This is a companion post to last month’s Alcoholic Watergate Hamburgers post. (I just learned that a com-pan-ion is someone with whom you eat bread. So adorable.)

So my friend [ɦɑnɑ] has been playing Jeremina Paxmina for the University of York University Challenge team for the last few months, and while their fate in the tournament is a mystery until July, Hannah’s involvement in British quizzing got me to look into the serious fare offered in the UK. Here’s what I found: Serious British quiz shows are MEAN. They are unforgiving, humorless, exacting, and demanding of minutiae in zero seconds. I checked out University Challenge episodes on Youtube, as well as Only Connect, a Question of Genius, Countdown, Eggheads, and Mastermind.

My favorite of the bunch is Only Connect, which ruthlessly demands teams to find the connection between words with the fewest clues possible. (I made my own Only Connect Wall but I wasn’t able to upload it onto the site.) On the Champions of Champions episode last August, one question revealed the word Marathon, followed by Hamburger, Alcoholic, and finally Watergate. Having recently written about this, I knew the connection when I saw Hamburger.

[and then suddenly…]


March 22, 2012

in best post ever,career,english,greek,IPA,neologism,wordnik,Words & Origins,yiddish

Gerrymandering is the re-drawing of district lines in elaborate twisted ways to unfairly influence the weight of votes by district. It’s a cruel political move to dilute the power of demographic areas. In 1812, Governor Elbridge Gerry changed the shapes of districts to skew voting towards his political party. A newspaper commented that the new contorted shape looked like a salamander, and the term was coined. Gerrymandering is an eponym and a portmanteau at the same time. Yeah. That is pretty awesome.

Gerry + salamander = Gerrymander

I’ve been thinking about eponyms and portmanteaus a lot recently, because I need a dissertation topic, and those two kinds of word formations make me happy. However, I can’t think of a specific question I could ask and answer in 4 months, and I haven’t found any great research as a jump-off point, so for now I’m just pleased to find a word that combines these two concepts.

Appreciate a word today!

{ 1 comment }

January 23, 2012

in animals,eponyms,politics,portmanteaus,wordnik,Words & Origins

I’m trying to figure out what I can do with my life that will benefit the world. Take as a given that I’m good for something, I just have to find or invent it. Two years ago, I started tagging words on Wordnik.com. I wanted to understand the unexpected spelling similarities between words that do not sound like each other. I used C and V to stand in for consonants and vowels in terms of  alphabet graphemes, not IPA phonemes. Some linguists got mad. I understand why,  but tagging convowels was an important outlet for me at the time, and I don’t regret that I’ve left a mark on wordnik. [and then suddenly…]


December 11, 2011

in Autobiographical,websites,wordnik,Words & Origins

There are so many words in the world, I can’t blame anyone for not knowing the original meaning of any specific word, even when its a simple compound made of two familiar words. We’re so busy using language as a communication tool that we rarely stop hammering to look at the thing itself. A funny old thing, the dashboard. [and then suddenly…]


May 28, 2011

in cars,english,Etymology,etymonline,history of language,horses,insignificant linguistics mystery,wikipedia,wordnik,Words & Origins

A few years ago, I took first year Latin at PSU. I didn’t continue Latin because I got a job, and it turns out I hate declining nouns and adjectives. It is three times as much work. The professor was great, seemingly normal, but with a great unexpected affection for Elvis (pronouced Elwees in Latin). I really liked learning the new vocab and connecting it to modern words I know in English, Spanish and French. I also loved conjugating the verbs and learning the four principle parts like in the verb ‘regere,’ to rule or reign: Rego, Regere, Rexi, Rectum.

[and then suddenly…]


May 15, 2011

in best post ever,career,etymonline,history of language,insignificant linguistics mystery,IPA,latin,morphemes,spanish,wordnik

When I have thought about and used this word, as in ‘painstakingly obvious’ or ‘she described the incident in painstaking detail,’ I break up the big morphemes as ‘pain and stakingly.’ Then, yesterday, I pressed random word on wordnik.com often enough that I got to the page on the word painstaker. The definition is “One who takes pains.” OF COURSE, said my brain, it is someone who takes pains to make sure every detail is in place. Pains taker, not pain staker.


