidentally dropped me a note a couple weeks later to tell me what "TWAIN" really stands for: Technology Without An Interesting Name. […]

U: A Capital Idea

"Many thanks to old Cadmus, who made us his debtors, by inventing one day the capital letters." —from an old rhyme, according to Oscar Ogg When I decided to write about acronyms, it occurred to me to wonder where capital letters came from—or more precisely, where and when the idea was formed of having two […]

T: It’s All in the Rhythm

(Notes: my information here is based largely on research I did in 1990; much of it comes from linguistics papers from the '60s and '70s. My information may therefore be somewhat outdated, but it's the most recent information I have available. On an unrelated note, you'll need a browser that can display tables to get […]

S: Tom Said

Willard Espy didn't bother to define Tom Swifties in his Almanac(s) of Words at Play; perhaps he felt everyone knew what they were. I'm sure that there are some people who haven't encountered them, though, so I'll start with a quick definition. A Tom Swifty is a pun of this form: "I never get blisters; […]

R: Rhyme With Reason

"Slovenly rhyming is one of the sure signs of mediocrity in versification." —Clement Wood, The Complete Rhyming Dictionary There seems to be a bit of confusion out there over what exactly constitutes rhyme in English. But before I can talk about rhyme, I have to talk about syllable stress. [Momentary pause for obligatory stress jokes […]