Archive for the ‘Logology’ Category

23. Word records

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 28 日 in Logology

Some English words are noteworthy not because of their meaings but because of their structure. For example, the word supererogatorily (which means “in a manner that is beyond the call of duty”) contain alternating consonants and vowels. Such words set word records that go beyond expectations.

  1. abhors, almost, begins, biopsy, chimps, chinos, chintz = some of the few six-letter words composed of letters that occur in alphabetical order without repetition

  2. abracadabra = the longest common word with the most repeats of the letter A.

  3. abstemious, facetious = the two most common words containing the five regular vowels in alphabetical order

  4. adieu, aerie, audio, eerie, queue = the longest common words with only one consonant

  5. aftereffects, desegregated, desegregates, reverberated, stewardesses = some of the longest words that can be typed using only those letters normally typed with the left hand

  6. ambidextrously = the longest common word that doesn’t repeat any letters (isogram)

  7. antiskepticism = the longest uncommon word with typewriter letters from alternating hands

  8. bookkeeper = the best-known word with the most consecutive letter pairs

  9. CHECKBOOK = the longest word composed entirely of letters with horizontal symmetry in uppercase

  10. encourage = the longest common word in which changing one letter radically changes its pronunciation (encourage→entourage)

  11. four = the only number word whose quantity of letters matches the number it denotes

  12. HOMOTAXIA = possibly the longest word composed entirely of letters with vertical symmetry in uppercase

  13. honorificabilitudinitatibus = the longest word consisting of alternating consonants and vowels. Others are aluminosilicates, parasitological, verisimilitudes, supererogatorily

  14. hydroxyzine = the only word containing the letters XYZ

  15. jinni = the word, another spelling of genie, becomes plural not by adding any letter but by removing the last letter: jinn

  16. johnny-jump-up, niminy-piminy = the longest words that would normally be typed with only the right hand using standard keyboarding

  17. kine = the archaic plural of cow shares none of its letters

  18. meet-her-in-the-entry-kiss-her-in-the-buttery = besides being the longest nontechnical plant name, the entry is one of the few English words with nine hyphens

  19. ough-, -ough, -ough- = the combinatino ough can be pronounced in nine different ways: A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful plough-man strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.

  20. strengths = the longest word with exactly one nonrepeated vowel

  21. ushers = the only English word with five personal pronouns in succession–namely, us, she, he, her, and hers

  22. widow = the only female form in English that is shorter than the corresponding male term, widower


A retronym is a new term created from an existing word in order to distinguish the original referent of the existing word from a later one that is the product of progress or technological development. For example, what used to be called books (which always had hard covers) are now called hardcover books to distinguish them from paperback books.

  1. acoustic guitar: created because of the invention of electric guitars

  2. AM radio: created when FM radio was introduced

  3. analog watch: created when digital watches were introduced

  4. bar soap: created to distinguish it from liquid or gel soap

  5. black-and-white TV: created to distinguish it from color TV

  6. cloth diaper: created after the invention of disposable diapers

  7. corn on the cob: created after the introduction of canned corn

  8. disposable battery: created after rechargeable batteries became popular

  9. film camera: created after the invention of digital cameras

  10. regular coffee: created after the invention of decaffeinated coffee


Eponyms are words from a person whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named.

  1. biro

  2. boycott

  3. cardigan

  4. draconian

  5. macadamia nuts

  6. maverick

  7. nicotine

  8. pasterized

  9. sandwich

  10. saxophone

  11. teddy bear


Many words gain their descriptive power from their association with place names. For example, Broadway is often used to describe musical theater; Fleet Street has been used to describe the British press because it is a London street that used to house many newspapers. Words from place names are easier to understand if students are familiar with their backgrounds.

  1. bedlam (pandemonium): after a popular name and pronunciation of St. Mary of Bethlehem, London’s first psychiatric hospital

  2. bikini (skimpy two-piece bathing suit): after Bikini Atoll in the Marshal Islands, where atomic bombs were tested in 1946–supposedly analogous to the explosive effect on the male libido

  3. bohemian (describing individuals who wish to live an unconventional lifestyle): after Bohemia, where gypsies were erroneously thought to have originated

  4. Chinese wall (an insurmountable barrier, especially to the passage of information): after the Great Wall of China

  5. denim (a coarse cotton fabric): after French serge de Nimes, where the cloth originated

21. Literordinyms & Word chains

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 28 日 in Logology

Literordinyms refer to words with three or sometimes four consecutive alphabetical letters. Some three-letter alphabetical sequences are common (such as DEF), but some are almost unheard of (such as XYZ).

