WordWays has about 250 subscribers. I am one of them and have been, off and on, for fifteen years. It is among the Odd Journals of the World. (I’d send you to www.wordways.com to sample it, but the site is usually down.)
The front cover says that WordWays is “The Journal of Recreational Linguistics,” as unlikely a topic as “amateur surgery.” Inside, however, you discover that it is a therapeutic for obsessive-compulsives who perseverate on words. Anagrams (deus ex machina = a man hid excuse, purchasing = ungrip cash) and palindromes (Was Islam in an ode, Kramer remarked, on animals I saw?) are as nothing to these folks. Susan Thorpe of Great Missenden in the UK imagines a 3×5 grid like the ones used to spell out numbers on an LCD display. Can she fill the grid with letters so that each number spells out a word? Why, yes she can, although she needs to resort to words such as “acropigments,” “terps,” pertuisan” and “piestrocranum.” Howard Bergerson of Sweet Home, Oregon, looks for words that approximate pi. He sums the value of the letters (A=1, Z=26) for the denominator; for the numerator, he takes the product of the letter values, factors the result into primes, and writes them as a product of prime numbers. Whatever. His “extensive research” shows that the word “universe” is English’s best approximation of pi. And Fred Crane proudly reports “I have a card file of bibliographies of bibliographies of bibliographies…” Talk about a guy it’d be fun to sit next to on a long flight!
For your four issues a year, send US$27 to Faith Eckler, Spring Valley Road, Morristown, NJ 07960.
If you’d like something a little less taxing (and less disturbing), sign up for Michael Quinion’s weekly newsletter, World Wide Words. He covers quirky words and the quirky origins of non-quirky words. I always look forward to it.
Disclosure: Not only am I a delighted reader of WordWays, I’ve actually been published there. But, believe me, I am not in their league.
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