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AWADmail Issue 25

January 18, 2001

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Last week's theme: yours to discover

Last week's contest to identify the common theme among the week's words brought huge response. Reading myriad of answers, I felt I was interpreting a Rorschach test. Here are some selections.

Day One: DEKKO

  • Most popular guess: "Words borrowed from foreign languages."
  • Most creative: "I get it! All words have to sound like numbers (dekko = Latin ten). I one, right? Two cool! I didn't think I had a tres of a chance, but I must be a pretty smart quatre. I cinq it right in the basket."
Day Two: AIT
  • Most popular: "homophone (dekko/deco, ait/eight/at/ate)"
  • Most outrageous: "Two words, when pronounced together give the impression that the persons saying the words has a lisp. e.g. dekko + ait = dekkoait - verb, to apply new paint to a house interior."
  • Most inane: "Words that share their meanings with other words."
  • Most creative: "Words that start with the letters of the word `daily': Monday (d-word), Tuesday (a-word), Wednesday (i-word), Thursday (l-word), Friday (y-word)."
Day Three: BIJOU
  • Most popular: "smallness - a glance, a small island, a small trinket."
  • Random: "Famous dog names?"
  • Most inane: "Is the pattern `things which are of a different size than others usually are'?"
  • What's that?: "Beauty potentials in small or constrained/confined form."
Day Four: HORST
  • Most popular: "Unusual scrabble words."
  • Most clueless: "My guess is this week has five-letter words."
  • Most convincing: "A one/two letter substitution converts the word to the name... of an animal: dekko to gecko, ait to ant, bijou to bison, horst to horse."
  • Seeing tree for the forest: "The common trait that these words have in common is that the vowels appear in alphabetical order."
  • Random: "Words from the works of Wilkie Collins (born Jan 8, 1824), English literary figure and confidant of Charles Dickens."
  • Contorted logic: "I think this week's theme is `Cast Away': Living on a small island, pushed up by tectonic plates, perhaps forming a volcanic mountain top that is a work of art, worth more than a glance. And it's a movie everyone wants to see."
Day Five: DOTTY
  • Shot in the dark: "The words this week describe southeastern Florida."
  • Leap of faith: "Is the answer to the puzzle, Survivor 2? Most of the words seem to imply watching an island of crazies!"
  • Creative: "something to do with the Internet - ait (@) and dotty (.), but I can't figure out dekko"
  • Can't see anything: "The Wordsmith theme of the week is words that only 12 people in the universe have ever seen."
THE WINNER is Tracy Hall (hthallATmath.berkeley.edu) for sending the first correct answer: all words have letters in alphabetical order. First and second runners-up are Bob Childress (as338ATlafn.org) and Sebastian Till (sebastian.tillATbarnet-chase-tr.nhs.uk).

An Almost-Got-It AWArD goes to Jason R. Black (jrblackATshepherdelec.com) for his entry, "All the vowels appear in alphabetical order within the word, as do all the consonants."

Congratulations to winners, and to all who participated.

It was fun to read how much pain some took just to say that the words had all the letters in alphabetical order. Consider these:

  • "The letters of each of these words fit the criteria that each letter within the word does not precede the previous letter in relation to its order of appearance in the English alphabet."
  • "Subsequent letters always appear further on in the alphabet?"
  • "Alpha Characters Employed Here In Korrect Order."
David Smith (dfs42105ATglaxowellcome.com) explained the theme well: "The theme of the week is Words Whose Letters Appear in Alphabetical Order. Thus, dekko but not deco, ait but not isle, bijou but not jewel, beef but not pork, cent but not penny, and Anu but not Garg."

I had written a quick Perl script to cull such words from the dictionary. Here are some interesting tidbits I discovered while preparing the theme:

  • Around 0.3% of the words in the English language fulfill this property.
  • The longest words (seven characters) with this characteristic are beefily and billowy.
  • The first and last words showing this quality are aah and tux.
  • The longest word (nine characters) with letters in reverse order is spoonfeed.
  • The first and last words with letters in reverse order are baa and zymic.
For other "yours to discover" themes from the previous years, see:
2000: AWADmail Issue 15
1999: AWADmail Issue 12

From: Bradley Perkins (bradley.perkinsATlegis.state.wi.us)
Subject: this week's theme

After listing all the words for a co-worker I realized something they all share: The letters of each word are in alphabetically order. The reason I noticed it is that my mother has a peculiar habit, which she passed on to me, of alphabetizing the letters of words that she reads, as just a "mental fidget" ("aelmnt defgit").

From: Linda Fraley (ljfraleyATthegrid.net)
Subject: A Horst of a Different Color

Horst also means eagle's nest or eyrie in German. I know this because my maiden name is Horstman and that is the etymology of the name. My German dictionary also lists this meaning, although I have seen others that use the definition you have given it. In either case it means a high place. And an anagram of my married surname is "A Flyer." My deceased husband was indeed a pilot (Navy) and was killed in a plane crash. We were both born in Ohio which claims to be the birthplace of aviation.

From: Barbara Jungbauer (barbara.jungbauerATtarget.com)
Subject: ait

The first time I heard the word ait was also the occasion of my first excursion into Cambridge, England. My date, myself and three other couples had lunch at a pub called the Fort St. George. The FSG is on a (former) island on the Cam. The island was joined to the mainland centuries ago during one campaign or another when the King's forces poured tons of dirt into the river.

We ran into friends several hours later who asked about our day. My friend Susan replied, "We eight ate on the ait."

From: Charlotte R. Mitchell (rosebudAThorizonview.net)
Subject: reply to AWADmail Issue 24

I am writing in response to "Is there a desirable place name that, when turned upside down and (perhaps) slightly modified, becomes an undesirable place name? There could be a mix of capital and lower-case letters and just about any other nonsense to get this gag across."

Spending many, many hours in church as a child and being necessarily quiet caused many notes to be passed back and forth among the children of the congregation. I remember receiving a note from a friend asking me what the devil's telephone number is. I admitted I had no idea, having never had an occasion to look it up in the local phone book. My friend passed back the note with these four numbers, which at that time was the correct amount of digits in a phone number - 7734. Turn them upside down or stand behind your monitor and look down from the top of it, and you will see that it is also the devil's address. The number 4 needs to be open at the top as most people write it.

From: Robin F. Moore (moorerfATgunet.georgetown.edu)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 24

Oddly, the address where I grew up, where my mother still lives, is such a phenomenon: 351W30, upside down, is "DEMISE." I found it out when a friend had written the address on her hand, and I saw it upside down.

This has got to be bad feng shui, whether it's publicized or not. However, if you're going to include it in a work of literature, please let me know so she can sell the house first!

What word has st in the middle, in the beginning, and the ending?
(Hint: it anagrams to `Kind ants'.)

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