  1. abcoulomb

  2. define

  3. coughing

  4. hijack

  5. somnolent

  6. gymnophobia

  7. first

  8. stupid

  9. hydroxyzine

Note that some words contain three-letter sequences that are in reverse alphabetical order.

  1. federal

  2. jihad

  3. coupon

  4. peanuts


Word chains refer to a wordplay that people change one word into a contrary or even an opposite word by changing one letter at a time. Such verbal transformations require a good deal of ingenuity or trial and error.

  1. We can change black to white.


  1. We can change lead into gold.


  1. We can change hate to love.


Exercise 1: Please change give to take.

Exercise 2: Please change poor to rich.

Misnomers refer to a wrong or inaccurate name or designation. For example, the expression black box to describe a recording device on airplanes is related to death and destruction but doesn’t relate to the color of the device, which is orange, to make it conspicuous among wreckage.

  1. Blackboards can be blue or green.

  2. Black boxes on large airplanes are orange.

  3. Peanuts aren’t peas or nuts; they are legumes.

  4. English muffins weren’t invented in England but in America.

  5. French fries weren’t invented in France but in Belgium.

  6. The second hand on a watch is the third hand.

  7. Mobile homes got the name from the name of the place where they were first mass produced: Mobile, Alabama.

  8. A jackrabbit is a hare; a Belgian hare is a rabbit; Welsh rabbit is a cheese dish.

  9. Bloodhounds are so named not because of their special ability to smell blood but because they were the first breed of dog whose blood or breeding records were maintained.

  10. Arabic numerals are from India.

  11. Brown bears aren’t always brown but can be white, cream, brown, cinnamon, and blue.

  12. Fireflies aren’t flies but beetles; a guinea pig is not a pig or from Guinea but a South American rodent; a titmouse isn’t a mouse but a bird.

  13. Quicksand works slowly.

  14. Boxing rings are square.

  15. When people say that they could care less, they mean they couldn’t care less.

  16. When people say that someone wants to have his cake and eat it too (an everyday occurence), they mean that someone wants to eat his cake and have it too (an impossibility).

  17. A near miss is a near hit.

  18. Things don’t really fall between the cracks but through the cracks.

  19. People don’t cross bridges but whatever is under the bridges and perpendicular to the bridges.

  20. Doughnut holes aren’t holes but what fills them.

  21. Announcements aren’t made by nameless officials but by unnamed officials.

  22. People can’t put their best foot forward, only the better one.

  23. When people do things behind your back, they have no choice because they can’t do things in front of your back.

  24. The Canary Islands weren’t named after canary birds but after dogs, the extinct race of large dogs (Latin Canis) that once roamed there. The bird is named after the Canary Islands.

  25. Technically, there is no such thing as the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is the Medal of Honor, though it is presented “in the name of the Congress of the United States.”


Words are alive. They are born; they often change, and they sometimes die. Sometimes the meanings of words have changed so much that they can now be used to describe the opposite of what they originally described. These are all meaning-changed words.

  1. awful: The word once meant “full of awe, awe-inspiring” and could describe very good things. Now it usually means “terrible.”

  2. bully: In the sixteenth century, the word meant “a sweetheart” or “fine fellow.” Accordingly, Shakespeare has a character in Henry V say: “I love the lovely bully.” The term came to have its current sense by association with swashbucklers and hired ruffians.

  3. girl: In the thirteenth century, a girl could denote a “youth,” whether a boy or a maiden. To prevent possible ambiguity, people would usually refer to a boy as a knave girl. The word girls usually meant “children.” The current use of girl dates from the sixteenth century.

  4. idiot: Although many of us today believe that idiots are disproportionately represented in public office, ancient Greeks would use the term–from the root idios (private)–to designate those who didn’t hold public office. Because such people were regarded as having no special skill or status, the word gradually fell into disrepute.

