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AWADmail Issue 716A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Thanks to everyone who took part in our virtual duovicennial wordplay party. Examples you sent were creative, humorous, clever, and everything in between. Here are the winning entries. They receive their choice of a signed copy of any of my books, the word game One Up!, or the T-shirt AWAD to the wise is sufficient.
Pangrams are the zany, jolly, quirky sets of words boxed in creativity.
This example is one I saw at the recent Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in
I found this little drawing in the back of a classroom in elementary
school. I didn’t create it, but I have kept it with me for over 40 years :-).
I think this little drawing is of a cab driver with a hat on!
There is an animated TV series called Word World where all the characters
are ‘live’ calligrams. It’s a brilliant show, highly recommend to all
pre-schoolers for learning basic spelling.
Look what coincidentally showed up on my Facebook timeline today! “42
Clever Calligrams that Visualise the Meanings of Various Words”
The shape of Michigan’s two peninsulas defined by the five Great Lakes in
Calligrams -- found on T-shirts in a Saugatuck shop at the shore of Lake
A favorite calligram is Kitty and Bug by John Hollander.
My brother was production illustrator on the David Lynch film, Dune. At
one point they had no logo and he contacted me to provide one for them.
This was used for a while but unfortunately not for the film’s release.
My email address is 7714909. Upside down it’s bobhiLL. Is that considered
an ambigram? My daughter envisioned this.
When I was in primary school back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the
land, writing out the numbers 7734 was a method of skirting the rules
against the use of profanity. It always brought titters of mirth from my
Here’s my take on ambigrams: Among the many attractions of San Diego, where
I am fortunate enough to live, are our zoo and wild animal park. Since
January 1925 the magazine published by our zoological society has been
As an infant, my daughter had horrible colic and would cry for hours every
evening. One night when I was pacing with her in the nursery by her mirror,
I caught the image of a frazzled new mom failing to soothe her wailing
infant and my daughter’s reflected name (in all capital letters) hanging
as our backdrop in pink bubble letters: I MOAN. Side note: she grew out
of the colic and into a phenomenal, magical child!
My birth-date ambigram 09/11/60 reads the same from both directions.
Many took the quiz, but predictably, just a few experts got all the
I’m a dietitian, so I manufactured one that posed a real question,
considering that one definition of fruit is that it contains a seed to
propagate a new generation:
Why, Ava, Netflix zombie pics do require joking!
Many years ago some copywriter friends of mine set out to create the
shortest pangram possible. It had to be shorter than “The Quick Brown Fox
etc.” at 33 letters. They couldn’t do it, but they came close. Here’s what
they came up with: Few zany quips vex the morbid black judge.
Here are some I came up with a few years back after reading the delightful
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, in which pangrams figure muchly.
Here’s mine: Quixotic wizard given fake lymph jabs!
The foxy black wizard quips rhyming jive.
Here’s a variation I made up: a sentence, each word of which starts with
a letter of the alphabet, from A to Z, in that order:
Ms. Giraffe’s ex purportedly loved her, yet he just wouldn’t kick bragging
on his conquest in the Azores.
This one comes from the 1950s when I was taught touch typing:
On the main thoroughfare in the holy Iranian city of Qum, an annoying nerd
ogles the women in their brightly flowered calico burkas -- leading to
this perfect pangram:
The wizard forgave the jinxed polka mob quiescently.
One of my favourite examples of an acrostic is in a story told by
the writer Selden Rodman (in his book about the Caribbean). There
was a dictator in the Dominican Republic, Raphael Trujillo, who was
assassinated in 1961 after a long and brutal reign. The newspapers were
filled with odes and eulogies, but one of these contained a hidden
message -- an acrostic. The first letter of each line, read from top
to bottom, formed the words, “Asesino y ladron” (murderer and thief).
Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking-Glass” ends with a poem that is
an acrostic. It spells out Alice Pleasance Liddell, the whole name of the
Alice the books were written for.
My favourite example of an acrostic is found in Douglas Hofstadter’s book
Gödel, Escher, Bach. One chapter forms an acrostic, the solution to which
is the sentence “Hofstadter’s Contracrostipunctus Acrostic Backwards Spells
J.S.Bach”, which, as you can see, describes what it does when treated as a
In the Jewish liturgy, many Hebrew prayers are spelled with acrostic. Often,
author’s name, or alphabet (one, has one letter of the Hebrew alphabet
missing. THUS, questions as to “why?”)
From: Marek Boym (marekboym walla.com)
As is my wont, the first thing I did after turning on my computer was to look up the new word. I love it! Happy duovicennial.
While I have never before encountered “rebus” in English, I remember it as being commonly used in Polish. Even when I was still a child there I used to solve them in my children’s weekly! Ah, memories, memories!
Marek Boym, Raanana, Israel
From: Stafford Linsley (staffordlinsley gmail.com)
Stafford M Linsley, Seaham, UK
From: Claudine Voelcker (claudine.voelcker googlemail.com)
This word brought back the memory of Le Petit Train Rébus (video, 3 min.) of the ORTF, the French TV and radio broadcasting office of the 60s. And talking about playing, it was an interlude between broadcasts. It gives you an idea of the pace in the olden days, brace yourself with a little patience.
A later version was Le petit train de la Mémoire (video, 2 min.) which took you through French landscapes and featured part of a drawing on each wagon for the audience to put together.
Thanks for this lovely trip down memory lane.
