Thursday, November 23, 2006

here's to you word nerd!

Our Filipino language with all its intricacies may have a very rich and deep cultural value within our nationalistic identity, yet it is hard to deny that English is certainly one of the richest in over 3,000 world languages.

Upon receiving my writing task for the week, Fate lightened my task when I stumbled upon a book that was gathering dust in an unheeded corner of my house—a little tattered yellowing book entitled “Oddities: In words, pictures, and figures.”

Some may say, “Huh! I am totally good in English since I can speak this and write that.” But actually a few of us can only manage to master only even a fraction of the mysteries the English language possesses. Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the greatest English poets whose masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, is considered a landmark on the development of the English literature, had only employed an amazing 8000 different words in all of his writings! And 200 years later, William Shakespeare had a astounding written vocabulary of 30,000 words! Who can match that?

Limited as we may be, I offer for our enjoyment a few games made by brilliant minds starting from the Greek poet Sotades of the 3rd century BC, to the writer of Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll, and so on.
AnagramsAnagrams are transpositions of the letters of a word or phrase to form a new word or phrase, or at its simplest form, a phrase or name that can be rearranged to form another. To add more of a kick to this word play, most anagram addicts require a sterner rule: “to explain or describe the word from which it is made.”

An example is the phrase “voices rant on,” which is an exact anagram of the word “conversation.” Also, “steaminess” is just a result of reshuffling the words “seen as mist.” Anagrams even played a critical role in The Da Vinci Code.

Antigrams, on the other hand, are simply the counterparts of anagrams. If the anagrams get into their synonymous meanings, antigrams get into their antonyms. They are anagrams in which the letters of a word are reorganized to form a word or phrase to mean the opposite of the original. “Evangelists,” for instance, can satirically be reformed into “evil’s agents.”
DoubletsThese doublets were quite a hit before. Even before crossword puzzles and the crazy Sudokus in the pages of newspapers and magazines, there were doublets! Lewis Caroll is also well renowned for his exceptional skill in composing these outrageous mind-bogglers.

The procedure is just to take two related words of the same length, such as ‘grass’ and ‘green,’ and to transform the first into the second by a series of one-letter changes, each of which must strictly form another word. Proper names are exempted and all words must appear in a standard dictionary. Victory is declared to the person who takes the fewest number of words to make the change.

And here’s one solution in proving that GRASS are really GREEN: GRASS, CRASS, CRESS, TRESS, TREES, FREES, FREED, GREED, GREEN.

This is the most exceptional, if not exhausting, word play among the rest. The aim is to produce the longest sentence in which it could be read the same backwards as they do forwards. Sounds challenging though, it could excrete all your analytical juices and sharpen your mind skills. If you want to make your world side-reversed, then you may delve into this activity.

Since a few in this century have been contemplating onto these palindromes, the idea is now slightly left to experts and diehard lovers of palindromes. Palindromic sentences have a long and distinguished history. It is said to be that the poet Sotades invented the palindromes, and in his honour, palindromes are sometimes called as “Sotadics.” And also, John Taylor is believed to be the first creator of an English palindrome. His famous masterpiece, which was acceptable by the spelling standards of his time, is: “Lewd did I live & evil I did dwel.” Reading the sentence from the left and from the right, you still get the same message. That is how palindromes work.

Tongue Twisters
And the most famous of them all, tongue twisters! Experts are still currently probing as to where and when these tongue twisters originated. A number of these tongue twisters are pretty sensible but mostly absurd, and what the rhymes are actually about is quite unclear.

Here are some examples to get your tongue looping around:

A bloke’s back brake-block broke
A dozen double damask dinner napkins
Stop chop shops selling chopped shop chops
A truly rural frugal ruler’s mural

And here are some more oddities to finish the day:

1) A reasonably common word which contains all vowels, each used once, and in their correct alphabetical order?

2) A word which contains the letters “tchphr” grouped together in the middle?

3) A word with more than 15 letters in which the only vowel is E?

4) A word which contains three pairs of identical letters, each pair coming directly after the one before?

5) The shortest common word to use each of the five vowels only once?

Let's see if you can answer these.

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