XX: Go Fish

I always wondered where the X in "Xmas" came from. Or rather, I thought I knew: I thought it symbolized a cross. But recently it occurred to me that the similarity in sound between the words "cross" and "Christ" is an accident; "crossmas" doesn't really make any sense. So why the X? Maybe I was […]

WW: Round and Round We Go

I'm always amused by jokes and rhymes and poems that go in loops. For instance, when I was a kid, my father told me, "Pete and Re-Pete went out in a boat. Pete fell overboard. Who was left?" I answered, "Re-Pete," and he of course said, "Pete and Re-Pete went out in a boat..." Along […]

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 […]