w: They Call the Wind Maria

Some of the loveliest and most interesting words I know are wind-related words, from the hot humid desert-born sirocco to the gentle susurrus of the zephyr. We've gained quite a few such words from roots in other languages; people all over the world have names for their winds. The word "zephyr," for instance, comes from […]

v: The Game of Fives

There's a game I learned in fifth grade that I've never encountered since; lacking any other name for it, I call it "Fives." One player (the chooser) picks a five-letter word with no repeating letters and draws five long dashes, one blank for each letter. The other players attempt to guess the chosen word. Each […]

u: Ubbi Dubbi, You’re the One

A lot of people from my generation will never forget one of Boston's ZIP codes. If you aren't in your late twenties to mid-thirties but know someone who is, try telling such a person, "Send it to ZOOM!" Chances are fairly good that they'll chant, "Box three five oh, Bos-ton Mass, ohhh, two oooone, three […]

t: Twiddling While Rome Burns (Reader Comments)

Stacey Kraemer points out that John Gorka's song "Out of My Mind" starts out: You're out of my mind. Guess that makes two of us... Pierre Abbat provides a line from Art. Moger's The Complete Pun Book (p. 160): After vigorously massaging the patient's back, the chiropractor said, "By golly, it's going to rain." The […]

t: Twiddling While Rome Burns

It was sometime in the spring of 1990. We were sitting in a van, riding back to our dorm, when Karen suddenly said, "Have you ever twiddled somebody else's thumbs?" We tried it; it worked about as well as twiddling one's own thumbs. Someone said "He twiddled her thumbs," which besides not being the usual […]

s: Beware of Greeks Bearing Poems

Recall from column d that a double dactyl is a poem of roughly this form: Higgledy Piggledy First name and last name here, Then something clever on What he/she did. Stanza two uses a Hexasyllabicword; Finish it up with a Topper or lid. —JEH The word "dactyl" derives from the Greek word meaning "finger" (as […]

r: Say What I Mean (Reader Comments)

Angie Thieriot writes to ask for information on the intriguing-sounding topic of "Persian Enigmatists." If anyone has pointers to such information, send them to me and I'll pass them along. Also, I note that column r is by far the most-accessed column I've written; it's received about four times as many hits as any other […]

r: Say What I Mean

"What goes up a chimney down, but can't go down a chimney up?" Nearly everyone knows a few modern-style riddles—questions with humorous answers to be guessed by listeners, often involving a pun but sometimes consisting of sheer nonsensical silliness. Modern riddles are often collected in volumes with humorous illustrations, and evocative titles like 1001 Riddles. […]