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 […]

TT: Lost in Translation

I realize that it's not polite to make fun of writing that's been translated poorly from another language. I suspect that mocking Japanglish, Franglais, and Chinglish can be considered politically incorrect at best and racist at worst. But I can't help myself. I find myself vastly entertained by the weird English that translators come up […]

RR: Down Came the Good Fairy

Almost everyone I know has had some encounter with the song "Little Rabbit Foo Foo." But I've found, to my dismay, that about half the people who've heard the song are totally unaware of the punchline/moral that justifies the song. A quick explanation for those few of you who have no idea what I'm talking […]

QQ: Drongos, Droobs, and Droogs

Have you been looking for a good slang dictionary? Me too. It can be hard to tell, on a cursory inspection, which are reasonably accurate and which are outdated, miss shades of meaning, or are just plain wrong. I've taken to checking a few particular words that I feel reasonably confident I know the current […]

PP: Party Boobytrap

Everyone knows what a palindrome is: a word that reads the same backwards as forwards (except for spaces and punctuation). Maybe the fact that everyone knows about them is why it's taken me a year and a half to get around to writing about them. The most famous palindrome is probably "Madam, I'm Adam." Perhaps […]

OO: Peephole in a Barbed Wire Fence

In a 1985 column, world's greatest columnist Jon Carroll asked for information about the phrase "I stand before you to sit behind you..." He was deluged with comments. Like many of his correspondents, I had heard a version of the phrase as a child; it's the start of a contradictory nonsense verse. The verse generally […]