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Word Oddballs 

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Photo by Barry Evans.

1. What word rhymes with "orange"?

2. What's a common 11-letter word starting and ending with "und"?

3. And a common word containing "uu"?

4. How about words containing the same letter three times in a row?

5. Whence "OK"?

6. Where does the $ dollar sign come from?

7. How do you pronounce "Ye" as in "Ye Olde Shoppe"?

8. What five-letter word actually becomes shorter by adding two letters to it?

9. Know any words in which the five vowels, plus y, appear in order?

10. How about a common word ending in "mt"?

11. And one ending in "mpt"?

12. How many pronunciations can you come up with for "ough"? I list nine.

13. Anything special about the word "uncopyrightable"?

14. Why is the verb "cleave" a bit curious?

15. Notice what's odd about the most obvious anagram for "united"?

16. What (rather obvious) 10-letter word can you make using only letters on the top row of a typewriter, QWERTYUIOP? (Not all have to be used, and some may be used more than once.)

17. Anything odd about this sentence: "A sentence of death faces one at the end."


1. Lozenge — sort of.

2. Underground

3. Vacuum (also continuum, residuum, duumvirate, muumuu)

4. Lots with hyphens (cross-section, joss-stick) and onomatopoeias (brrr, zzz), but that's about it, because English doesn't allow three-in-a-row. For instance, when "chaff finches" became "chaffinches," one "f" was dropped.

5. Theories abound: Scots "och aye;" "orl korrect"; Choctaw Indian "okeh" (it is so); Obediah Kelly (a railway agent who initialed freight documents); Old Kinderhook (1840 presidential candidate Martin Van Buren, after his New York State birthplace); various West African dialects with some affinity to "okay." Linguists haven't settled on a definitive answer.

6. $ probably comes from handwritten ps, for "pesos," first appearing around 1770 in Spanish-American documents. In Mexico today, $100 means 100 pesos (about seven dollars).

7. "The." The letter "Þ" (thorn) was used in Old English (and modern Icelandic) for the sound "th." It never was pronounced "y."

8. Short

9. "Facetiously" is the most common one, along with several (e.g. abstemiously) rarer words.

10. Dreamt

11. Unkempt

12. Borough, cough, dough, plough, hiccough, rough, slough, through, thought.

13. Probably the longest word (15 letters) with non-repeating letters.

14. Its synonyms "adhere" and "separate" are antonyms.

15. "Untied" means the opposite of "united".

16. Typewriter

17. The first half is an anagram of the second half.

Barry Evans ( wonders what happens to words after we've said them.


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About The Author

Barry Evans

Barry Evans

Barry Evans lives in Old Town Eureka with his girlfriend (and wife) Louisa Rogers, several kayaks and bikes, and a stuffed gorilla named “Nameless.” A recovering civil engineer, he is the author of two McGraw-Hill popular science books and has taught science and history. His Field Notes anthologies are available... more

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