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quod·li·bet \Quod"li*bet\ (kw[o^]d"l[i^]*b[e^]t), n. [L., what you please.] 1. A nice point; a subtilty; a debatable point. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) Also quodlibertarian and quodlibetic - purely academic!

English Spelling? Does English really work this way?

* Pronounce "ghoti".
* Pronounce "Phtholognyrrh".
* Spell "coffee" completely wrong.
Go to the bottom of the page for answers!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Samples of Wicked Words from the Wickedary

by Mary Daly with Jane Caputi.

  • ACADEMENTIA n: normal state of persons
    in academia, marked by varying and progressive
    degrees; irreversible deterioration of faculties
    of intellectuals
  • BATTLE-AX, n: a Raging, Dreadless, Unconquerable
    Crone BORED, CHAIRMAN OF THE n: any bore-ocratically
    appointed bore who occupies a chair--a position
    which enables him to bore others all the
    the Wild; the Summons of the Weird, conveyed
    through the Mediumship of a Feline Familiar
  • COCKALORUM n: a self-important little
    cock. Examples: Napoleon, Andy Warhol, Fiorello
    La Guardia, Mickey Mouse
  • COCK-AND-BULL STORY n: patriarchal history
  • CRONE n: Great Hag of History, long-lasting
    one; Survivor of the perpetual witchcraze
    of patriarchy
  • CRONE-OLOGY n: Radical Feminist chronology
  • HAG n: a Witch, Fury, Harpy who haunts
    the Hedges/Boundaries of partiarchy, frightening
    fools and summoning Weird Wandering women
    into the Wild
    beauteous Crone; one who inspires positive
    revulsion from phallic institutions and
    morality, inciting Others to Acts of Pure

Monday, March 26, 2007

English words with Vowels in Alphabetical order:

Abstemiously and arsenious are two well known words with the vowels in proper order. There is also facetiously.
Now Saul Ricklin has come across the somewhat obsolete word, "affectiously" which also has the vowels in order. One in reverse is syrup of ipecac.
affectiously = AFFECTIONATELY, AFFECTUOUSLY; earnestly, cordially, kindly.
1430 LYDG., Chron. Troy III. xxii, Theyr gladnesse when he hath perceyued Spake vnto theim full affectiously. 1755 JOHNSON, Affectiously, in an affecting manner. Dict.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Old Rhymes:

Does anyone know any more of these from long ago?
  • One series:
    • Knife and a fork, bottle and a cork. That's the way you spell New York
    • Chick in a car, and the car can't go. That's the way you spell Chicago
  • Some old Lewis Carol:
    • T'was midnight on the ocean and the sun was shining bright. I hopped into a taxi cab and rode that day all night.
      [Must have been in the Artic in Summer!]
  • tongue stumblers:
    • Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy, too. Wouldn't you?
      ...[From] part of a popular nonsense song of 1943 called "Mairzy Doats"--per ASCAP Hit Tunes booklet, written by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman,and Jerry Livingston. The beginning is more or less rendered:
      Mairzy doats and doazy doats, and little lamzi tivy. A kiddely tivy too, Wood'n you?
      - Submitted by Elaine Chubb
    • I thrice thrust a thistle through the thick of my thumb. (A favorite of my Grandfather, who knew the rest of it and rattled it all off well.)
    • One fine day in the middle of the night,
      Two dead men got up to fight.
      One blind man to see fair play,
      One dumb man to shout "Hooray!"
      A lame donkey came galloping by
      and kicked the blind man in the eye. - Submitted by Elaine Chubb

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


A category that The Washington Post calls "redefinitions".

  • Frisbeetarian, one who believes that when you die tour soul goes up on the roof ans gets stuck.
    - The Houston Chronicle, 1994

  • coffee (n.), a person who is coughed upon. - The Washington Post - 1998

  • asterisk (v.), to inquire about danger. ibid.

  • esplanade (verb form of the noun), to attempt an explanation while drunk, ibid.

  • negligent (adj.), a condition in which a woman absent-mindedly answers the door in her nightie. ibid.

  • abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach. ibid.

  • artery: The study of paintings. Saul Ricklin, 2001

  • bacteria: The back door to a cafeteria. ibid.

  • Cesarian section: A neighborhood in Rome. ibid.

  • dilate: To live long. ibid.

  • nitrates: Cheaper than day rates. ibid.

  • node: Was aware of. ibid.

