z: Time and the Mailman

"Zeugma" is one of my favorite words. It would probably be my very favorite word if only it were pronounced /'zOig m@/ (as I assumed when I first saw it) instead of /'zug m@/, a pronunciation that seems boring compared to the spelling. (For a pronunciation key, see column k or the ASCII IPA page.) […]

y: Secret Yets

A "secret yet" is a short phrase or riddle involving a pun, in which the punning word has been replaced by a synonym (and is therefore no longer a pun). They're funny in an odd sort of way—they seem completely mundane, or incomprehensible, until you realize that they used to be puns, that they're sort […]

x: Alalaes Ululient

About two months ago, my email yielded up the best Gilbert & Sullivan filk/parody I've ever encountered. Fortunately, one doesn't need to know much about the television series Xena: Warrior Princess to appreciate the dazzling wordplay and wit here; like all the best modern productions of Gilbert & Sullivan, this piece contains extensive footnotes explaining […]

w: They Call the Wind Maria

Some of the loveliest and most interesting words I know are wind-related words, from the hot humid desert-born sirocco to the gentle susurrus of the zephyr. We've gained quite a few such words from roots in other languages; people all over the world have names for their winds. The word "zephyr," for instance, comes from […]

v: The Game of Fives

There's a game I learned in fifth grade that I've never encountered since; lacking any other name for it, I call it "Fives." One player (the chooser) picks a five-letter word with no repeating letters and draws five long dashes, one blank for each letter. The other players attempt to guess the chosen word. Each […]

u: Ubbi Dubbi, You’re the One

A lot of people from my generation will never forget one of Boston's ZIP codes. If you aren't in your late twenties to mid-thirties but know someone who is, try telling such a person, "Send it to ZOOM!" Chances are fairly good that they'll chant, "Box three five oh, Bos-ton Mass, ohhh, two oooone, three […]

t: Twiddling While Rome Burns (Reader Comments)

Stacey Kraemer points out that John Gorka's song "Out of My Mind" starts out: You're out of my mind. Guess that makes two of us... Pierre Abbat provides a line from Art. Moger's The Complete Pun Book (p. 160): After vigorously massaging the patient's back, the chiropractor said, "By golly, it's going to rain." The […]