  5. passenger: In the fourteenth century, the word, which literally means “one who is passing,” was used to refer to any traveler, often one on foot. Although the current sense arose in the sixteenth century, the word was used in its “pedestrain” sense as late as the nineteenth century.

  6. restive: Although the word now means “not wanting to rest” and “uneasy,” in the seventeenth century it meant “wanting to rest,” “not wishing to move,” and “inactive.”

  7. with: The word once meant–you may not believe this–“against.” In Old English, with denoted opposition, producing the following paradoxical-sounding idioms: compete with, contend with, fight with, quarrel with, and struggle with. The Old English word for the current meaning of with was mid (comparable to modern German mit). In the twelfth or thirteenth century with lost its “against” meaning and acquired the meaning of the Old English mid. Because of its older meaning, alive in expressions such as fight with, the word with is a contronym, carrying contrary or opposite meanings.

Just as some ponies in a circus may be used for only one trick (one-trick ponies), so a word may be always or nearly always used in only one phrase. These words are called one-trick words.

  1. arms akimbo

  2. make amends

  3. run amok

  4. anecdotal evidence

  5. look askance

  6. be-all and end-all

  7. betwixt and between

  8. condign punishment

  9. dribs and drabs

  10. a fine-tooth comb

  11. to and fro

  12. time immemorial

  13. indomitable will

  14. the jig is up

  15. kith and kin

  16. death knell

  17. in lieu of

  18. at loggerheads

  19. filthy lucre

  20. far from the madding crowd

  21. on the QT

  22. whole shebang

  23. slake one’s thirst

  24. tit for tat

  25. vantage point

  26. vested interest

  27. vim and vigor

  28. wishful thinking


In any event, there is no easy answer to the question, “What is the longest word in English?” In fact, it is possible to create words that are tediously long and that no one would use except to mention examples of words that are tediously long. For example, people can stretch out the term “great-great-great-great-great grandfather/grandmother” 100,000 or more times.

  1. Oxford English Dictionary (OED): floccinaucinihilipilification = estimating something as worthless; pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis = silicosis = a lung disease contracted from inhaling fine silica particles from a volcano; antidisestablishmentarianism = opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of the England = a political philosophy opposed to the separation of religion and government

  2. Gould’s Medical Dictionary: hepaticocholangiocholecystenterostomies = a surgery in which surgeons create a connection between the gallbladder and a hepatic bile duct and between the intestine and the gallbladder

  3. Walt Disney’s movie Mary Poppins: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious = atoning for extreme and delicate beauty while being highly educable (In the movie, people use the word when they don’t know what to say.)

  4. Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (act V, scene 1): honorificabilitudinitatibus = the state of being able to achieve honor (It is also one of the longest English words with alternating consonants and vowels.)

  5. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition): electroencephalographically and ethylenediaminetetraacetate

  6. Guinness Book of World Records (1992): disproportionableness and incomprehensibilities

  7. James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: bababadalgharagh takammina rronnkonnbronn tonnerronn tuonnthunntro varrhounawns kawntoohoohoor denenthurnuk = a sumbolic thunderclap that represents the fall of Adam and Eve; klikkaklakkaklaskaklopatzklatschabattacreppycrottygraddaghsemmihsammihnouithappluddyappladdypkonpkot = the sound of crashing glass (There are eight more 100-letter words created by James Joyce in Finnegans Wake)

  8. American Chemical Society’s Chemical Abstracts: C785H1220N212O248S2= tobacco mosaic virus = acetylseryltyrosylserylisoleucylthreonylserylprolylserylglutaminylphenylalanylvalylphenylalanylleucylserylserylvalyltryptophylalanylaspartylprolylisoleucylglutamylleucylleucylasparaginylvalylcysteinylthreonylserylserylleucylglycylasparaginylglutaminylphenylalanylglutaminylthreonylglutaminylglutaminylalanylarginylthreonylthreonylglutaminylvalylglutaminylglutaminylphenylalanylserylglutaminylvalyltryptophyllysylprolylphenylalanylprolylglutaminylserylthreonylvalylarginylphenylalanylprolylglycylaspartylvalyltyrosyllysylvalyltyrosylarginyltyrosylasparaginylalanylvalylleucylaspartylprolylleucylisoleucylthreonylalanylleucylleucylglycylthreonylphenylalanylaspartylthreonylarginylasparaginylarginylisoleucylisoleucylglutamylvalylglutamylasparaginylglutaminylglutaminylserylprolylthreonylthreonylalanylglutamylthreonylleucylaspartylalanylthreonylarginylarginylvalylaspartylaspartylalanylthreonylvalylalanylisoleucylarginylserylalanylasparaginylisoleucylas paraginylleucylvalylasparaginylglutamylleucylvalylarginylglycylthreonylglycylleucyltyrosylasparaginylglutaminylasparaginylthreonylphenylalanylglutamylserylmethionylserylglycylleucylvalyltryptophylthreonyl serylalanylprolylalanylserine (1,185 letters)