  • outpatient: Someone who fainted.ibid.

  • postoperative: Letter carrier. ibid.

  • terminal illness: Getting sick at the airport. ibid. or Nausea from too much internet. Don Ricklin, 2001

  • Sarchasm: sär-ˌka-zəm: noun; the gap between someone being ironic and the person who doesn't get the joke. Stolen from Richard at SmugMug

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Janus Words

Then there is the Janus Word
(also called schizophrenic word by Willard R. Espy):

A single word that has two meanings that are opposites:
  • cleave, 1 : adhere to 2 : split apart

  • sanction, 1 : authoritative approval 2 : coercive measure -- usually plural in this sense

  • imposing, 1 : impressive 2 : taking unwarranted advantage -- often used with "on" or "upon"

  • trip, 1 : step lightly 2 : stumble or cause to stumble

  • weather, 1 : expose to the action of weather 2 : endure the action of weather

  • overlook, 1 : observation point 2 : fail to see

  • cavalier, 1 : gay; easy; offhand; frank. 2 : supercilious; haughty; disdainful; curt; brusque.

  • dress, 1 : put clothes (skins and feathers?) on 2 : prepare an animal by taking off the skin or feathers.

  • buckle, 1 : fasten together 2 : fall apart

  • clip, 1: separate (cut) 2 : fasten

  • oversight, 1 : supervision 2 : neglect

  • qualified, 1 : competent 2 : limited

  • sanction, 1 : approve 2 : disapprove

  • temper, 1 : soften 2 : strengthen

  • resign, 1 : give up, quit 2 : sign on again. See Heteronyms

  • left, 1: Gone 2: stayed behind

    Two Submitted by Elaine Chubb:

  • let -- meaning (1) allow and (2) hinder or obstruct (my British passport asks foreign countries to let me pass "without let or hindrance").

  • fast -- meaning (1) speedy and (2) standing still (as in "stand fast") or firmly fixed, unmoving (as in a fast dye).

    Submitted by Steven Cytryn:

  • scan --1. to examine minutely. 2. to glance at hastily.

    From the AWAD of 04/12/04:

  • chuffed, 1: pleased; satisfied 2 : displeased; annoyed

  • tabled, 1: brought forward for discussion (UK) 2: laid aside (US)

  • endsville, 1: Most excellent or the best. 2: Most undesirable; the end.

  • sententious, 1: Full of pithy expressions. 2: Full of pompous moralizing.

  • excrescence, 1: An abnormal outgrowth, e.g. wart. 2: A normal outgrowth, e.g. hair or nail.

A Janus Phrase!

  • make fast, 1: tie up, stop from moving 2: Cause to move fast.

    "I call them fence-sitters. They sit on the fences, ready to say one thing or its opposite, depending on which side they appear. I'm not talking about politicians. These are words, known by many names: autoantonym, antagonym, contranym, enantiodromic, amphibolous, Janus word, and so on.

    Sometimes it's a result of two distinct words evolving into the same form (cleave from Old English cleofian and cleofan) but often a single word develops a split personality and takes on two contradictory senses. All of us have a bit of yin and yang and these words are no exception. The context usually provides a clue to help us understand the right sense in a given place."
    -Anu Garg (A.W.A.D.)

Janus -the Roman god of doorways, often depicted with two faces.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Heteronyms: Words, unlike Homonyms, that are spelled the same but pronounced differently, with different meanings. At current count I have 42 including one three-way!

