Fun with English Words Posted by Gary Locke on May 14, 2020 in English Language, Linguistics
Let’s have some fun, shall we? Wordplay is generally defined as the clever use of words and their meanings. Puns are the best examples of wordplay, I think. But, sometimes, just finding something unexpected in words can make you smile. There’s even a word for wordplay. It’s called logology, or recreational linguistics. So, let’s dig into English words to find some peculiarities and surprises.
We’ll begin with one of the best-known examples – the palindrome. A palindrome is a word, name, sentence, or more that reads the same backward and forward. The earliest example I ever encountered was the name Fred Derf, a character on an old sitcom. Later, I fell in love with palindromes and looked for them everywhere. Some favorites:
- Dennis sinned.
- Was it a rat I saw?
- Never odd or even.
- Rise to vote, sir!
- Name, now, one man.
Anagrams are also fun. An anagram is the rearrangement of letters in a word or phrase to create an entirely different word or phrase. Rearrange the letters in the equation “twelve plus one” and you get the equation “eleven plus two.” The answer to each question below is an anagram to something within the question. Answers can be found at the end of this post.
- In the summer, I’ll order a large size of what kind of beer?
- What was the explanation for why Janice’s debit card was rejected?
- Even though he was over fifty, what age did Malcolm claim to be?
- Talented monkeys write for which well-known publication?
- What legendary film star is known for old west action movies?
Isograms are words in which no letter appears more than once. Three and four-letter words are common isograms, but it’s fun to find some longer isograms. Here are a few:
- Uncopyrightable – Something which cannot be given copyright status.
- Thumbscrew – A torture device
- Ambidextrously – To be able to do something well either righthanded or lefthanded.
- Binoculars – An optical instrument with lenses for both eyes.
- Lexicography – The practice of compiling dictionaries.
Contranyms are words that can also mean their exact opposites. Also called Janus words, I wrote my first blog about these uncommon words back in 20161https://blogs.transparent.com/english/what-is-a-janus-word/. Let’s look at a few more.
- Refrain: To cease doing something/Something which repeats itself
- Shop: To go out to purchase something/To sell something
- Variety: A general category of something/A particular type of something
- Trip: A short stumble/A long journey
- Transparent: Something which is obvious/Something which is invisible
Can you think of some other favorite examples of wordplay? Please offer them in the comments section below.
- Large – Lager
- Debit card – Bad credit
- Over fifty – forty five
- Monkeys write – New York Times
- Old west action – Clint Eastwood