F: She Likes Puzzles

Besides introducing me to Ubbi Dubbi, Zoom (see also column u) provided a game called "Who is Fannee Doolee?" The cast members would say things like "Fannee Doolee. She likes doors but she hates windows." The idea was to find out why Fannee Doolee liked some things but hated other similar things. For instance, these […]

E: Circumlocutions

"Circumlocution" derives from Latin roots meaning "around" and "talk." "Euphemism" is from the Greek "euphemia," meaning "use of good words." Apparently we spend so much time trying to say unpleasant or socially unacceptable things pleasantly that we need two words to talk about the process. Everyone is familiar with certain euphemisms used to swear in […]

D: The Roots of Money (Reader Comments)

Danny Fahs writes to remind me of 1 Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is the root of all evil..." So despite the common misquote, it's greed (formerly known as cupidity) that Paul rails against, not money itself. I stand corrected, but (as my syllogism wouldn't work with the correct quotation) unrepentant. Danny also […]

D: The Roots of Money

There are about twenty modern nations whose currency is called the "dollar." The word apparently derives from "taler," which in turn comes from "Joachimsthal," the name of a place in Bohemia where the taler (a silver coin) was created—with the "-thal" part presumably meaning "valley." (The modern German spelling, by the way, has been changed […]

C: Chain Link Titles (Reader Comments)

Danny Fahs suggests not only some chain titles but descriptions of the results: How about that British programme about the naughty Time Lord, Carry On, Doctor Who? A Russian submarine fantasizes about being in the circus in Pixar's The Hunt for Red's October Dream. Arlo Guthrie is sentenced to be beheaded after he dumps the […]

C: Chain Link Titles

(Note: see end of column for credits for otherwise uncredited items.) By mixing the title of one work (movie, TV show, book, song, whatever) with another, you can sometimes come up with some great combos: Clan of the Care Bears Nightmare on Sesame Street (Which reminds me of the Duck's Breath Mystery Theater piece called […]

B: Draws Cab (Reader Comments)

Arthur supplies this switchback ladder: MIRED DENIM LINED DEVIL LIVER REVEL LEVEL LEVER BEVEL There are several other places you can go from LEVER, such as REBEL or RAVEL, but none of them seem to lead anywhere useful. I thought it would be really cool to mirror the ladder through the palindrome—that is, to go […]

B: Draws Cab

There are plenty of words which turn into other words when spelled backward. (No, not when spelled "backward," smart-aleck. When the order of the letters is reversed, okay?) "Straw" turns into "warts," "mart" into "tram," "room" into "moor," "reward" into "drawer." More unusual—or at least less commonly discussed—are words I call "switchbacks": words which turn […]

A: Now I Know My (Reader Comments and Addenda)

Thida Cornes, Sarah Liberman, and I went tripping, and we took acid, beanies, coke, downers, ecstasy (and ethanol), flying ointment, ganja (and glue), Haldol (and horse, and heroin), incense, junk, lithium (and LSD), marijuana, nicotine, opium, PCP, quaaludes, rum, sinsemilla (and smack), tea, uppers, Vivarin (and Valium), willow bark, X, and yerba buena. zowie! (I'm […]

A: Now I Know My

When airplane pilots and military personnel need to refer to letters of the alphabet, they use the NATO phonetic alphabet. In this system there's a word for each letter, to avoid confusion among letters whose names sound similar (especially over a noisy radio): Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel India Juliet Kilo Lima […]