For example:
  • lupine, pronounced lu-píne or lu-pin, oflikeor relating to a wolf or wolves or a plant of the pea family, with deeply divided leaves and tallcolorfultapering spikes of flowers.
  • does, pronounced dós or duz, the plural of a female deer, and the third person singular present tense conjugation of the verb "do".
  • tower. pronounced tow-er or toe-er - pylon, tall structure or one who tows or pulls something.
  • appropriate, pronounced a-pro-pré-et or a-pro-pré-ate - suitable, fitting vs to take without permission, expropriate.
  • lead, pronounced léd or led - Proceed before vs the poisonous heavy metal.
  • read, pronounced réd or red - Both present tense and past
    in one spelling.
  • unionize, pronounced únyun·ized or un·Íonize - Join a union vs take away ions.
  • minute, pronounced min-út or mÍn-úte - 60 seconds vs very small.
  • lived, pronounced liv-d or liv-ed - Life in the past vs red in the face.
  • bow(ed), pronounced bow(ed) or bów(ed) - Done at the waste/prow of boat vs tie(d) in a ribbon.
  • shower, pronounced show·er or shów·er - Like bathing vs one who demonstrates something.
  • sewer, pronouncer soo·wer or só·wer - Where the waste water is vs one who uses needles and pins.
  • tear, pronounced tér or tare - From the eye vs from a rip.
  • router, pronounced router or rooter - machine to mill wood or a horse trained for distance races.
  • bass, pronounced base or bass - as in astring bass(viol) vs a fine tasting fish.
  • Polish, pronounced Pólish or polish - as in one from Poland or what one does after applying wax to one's car.
  • intimate, pronounced in-ti-mit or int-i-mate - meaning close and personal or to suggest imply.
  • row, pronounced rou or rów - a noisy dispute or quarrel vs to propel a boat with oars.
  • coop, pronounced coop or có-op - a place for chickens or alternate spelling for co-op (co-operatrive)
  • present, pronounced pre-zent or pré-zent or pré-sent
    -a gift vs to give something or vs be sent in advance - a three-way Heteronym!
  • close, pronounced clóz or clós - to shut up vs to be near.
  • rebel, pronounced re-bel' or re'bel -to renounce allegiance or subjection vs one who breaks with or opposes constituted authority or the established order.
  • contract, pronounced con-tract or ceun-tract - to have a formal writen relationship vs to tighten, shrink in size.
  • learned, pronounced lurn'd or lurn-ed - having acquired the knowledge vs being one full of knowledge.
  • buffet, pronounce buf-á or buf-et - meal at which people serve themselve vs be hit especially repeatedly.
  • desert, pronounced des-ert or de-sert - dry barren region vs abandon.
  • dove, pronounced duv or dóve - a small wild pigeon vs plunged into water headfirst.
  • entrance, pronounced en-trence or en-trànce - means or place of enter vs fascinate or delight.
  • moped, pronounced móp'd or mó-ped - be sad or listless vs low-powered motorbike[Alternate spelling].
  • wind, pronounced wind or wínd - movement of the air vs have or follow a curving course.
  • wound, pronounced woo-nd or wow-nd - injury in which the skin is broken vs followed a curving course.
  • record, pronounced rec-ord or ré-cord -noun, a note or top score vs to capture sound on a storage device.
  • produce, pronounced pró-duce or pro-dooce, what comes off the farm vs to make, create something.
  • pension, pronounced pen(t)-sh&n or päns-yOn - a fixed sum paid regularly to a person vs accommodations especially at a continental European hotel or boardinghouse.
  • refuse, pronounced re-"fyüs or ri-'fyüz - the worthless or useless part of something : trash, garbage vs to show or express unwillingness to do or comply with.
  • august, pronounced Or-gist or awe-gust - the month of vs exalted.
  • resign, pronounced re-zine or re-sine - give up deliberately vs sign on again See Janus Words.
  • resolve, pronounced re-Zolved or re-solved - determine to do vs solve again.
  • predial, pronounced pre-dial or pré-di-al - to dial on advance vs of or relating to land or its products.
  • project, pronounced pra-ject or pro-ject - noun, a specific plan or design vs verb, to cause to protrude.
  • leading, pronounced léd -ing or led-ing - ahead or font spacing.
  • slaver, pronounced sláver or slaver - a ship that transports Slaves or Saliva dripping from the mouth.
  • axes, pronounced ax-es or ax-és - more tan one axe, hatchet or more than one axis.
  • luger, pronounced with a hard g - a type of gun or with a soft g - one who sleds on a luge.

I keep adding to this list! If you know of any I missed please post a comment.

  • ghoti is pronounced: fish, 'gh' as in tough, 'o' as in women and 'ti' as in motion! Attributed to George Bernard Shaw by some. Visit GHOTI for a rant against this "joke" about english pronuciation.
  • Phtholognyrrh pronounced: Turner, According to a Mr. Turner who insisted on signing his name that way according to Robert M. Rennick in I Didn't Catch Your Name, Verbatim® Vol. XXix, No2. Mr Turner explains: " Look, the phth is like phthisic, which is pronounced t; olo is like colonel, which is pronounced ur; gn as in gnat is pronounced n; and yrrh as in myrrh, is pronounced er. So you have Turner. Nothing could be simpler." Reader's Digest, Jan . 1941, p. 42
  • coffee spelled completely incorrectly is kauphy! or kaughy!