Category Archives: Words

Unusual Names Parents Choose For Their Children

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWhen it comes to choosing names for children, parents can politely endure suggestions from meddlesome relatives or consult baby name books with more than 100,000 names — either way, it can be a daunting task. For the most part, parents choose traditional names over unusual or unconventional names — you know the ones, when you wonder “what were the parents thinking?” Speaking of unconventional names, a story that is making the rounds today is titled “Southwest Gate Agent Mocks 5-Year-Old Girl’s Name” about a girl named Abcde (pronounced “AB city”). According to the Social Security Administration, out of more than 74 million children living in the U.S., only 328 girls share that same name. But we digress — choosing a conventional name makes a lot of sense in light of the extensive research on the significant impact that a name has on a child’s life. Research, beginning in the late 1940s to the early 2000s confirms that a name really matters. Specifically, a name can influence what grades a child will earn, where they attend college, choice of profession, where they will be hired, whom they will marry, and where they will live. Serious stuff. Researchers explain this phenomenon as the implicit-egotism effect: that individuals are drawn to things and people that resemble them. In short, similarities attract. Recent research by economists has focused on another effect: name signaling. The crucial question is not “what is the name?” but rather “what signal does the name send?” In other words, what characteristics or values does the name imply? In those studies, individuals with “white-sounding” names (like Emily or Thomas) were most likely to be hired over candidates with “black-sounding” names (like Lakisha or Jamal).

Since naming babies is such serious business, some countries feel compelled to weigh in on the matter. In a 2013 article on baby-naming policies, NPR reported: “Some countries, such as France, have somewhat relaxed once-strict policies that required only government-approved names (many of which either appear in the Bible or are culturally entrenched). Many nations still require baby names to indicate gender (Germany) or to be easily read by a computer scanner (China), as CNN reported in 2010. And it remains common for many governments to give at least a cursory review, to ensure that the parents aren’t potentially sabotaging their child by choosing a profane or demeaning name, or one that might otherwise be an unfair burden to the child.”

Retired editor Larry Ashmead, who worked at Simon and Schuster and Doubleday, has always been fascinated by names. In his very entertaining book, Bertha Venation, Ashmead shares his wonderful collection of funny and strange names of real people. Here are some of the unusual first names he has found over the years:

Bernight

Bethanyann

Cadley

Cardio

Denim

Egbert

Enchantress

Faxon

Finn*egan

Jedi

Heaven

Lathe

Lazer

Mone’t

Nimpkish

Philbert

Pursglove

Sheatodd

Tage

Trout

Zowie

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Read related posts: What Do You Call A Collector of Names?
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How Rock Bands Got Their Names 2
How Rock Bands Got Their Names 3
How Rock Bands Got Their Names 4

For further reading: Betha Venation by Larry Ashmead
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/01/04/168642200/a-girl-fights-to-be-called-by-her-name-in-iceland-suing-government
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/southwest-apologizes-to-girl-named-abcde-after-gate-agent-made-fun-of-her_us_5c0016efe4b0864f4f6b525a
https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/number-of-children


Types of Anagrams

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAn anagram is one of the most popular forms of word play that recombines all the letters of a word or phrase to create a new word or phrase. For example, “inch” is an anagram of “chin.” The anagram, of course, is at the heart of board games like Scrabble, Clabbers, Boggle, and Bananagrams and puzzles like Jumble and Cryptic Crosswords. But did you know that anagram mists have actually coined specific words for specific types of anagrams? So if you want to show off your word scrambling skills, here are the various types of anagrams.

ambigram: an anagram that is ambiguously the opposite of the original phrase
Example: the nuclear regulatory commission = your rules clone atomic nightmares

antigram: an anagram that is the antonym of the original word or phrase
Examples: violence = nice love; fluster = restful; Santa = Satan; united = untied

pairagram: an anagram where the words are linked in meaning or form a sentence
Examples: Elvis = lives; dormitory = dirty room; the Morse code = here come the dots

semordnilap: an anagram that is the reverse spelling of a word that spells a real word (the reverse spelling of palindromes)
Examples: desserts = stressed; diaper = repaid

synanagram: an anagram that is a synonym of the original word
Examples: angered = enraged; statement = testament; evil = vile

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Read related posts: Levidrome: The Word That Launched a Thousand Erroneous Stories
What is a Semordnilap?
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Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Rare Anatomy Words
What Rhymes with Orange?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order

For further reading: The Game of Words by Willard Espy
Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature by C. C. Tombaugh edited and annotated by Martin Gardner
A Word of Day by Anu Garg
Wordplay: A Curious Dictionary of Language Oddities by Chris Cole
The Dictionary of Wordplay by Dave Morice


How Many Synonyms Are There for Drunk?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThe English language has thousands of synonyms for “drunk.” Lexicographer, Stuart Flexner, in his book I Hear America Talking, believes that since people get drunk for various reasons, affecting them in different way, the English language has simply developed synonyms to reflect the wide gamut of feelings and reactions. The first to record all the colorful terms for drunkenness was Benjamin Franklin, who included 228 terms in the Drinker’s Dictionary published in 1737. Apparently the colonists were so prone to inebriation, they required their own dictionary to know what they should be called by their spouses and friends. Several other editors and writers created their own expanded lists over the years; however, lexicographer Paul Dickson, bested them all, when he set the Guinness Book of World Records for most synonyms for a word in 1983, listing 2,660 terms for drunkenness. Later in 2009, he published Drunk: the Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary in 2006, listing a staggering (pun intended) 2,964 synonyms for drunk. Word lovers throughout the world — even the priggish editors of the OED — celebrated by getting bombed, loaded, trashed, hammered, soused, buzzed, blottered, marinated, liquefied, wasted, smashed … You get the point.