April 29, 2011

in dictionaries,english,Etymology,FACT,insignificant linguistics mystery,wordnik,Words & Origins


Every Wednesday morning starting around 9:30am, @Wordnik gives out clues for a secret word on wordnik.com that has a pronounciation by “hap_e_wordnik” (see screen shot below). They give out 3 or 4 clues, each of which describes a different definition that the uncommon or obsolete word has. As soon as someone gets the right word, the game ends. If no one gets it by the end of the clues, they give a *BONUS CLUE* which usually has quotations around letters, meaning the word is an anagram of those letters.

[and then suddenly…]


March 16, 2011

in anagram,champion,elsewhere,secret word,winner,wordnik,Words & Origins

Once upon a time I fell deeply in love with the periodic elements, the table, Dmitri Mendeleev, the symbols, everything. I have several other side projects that involve the elements, but this little one comes from the fact that I once sat in a classroom to the right of center so that I was right in front of a poster of the elements, not the teacher. It made me remember that years before I had tried to make as many dirty words as I could out of the periodic symbols. Anyway, at one point I had a philosophy class in this clasroom and I spelled FEuErBaCH, which looks impressive. (Ludwig Feuerbach was a German philosopher).

Recently I started collecting this list of words that can be spelled with the element symbols on wordnik under the tag “periodic symbol words.”

[and then suddenly…]


May 7, 2010

in best post ever,elements,periodic elements,photoshop,side projects,wordnik

(That is a terrible name for this game. I’ve been trying to think of a more graceful one for weeks.)

There is a game I have created that I often play as a passenger on the roads of life. The game involves license plates and spelling but not anagrams. (It doesn’t work with vanity plates like the one above that I came up with and I thought was hilarious when I was younger.) (It is also hilarious now.) [and then suddenly…]

{ 1 comment }

March 6, 2010

in cars,game,word games,wordnik,Words & Origins

Oh hello. I’ve been up to no good, spending my time watching internet television and flipping around wordnik pages as I please.

First of all, I continue tagging more things in im-pure non-linguist approved format…. like vcvccv.

On my birthday, a great new game was invented because of conflicting pronunciation of the word chimera. Thus began a weeklong game of one-upmanship, trying to think of more new words that use ch in a word with a k sound. Most are Greek. In our game we could only use a root word once, so variations on ‘chronology’ did not count as new additions, unless they were really awesome. Loch is technically a different guttural sound, but for the purposes of a light-hearted list-based game, I hope I can be forgiven. Please add as you like. I tried to remember all the ones I could, but there were a lot. The list so far is HERE.

When I ran out of “ch with a k sound” words, my mind looked for more fun letter combinations to play with, and I soon realized that there are not many words that have R and H next to each other. Rhino, rhythm, rhombus, rheumatoid, the list does not go on for very long. But then! An extension was made, realizing that R and H are often in the middle of words, at the junction between the two parts of a compound word. neighboRHood. supeRHero. waRHorse. Fun times, the list I started is HERE. You may notice Spiderham on the list, which was a children’s comic book series that my family owns and I read as a child. You can find him immediately on Google Images, so I think it’s pretty legit.

Once upon a time in elementary school, I hated math. I still hate math. My math teacher said we could get a free pass on doing homework if we could bring in an example of a $1.00 word. The system is based off of A=1, B=2, J=10, T=20, Z=26. You add all the letters up and if they equal 100, that’s a dollar word. I super-sponge absorbed that system into my brain, and spent the next month of my life with a calculator at the ready, plugging in any and all words i could think of that might work. Pumpkin, elephant, wizards, hamburger, excellent. I loved them. It turns out the internet has taken the thinking out of the list, and you can find them all in one nice place called Math Lair. It lists 660 words, I entered in about a third of them while I was watching internet television this evening. It made me happy. Here’s the list so far.

BH are my initials, and B next to an H is not common. And it looks weird, and so far I just have Clubhouse. There must be others. I found a lot of -house words by looking through the font catalog at House Industries. I got a catalog from them in the mail once, very well designed. I believe I had them address it to bOb fencepost, which was my nom de internet at the time. Brilliant.

Another uncommon and strange looking letter order. This one I also found through hunting House’s fonts, but with a little more success. DHarma, maDHouse, roaDHouse, birDHouse.

Happy tagging, everybody. Please join in and play.

{ 1 comment }

January 15, 2010

in greek,House Industries,one-dollar words,tagging,wordnik