k: /’INglIS &z Si Iz spEld/

I should start by saying that this week's column has more to do with linguistics than with wordplay. I'm assuming readers have no formal background in linguistics; linguists in the audience can skim ahead. First off, a definition: the field of linguistics has to do with study of the structure of language in general, not […]

j: The Big Red Hen (Reader Comments)

Thida Cornes contributed a sad (but amusing) little poem she wrote in which all the words are three or fewer letters long. In retrospect, I think this restriction makes for better content than requiring all words to be exactly three letters long. Thida adds: "It contains 12 lines, because 12 is divisible by three." An […]

j: The Big Red Hen

One of those puzzles that keeps cropping up on the Net asks for the names of ten three-letter body parts. The trick is that there are nine fairly easy ones, but no obvious tenth. Of course, much depends on what you're willing to count as a body part. The Trigrammatic Anatomical Council (T.A.C.), headed by […]

i: Words Within Words (Reader Comments)

Dominus ("a careful user of constructions like `firefighter,' `letter carrier,' and `chairperson'") quite rightly points out that the "huperchild" joke has no basis in etymology; that is, the letters spelling "man" in "human" and the letters spelling "son" in "person" have no relation to the actual words "man" and "son." In other words, "human" and […]

i: Words Within Words

Gender-neutral language is a thorny topic, mined with pitfalls (to thoroughly mix metaphors)—and a topic I have no intention of addressing just yet. However, there's an old and somewhat tired joke about sexist language that nicely illustrates the actual topic at hand. The joke says that to avoid sexism, the "man" part of the word […]

h: Heteroradical Homonyms

An English teacher once told me that in Chaucer's day the word "venerie" referred to matters involving either hunting or love; and that by saying the Monk "lovede venerie," Chaucer definitely meant he was both a hunter and a lover. I eventually discovered that that statement may be somewhat inaccurate; the modern word "venery" can […]

g: Haunts and Apparitions

I used to think everyone knew how to play Ghost, but that turns out not to be the case. So here's an explanation of the game before I get into variants: The game of Ghost involves spelling a word, with each player in turn adding a letter to a growing word. The object is to […]

f: What They Did: The Movie

The entry for 3 December in Another Almanac of Words at Play is a quasi-story called "What They Did," by Freddy Bosco, consisting of selected book titles beginning with "They." That piece was in the back of my mind one day when I heard Arthur reading aloud a series of movie titles from a movies-on-video […]