ww: Punctuated Equilibrium

Computer folks hate to waste time or syllables. I've heard that commands in the UNIX operating system are so short and cryptic because one of the creators of UNIX hated to type. In the spirit of brevity, short whimsical names have been assigned to many items of punctuation: for instance, rather than saying "exclamation point," […]

vv: Seven Letters, More or Less

I like playing word games for fun rather than competitively. So I like the general idea of Scrabble®, but I don't much enjoy playing it with devotees of the game; they tend to score lots of points by playing dozens of two-letter words that nobody except The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary has ever used. (I […]

uu: Here’s to You, Mrs. Byrne

The game of Fictionary (also known as Dictionary) is played like this: One player, the word-picker, picks a word (from a dictionary) that none of the other players are familiar with. Each player other than the word-picker makes up and writes down (on a slip of paper) a plausible-sounding definition for the word. (The word-picker […]

tt: Putting the TM in HTML

Ever wonder why trademarks are so goofy? Most of the time you can't tell what a product is by its trademark name—why would anyone name a breath mint "HailStorm," or "Brexy"? The answer is that a trademark has to be something nobody else would reasonably use for a product name—that way if someone else does […]

ss: Toffee or Key? (Reader Comments and Addenda)

Pierre provides some English contrepet tongue twisters from the International Collection of Tongue Twisters: I am not a pheasant plucker, I'm a pheasant plucker's son but I'll be plucking pheasants When the pheasant plucker's gone. Suzie, Suzie, working in a shoeshine shop. All day long she sits and shines, all day long she shines and […]

ss: Toffee or Key?

Piggledy-higgledy, William A. Spooner was known for his penchant for mixing things up. When hungry, the Reverend ate mobster in lint sauce; when thirsty, he drank from an old cuter pup. —JEH Reverend William A. Spooner was at one time the Dean of New College, Oxford. He occasionally mixed up words, or parts of words, […]

rr: Tablespoons (Reader Comments and Addenda)

Further notes about Graffiti: Palm PDAs come with a little card showing how to draw Graffiti characters; you can see a version of the Graffiti card online if you're curious and don't have access to a Graffiti-capable PDA. If you try the Graffiti applet on that page, note that you need to draw really slowly […]

rr: Tablespoons

"'It seems very pretty,' she said when she had finished it, 'but it's rather hard to understand!' (You see she didn't like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.)" —Lewis Carroll I'm sure that people have been tempted to write directly on their computer screens for almost as long […]

qq: You Say Tomato…

Everyone's heard of Quetzalcoatl, the winged-snake god of the Toltecs and Aztecs. And many have heard of Popocatepetl, a volcano in Mexico. But not everyone knows that that funny-looking "tl" at the end of each of those words is the transliteration of a single letter of the Aztec language Nahuatl. (My dictionary says that's pronounced […]