In 2002, the BBC One’s Booze program asked its audience to submit euphemisms for “drunk.” They headed to their local pubs, got sufficiently sloshed, and then contributed more than 141 euphemisms for drunk. For example, here are their synonyms for “drunk” beginning with the letter B: badgered, banjaxed, battered, befuggered, bernard langered, bladdered, blasted, blathered, bleezin, blitzed, blootered, blottoed, bluttered, boogaloo, brahms & liszt, buckled, and burlin.

To that list, perhaps they should add “blue-eyed.” Seems that in 2017, researchers at the University of Vermont discovered this sobering fact: people with light-colored eyes (specifically, blue, green or gray) are more likely than those with dark eyes to have high rates of alcohol dependence. However, their study indicated that this relationship was correlational, not causal. That is to say, the researchers found a statistically significant interaction between the genes that determine eye color and genes associated with alcohol dependence — certainly a great topic for conversation among a group of inebriated folks hanging out at a bar.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Colorful Language of Roadside Diners
Colorful Victorian Slang
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For further reading: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1883481.stm
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/01/blue-eyes-alcoholic-light-colored-eyes_n_7705806.html
http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170130-english-has-3000-words-for-being-drunk


Have You Geminated Recently?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAlthough geminate, as a verb or adjective, is not often used, it happens quite frequently. Here’s a clue to its meaning: the word is derived from the Latin geminatus, which in turn is derived from geminus (meaning “twin”, as in Gemini). So when we say that somethings are geminate, we mean that these items come in pairs: eg, the following things are geminate: eyes, ears, shoes, headphones, earrings, chromosomes, gloves — you get the picture. The term is frequently used in phonetics to describe a person who pronounces a compound word as two distinct words, eg, “head phones” (rather than “headphones”) or “book shelf” (rather than “bookshelf”). Let us turn to the verb form. When we geminate, we are pairing something, that is to say, we are putting two items together to make a pair. So if you have recently done laundry, you have geminated — you have put socks together in pairs; you have geminated your socks. Or if you have put away your shoes, by pairing them in your closet, you have geminated your shoes.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
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Rare Anatomy Words
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What Rhymes with Orange

Obscure Scrabble Words


What is Your Birthday Word?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsCould a birthday word be that epithet that your mother unleashed after an agonizing eight hours of labor as you slid, screaming into the world? Actually, a birthday word is far more innocuous — it is a word that was coined or added to the English language the year you were born. The hard way of finding your birthday word is to dive into a dictionary and focus on the etymology notes to find the year a word came into usage. But fear not, such a tedious endeavor is not necessary thanks to the helpful and clever folks at the Oxford English Language who cobbled together a birthday word generator for those curious enough to find out their distinctive birthday word but not willing to actually read a dictionary. You simply enter your birth year and the generator returns with a word and its definition. For example, if you enter the year 1964, the last year Baby Boomers were born, you will find “aw – shucks” (to behave with bashfulness); if you enter the year 1980, the last year Gen-X were born, you will see “air guitar” (playing an imaginary guitar); and if you enter year 1996, the last year Millennials were born, you will come across “shipper” (a person who discusses or advocates a romantic pairing of two characters in a work of fiction, when that pairing is not found in the original work). You can find the OED birthday word generator at: https://public.oed.com/oed-birthday-words/. And don’t forget to thank your mother for bringing you into the world.

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Read related posts: Weird Words
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Does the Bible Contain a Pangram?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsA pangram, as you may know, is a sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet. A pangram is also known as a holoalphabetic sentence, or more simply as an alphabet sentence. Anyone who learned to type, back when typewriters existed (remember those?) would know the most famous one: “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” — a sentence that is very offensive to most dogs, but we digress. But the question before us today is: does the Bible, one of the most ubiquitous books in the world, contain a pangram? That is to say, was God enough of a word lover (after all, recall John 1:1: “in the beginning was the Word”) to inspire a scribe to write out a pangram.

Consider that the King James Bible contains 783,137 words that make up more than 31,102 verses. Surely there must be a pangram lurking in there somewhere, no? Sorry to say, pangram lovers, but the answer is no; however, lest ye abandon all faith, the Good Book does come really close — if you read the Old Testament closely enough, thou shalt find a verse that contains 25 letters of the alphabet; the only letter missing is “j”. Sweet Jesus! Really, no “j”?  The elusive pangrammatic verse is Ezra 7:21: “And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,”

So the next time you are in Bible study or talking to your rabbi or priest, test their knowledge of the Bible by asking if they know if the Bible contains a pangram. For the first time, you will be the one walking away feeling righteous. Word.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is a Pangram?
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Words for Collectors 2
Unusual Color Names

For further reading: https://wordcounter.net/blog/2015/12/08/10975_how-many-words-bible.html
https://www.biblebelievers.com/believers-org/kjv-stats.html
https://biblehub.com/ezra/7-21.htm


Word Oddities

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWith more than a million words, the English language is full of fascinating oddities — words that have truly unique characteristics. Below is a list of some of the fascinating word oddities lurking in your English dictionary:

SWIMS is the longest word that reads the same way right-side up and upside down.

Princes is the only plural word that can be turned into a singular word by adding an “s.” Princes becomes princess. 

There is only one common word that has five vowels in a row: queueing

There is only one common word that has three dotted letters in a row: hijinks

The only word that has three consecutive doubled letters: bookkeeper

Words that are pronounced exactly the same but do not share any letters: ewe, you; eye, I; ox, auks; oh/eau (as in “eau de cologne”)

The only words that begin and end with “und”: underground and underfund

The only words the end in “gry”: angry and hungry

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Read related posts: Rare Anatomy Words
Words Oddities: Fun with Vowels
What Rhymes with Orange


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