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Today's Word



Mar 9, 2015
This week’s theme
Poetic forms

This week’s words

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with Anu Garg

Twenty-one years ago, on March 14, 1994, I started what became Wordsmith.org. Dictionaries don’t list a word for a 21st anniversary, but we can call it a unvicennial or unvicennary, from Latin unus (one) + vicies (twenty times) + annus (year). (This is based on the pattern of undecennary)

Twenty-one years may sound like a long time, but each morning I can’t wait to wake up and play with words. Thanks for sharing your love of words with me. You are what makes Wordsmith.org. Thanks for participating and sending your comments and stories. Now I invite you to send your poems.

To celebrate the occasion we are throwing a big poetry-writing party. This week I have picked five words to describe various forms of light verse. You are invited to write a poem in each of this week’s verse forms. If you’ve never written a poem, don’t worry. Some of the poems described in this week’s words can be as short as two lines.

Email your original poems to contest@wordsmith.org (include your location: city/state/country) by this Friday. Selected poems will win books, word games, or T-shirts.

Update: See results.



noun: A humorous, pseudo-biographical verse of four lines of uneven length, with the rhyming scheme AABB, and the first line containing the name of the subject.

After writer Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), who originated it. Earliest documented use: 1928. Here is one of his clerihews:
Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”

Here’s a clerihew I came up with:
Biblical Noah
Collected zoa.
So did the lexicographer, from A to Z
Into his American Dictionary.

“Commanders-in-chief have long been targets for jokes, and Raczka continues this tradition with gusto in a collection of clerihews for each American president, accompanied by Burr’s impish b&w caricatures.”
Children’s Reviews; Publishers Weekly; Dec 22, 2014.

A couple of clerihews from this delightful book, Presidential Misadventures:
Founding dad James Madison
was sad he never had a son.
His parental contribution?
Father of the Constitution.

Turf defender James Monroe
warned the Europeans, “Whoa!
If you trespass, you’ll be shot.
That’s my doctrine, like it or not.”

See more usage examples of clerihew in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A full belly to the labourer is, in my opinion, the foundation of public morals and the only source of real public peace. -William Cobbett, journalist, pamphleteer, and farmer (9 Mar 1763-1835)

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