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A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
"How do you find words?" Readers sometimes ask me. I like to say that words come to me. "Pick me!" "Pick me!" They raise their hands, eager to go out, be widely known in the language, and find a place on people's tongues.
From time to time I scour dictionaries for words, to seek out more obscure ones. When I stumble upon an interesting word, I feel as excited as a paleontologist might feel on finding a fossil, or a geologist on discovering a new form of rock. Shiny words, grimy words, words long and short, words with an unusual arrangement of letters, words to describe something unusual, and more.
For this week, I've collected words about words.
CONTEST Write a rhopalic newspaper headline (can be of increasing or decreasing word lengths) for a real or imaginary event. Best entry will receive a copy of the board game WildWords, courtesy WildWords Game Company and a runner-up will receive an "I'd Rather Be Grammatically Correct" T-shirt courtesy Uppityshirts.
HOW TO ENTER: Email your entries to (contest at wordsmith.org) no later than Friday. One entry per person. Please include your location. And while you are writing, send us any comments or suggestions you might have.
MEANING:adjective: Having each successive word longer by a letter or syllable.
ETYMOLOGY:From Latin rhopalicus, from Greek rhopalos (club, tapered cudgel).
NOTES:A rhopalic verse or sentence is one that balloons -- where each word is a letter or a syllable longer. The word is also used as a noun. Here's a terrific example of a rhopalic by Dmitri Borgmann:
"I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality, counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalises intercommunications' incomprehensibleness."
USAGE:"Soapy fired off a rhopalic sentence, that is, one in which each word is one letter longer than the word that precedes it:
'I am the only dummy player, perhaps, planning maneuvers calculated brilliantly, nevertheless outstandingly pachydermatous, notwithstanding unconstitutional unprofessionalism.'"
Alan Truscott; Talking About Behavior; The New York Times; Oct 26, 1986.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep. -Henry Maudsley, psychiatrist (1835-1918)