Monday, July 12, 2010

Fun With Words

Like all writers, I love words. I collect words, I play with words, I delight in words.

In today's post I'm going to share some of the places I go to celebrate words.

Every Friday at 1 PM Central Time, I listen to NPR at work. The station is 90.1 KERA and the show is A Way With Words. For an hour, Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk about word origins, play word games and answer questions about word usage.

As an example, this past Friday, Martha and Grant talked about a word I was not familiar with: Mountweazel.

A mountweazel is a deliberately fictitious entry put into a reference work like a dictionary or a map. Mountweazels are used by copyright holders to catch plagiarists who are stealing content.

The origin of the word mountweazel was a fictitious entry in the 1975 New Columbia Encyclopedia (NCE). The NCE contained a phony biography for Lillian Virginia Mountweazel. Wikipedia described the entry this way:
Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942-1973). Her biography claims she was a fountain designer and photographer, best known for her collection of photos of rural American mailboxes, "Flags Up!" She was born in Bangs, Ohio, and died in an explosion while on assignment for "Combustibles" magazine.
The New Yorker outed Lillian in an article here on August 29, 2005 and coined the term "mountweazel" in the process.

Also on Friday, a listener contacted Martha and Grant asking if there was a word for when you find you need something that you've already thrown away. Listeners pitched in with ideas. My two favorites were also Martha's: "schadenvoide" and "premature evacuation."

You can go here to listen to the entire show from Friday or here to find stations in your area that play A Way With Words.

If you love to enrich your vocabulary, Free Rice is the site for you. I've mentioned it here before. The non-profit site is operated by the United Nations World Food Program together with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

According to the website, FreeRice has two goals:

1. To provide education to everyone for free.
2. To help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

The site has a vocabulary test with 60 levels of difficulty. For every right answer you give, they donate ten grains of rice through the UN Hunger Program. Go here to play. I always set the meter for difficulty of play to the first level and usually run out of steam around levels 53 or 54. I've never gotten beyond 55. You can also change the subjects to chemistry or capitals of the world or other areas of interest.

Finally the game site Pogo has all kinds of word games. Word Search, Scrabble, and Word Whomp are among the games the site offers. When I need a break, I go there for five minutes and come away refreshed. Go here to look the site over.

Have fun!

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