U: A Capital Idea

"Many thanks to old Cadmus, who made us his debtors, by inventing one day the capital letters." —from an old rhyme, according to Oscar Ogg When I decided to write about acronyms, it occurred to me to wonder where capital letters came from—or more precisely, where and when the idea was formed of having two […]

T: It’s All in the Rhythm

(Notes: my information here is based largely on research I did in 1990; much of it comes from linguistics papers from the '60s and '70s. My information may therefore be somewhat outdated, but it's the most recent information I have available. On an unrelated note, you'll need a browser that can display tables to get […]

S: Tom Said

Willard Espy didn't bother to define Tom Swifties in his Almanac(s) of Words at Play; perhaps he felt everyone knew what they were. I'm sure that there are some people who haven't encountered them, though, so I'll start with a quick definition. A Tom Swifty is a pun of this form: "I never get blisters; […]

R: Rhyme With Reason

"Slovenly rhyming is one of the sure signs of mediocrity in versification." —Clement Wood, The Complete Rhyming Dictionary There seems to be a bit of confusion out there over what exactly constitutes rhyme in English. But before I can talk about rhyme, I have to talk about syllable stress. [Momentary pause for obligatory stress jokes […]

Q: How the Typewriter Got Its Keys

The typewriter keyboard used almost universally in America (and with some variations throughout much of the world) was created by Christopher Latham Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and S. W. Soule around 1870. It's sometimes known as the Universal keyboard, but perhaps more commonly known as the QWERTY keyboard, after the first six letters in the upper […]

P: Verse Doodles

Now and then one feels inspired to feast upon morally uplifting poetry that one can really sink one's teeth into—great classical works from the Western canon, perhaps, such as Paradise Lost or "The Song of Hiawatha." Then again, sometimes ya just wanna kick back and relax with a light-verse snack. If you're in the mood […]