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A.Word.A.Day--acrostic

Pronunciation RealAudio

acrostic (a-KRAW-stik, a-KRAWS-tik) noun

A composition, usually a poem, in which the first letter of each line spells out a hidden word or message.

[From Latin acrostichis, from Greek akrostikhis, from akron (head) + stikhos (line).]

An acrostic is not an angry insect ("a cross tick"), any more than an oxymoron is a big dumb cow. Rather, an acrostic is a poem, in which the first letter of each line spells out a word. Thus, acrostics are the most complete type of deletion as nothing remains but a single letter per line.

The most widely read acrostics occur in literature. Should you have any doubt that Lewis Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland specifically for Alice Pleasance Liddell, take a closer look at the acrostic poem that concludes Through the Looking Glass:

A boat, beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily,
In an evening of July --

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear --

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies,
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly still nestle near.

It's a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden gleam --
Life, what is it but a dream?

In William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the following passage, spoken by Titania, spells out her own name with the initial letters of each line:

Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no,
I am a spirit of no common rate,
The summer till doth tend upon my state;
ANd I do love thee. Therefore go with me.
I'll give thee fairies to attend on thee;
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep . . . .

Such acrostics are truly A + B the C of D -- "Above and Beyond the Call of Duty".

This week's theme: words about wordplay by guest wordsmith Richard Lederer.

X-Bonus

If the secret sorrows of everyone could be read on their forehead, how many who now cause envy would suddenly become the objects of pity. -Italian proverb

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