q: Off With Their Heads

Every book about wordplay is required (by a little-known law) to contain at least one section pertaining to words which turn into other words when you remove letters. The goal can be to find curtailable words (which you can remove the last letter from and still have a valid word), beheadable words (removing the first […]

p: The Similarity Engine

Similarity—the idea that two non-identical things are nonetheless related in some way—is a powerful concept. The idea seems natural to us because humans are pretty good at discovering similarities, drawing analogies, and creating metaphors. When we're told that two things are similar, we can usually draw some connection between them. Given an analogy or metaphor, […]

o: Words of Just One Beat

This week's screed is writ in words of just one beat. I used to call such words "words of just one part," but a friend whose name I can't say in one beat set me straight. "Just one part," as he said, sounds like it means "just one piece of a word." (Oh, dear—now I […]

n: What’s in a Name? (Reader Comments)

Sarah Liberman mentions another state-named fictional character: Nevada Smith, from the movies The Carpetbaggers and Nevada Smith. (I wonder if that's what the name Indiana Jones played on?) She adds that she's sometimes been called "Es" for short, which reminds me to add the nicknames "Effie" and "Essie," not quite letter-names but close. I'm also […]

n: What’s in a Name?

"I'm now firmly in the grip of Flu Abelard. (This year I've decided to name them, like hurricanes; the next one will be Flu Boadicea.)" —Elliott Moreton I've long been fascinated by names—names of things, names of places, names of people. I like words for and pertaining to names—appellation, monicker, nomenclature, ycleption. (Games magazine once […]

m: A Roiling Mind Gathers Mnemosyne

Mnemosyne was the ancient Greek goddess of memory, the mother of the Muses. From a word related to her name we get the word "mnemonic" (a device for remembering something), one of the few English words starting with a silent 'm.' Mnemonics can be used to aid fallible human memory in recalling numbers, pronunciations, the […]

l: Mostly Anapestic

I've heard it said that there's no such thing as a good clean limerick. I would have to disagree; I like clean limericks. But then, most of the best clean limericks aren't really limericks at all. To be more precise, my favorite limericks are mostly the ones that play with or comment on the limerick […]