Claudine Voelcker, Munich, Germany
From: Robert Martin (robertmartinhk hotmail.com)
I live in China. The Chinese language writing system is, at the end of the day, a celebration of the rebus: pictograms representing meaning. The language also has a paucity of sounds; thus homonyms proliferate. A bat etched into a piece of furniture signifies good luck because the sound for both bat and luck in Chinese is “fu”.
It is not surprising, I guess, that a whole novel has been written in rebuses by the masterful modern artist, Xu Bing. He calls it The Book of the Ground: From Point to Point. The book is told purely in internationally recognized symbols and images and thus needs no translation. It contrasts with his earlier installation piece, Book from the Sky, which was made of illegible Chinese characters, thus no one can read it.
Here is the beginning of the novel. I am sure you will be able to read it!
Robert Martin, Shanghai, China
From: Willa Wertheimer (dr.willa sbcglobal.net)
At times I save ephemera from our times together as a family: a ticket, a shell, a seagull feather, to create rebuses on scrapbook pages and messages to my children. The kids love to decode them.
Willa Wertheimer, Woodstock, Illinois
From: Preston Macdougall (preston.macdougall mtsu.edu)
The periodic table is full of rebuses (rebi?), and even got a little bit more full recently. Chemists can have some fun with them, like you have fun with words. We also must be careful!
For example, W is the atomic symbol for the refractory metal tungsten, so stubborn to react that it is found in filaments for incandescent lightbulbs. Why isn’t the symbol T, you ask? That’s because German chemists named it for the frustrating foam that was formed by the element when they were trying to smelt ores to extract the more valuable element tin. They named it Wolfram, for “foam from the wolf’s mouth”.
More on this is found in Chemical Eye for the Political Guy (or Gal).
Preston MacDougall, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
From: Doug Knowlton (doug.knowlton gmail.com)
So, if I drew some sketches explaining that I got off a bus and kissed my girl goodbye again and then climbed back on the bus, that would be a re-buss, re-bus, rebus!
Doug Knowlton, Howell, Michigan
From: Donald Bushnell (bushnell sbcglobal.net)
For those not fortunate enough to live in Texas, every bottle cap from a bottle of Lone Star beer (the National Beer of Texas) contains a rebus.
Donald Bushnell, San Antonio, Texas
From: Alan Etherington (alan-e ntlworld.com)
I’ve mentioned Latin masters before. Ours was a small chap but remarkably fierce, an erstwhile army major, and he was insistent that “res” was never, ever translated as “thing”, so insistent was he that if it was thus translated the Death Penalty would be invoked. We believed him and found all sorts of other translations.
Alan Etherington, Billingham, UK
From: David Malmquist (davem vims.edu)
Emoji are the rebuses of the digital age.
David Malmquist, Williamsburg, Virginia
From: Ossie Bullock (osmundbullock aol.com)
I think your basic definition should mention the playful or cryptic element which has long been part and parcel of it. A rebus has been used in heraldry for at least 500 years, in the form of visual puns. Thus the arms of the French family of Santeuil show an Argus’s head - the mythical Argus had a hundred eyes, which in French is ‘cent oeils’, spoken identically as the surname; and in England one early crest of the Bolton family shows a tun (barrel) with a bolt through it.
Ossie Bullock, London, UK
From: Kathleen Neal (kneal659 gmail.com)
And then there is Ian Rankin’s great detective, John Rebus from Edinburgh who always has time for a pint. No pictures needed.
Kathleen Neal, Avon, Ohio
From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 windstream.net)
Dharam Khalsa, Espanola, New Mexico
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
"The voters have brains like amoebas,"
There were limericks, haiku, and anagrams,
The trick of a good ambigram
"Sure, that chick's foxy," Sam's girlfriend admits,
“I’m good at creating acrostics
In North Cyprus yesterday I ran into a Turkish gentleman with no computer
skills, and he asked me to send this in on his behalf. Very modest guy,
wouldn’t give his name, but said that he wanted to ensure there was some
balance in all this 22nd birthday hoopla. I am complying with his request
From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
My surname, Graham, is a homophone for ‘something written’. I really wanted to name my daughter Electra with middle name Cardio. My wife put the kibosh on that idea. She wouldn’t even let me name her Ana. “Allison” has turned out to be a good choice and a wonderful grown woman and mother.
In any event, with three AWADs this week ending -gram, it’s been a struggle to come up with unique (or good) puns (as you’re about to see):
When your Greyhound breaks down, they rebus you.
“Next time you’re in Colombia could you smuggle me a Caligram of cocaine?”
I ambigram, as are my two brothers. (Sorry, that only works for our clan.)
When he used all the letters to curse Magwitch, did Pip pangram? (anger him... a stretch, I know.)
I got Lyme disease from acrostic.
Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
From: Rob McCabe (rmccabe jacksonhealthcare.com)
I just wanted to say thank you; on your “birthday” no less. I’ve always been a bit of a word fan and I’ve been getting your email in one form or another since 1998 (jeez, almost 20 years!) or so.
I used to have a job working for a Big Blue corporation and I always wrote down AWAD entries on the whiteboard in my cube. For over 10 years, I made more than a few work friends via AWAD and a lot of curious minds. Skip forward a few years (as well as a few unsatisfying jobs) and I’m finally back in a place with curious minds and a whiteboard to satisfy them. It feels good to do this again.
Thanks for all the good words.
Rob McCabe, Alpharetta, Georgia
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Language is the only homeland. -Czeslaw Milosz, writer, Nobel laureate (1911-2004)