18. Heteronyms, Capitonyms, & Homophones

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 28 日 in Logology
標籤:, ,

Heteronyms refer to two or more words which are spelled identically but have different sounds and meanings, such as tear meaning ‘rip’ and ‘liquid from the eye.’

  1. bass: A bass was painted on the bass.

  2. close: When you’re close to the door. Please close it.

  3. desert: The soldier tried to desert in the desert.

  4. does: The buck does funny things around does.

  5. minute: I had only a minute to go into minute detail.

  6. number: After she received a number of injections, her gums grew number.

  7. object: Please don’t object to the object.

  8. present: I want to present the present.

  9. produce: The farm used to produce produce.

  10. refuse: The dump was so full that it had to refuse our refuse.

  11. sake: When we asked why he stole the alcohol, he said he did it for the sake of sake.

  12. sow: We wanted to know how the farmer taught his sow to sow.

  13. tear: When Donna saw a tear in her dress, she shed a tear.

  14. wind: The wind was so strong that we couldn’t wind the sail.

Exercise: Please translate and recite the following sentences.

  1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

  2. We must polish the Polish furniture.

  3. He could lead if he would get the lead out.

  4. The soldier decided to desert the dessert in the desert.

  5. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

  6. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

  7. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

  8. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

  9. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

  10. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

  11. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

  12. Archery requires a bow and an arrow. A boat has a bow.


Capitonyms are words that change their meaning and pronunciation when they are capitalized. They are often treated as heteronyms; by definition, they are heteronyms involving uppercase letters.

  1. August = the eighth month ←→ august = magnificent

  2. Job = a book and character in the Bible ←→ job = a piece of work, a task, or an occupation

  3. Male = the capital of the Maldives ←→ male = the opposite of female

  4. Nestle = the famous corporation ←→ nestle = settle snugly


Homophones result when each of two or more words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or even spelling, such as new and knew.

  1. air, are, heir

  2. cops, copse

  3. file, phial

  4. groin, groyne

  5. sole, soul

17. Rebuses, Beheadments, & Curtailments

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 28 日 in Logology
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A rebus is a puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters. For example, apex might be represented by a picture of an ape followed by a letter X.

  1. Gegs = scrambled eggs

  2. FECpoxTION = smallpox infection

  3. ecnalg = glance backward

  4. IKD = mixed-up kid

  5. iii/ooo = circles under the eyes

Exercise: Please answer the following rebuses.

  1. drnkis = _____

  2. esroh = _____

  3. you just me = _____

  4. T


             U = _____




If a word can lose its first letter and become another word, it is a beheadment. The largest common beheadable words may be emotionlessness (motionlessness), gastronomically (astronomically), and treasonableness (reasonableness).

  1. bone → one

  2. cash → ash

  3. glove → love

  4. fowl → owl

  5. lawful → awful

Exercise: Please write down the beheaded words and explain their meanings.

  1. climb → _____

  2. pirate → _____

  3. trim → _____

  4. whose → _____

  5. women → _____


In contrast to beheadments, curtailments refer to words which lose their last letters and still survive. For example, brass can become bras.

  1. apex → ape

  2. beard → bear

  3. earl → ear

  4. suite- → suit

  5. vial → via

Exercise: Please write down the curtailed words and explain their meanings.

  1. area → _____

  2. board → _____

  3. discuss → _____

  4. honey → _____

  5. quartz → _____