Posts Tagged ‘English


Reverse Dictionary

Last weekend, there was this sales man who dropped into my place to sell Oxford dictionary and like stuff. His selling point was that the dictionary also features a “Reverse Dictionary” and hence the origin of this post.

A reverse dictionary lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word.

After some internet research, One Look Reverse Dictionary seems to be one of the most comprehensive dictionaries. So here they search for words having definitions that match the search term given. It could be a quite cool thing because many a times, it so happens that you know the meaning but don’t know the word to describe it. The reverse dictionary would help here. What I am not sure of is that, there could be multiple ways of describing a word and how the reverse dictionary takes care of it.

You could buy a reverse dictionary here.



A malapropism (also called a Dogberryism or acyrologia) is the substitution of a word for a word with a similar sound, in which the resulting phrase makes no sense but often creates a comic effect.

The terms malapropism and the earlier variant malaprop come from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals, and in particular the character Mrs. Malaprop. Sheridan presumably named his character Mrs. Malaprop, who frequently misspoke (to great comic effect), in joking reference to the word malapropos.

Some examples:

  • “…promise to forget this fellow – to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.”
  •   “O, he will dissolve my mystery!”
  • “He is the very pine-apple of politeness!”
  • “I have since laid Sir Anthony’s preposition before her;”

 Read more here.


rule of thumb

Ever wondered what led to the origin of the often used phrase “The Rule of Thumb”? Some interesting beliefs below:

The ‘rule of thumb’ has been said to derive from the belief that English law allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick so long as it is was no thicker than his thumb. In 1782, Judge Sir Francis Buller is reported as having made this legal ruling and in the following year James Gillray published a satirical cartoon attacking Buller and caricaturing him as ‘Judge Thumb’.

It’s certainly the case that, although British common law once held that it was legal for a man to chastise his wife in moderation (whatever that meant), the ‘rule of thumb’ has never been the law in England.

Even if people mistakenly supposed the law to exist, there’s no reason to believe that anyone ever called it the ‘rule of thumb’. Despite the phrase being in common use since the 17th century and appearing many thousands of times in print, there are no printed records that associate it with domestic violence until the 1970s, when the notion was castigated by feminists.

The phrase itself has been in circulation since the 1600s. In 1692, it appeared in print in Sir William Hope’s training manual for aspiring swordsmen, The Compleat Fencing-master:

“What he doth, he doth by rule of Thumb, and not by Art.”

The origin of the phrase remains unknown. It is likely that it refers to one of the numerous ways that thumbs have been used to estimate things – judging the alignment or distance of an object by holding the thumb in one’s eye-line, the temperature of brews of beer, measurement of an inch from the joint to the nail to the tip, or across the thumb, etc.



A friend suggested the book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” to me. For the uninitiated, the title of the book is an amphibology, a verbal fallacy arising from an ambiguous grammatical construction. Had heard the term for the first time and decided to Google it. The title is derived from a joke on bad punctuation:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

‘Why?’ asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

‘Well, I’m a panda’, he says, at the door. ‘Look it up.’

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. ‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’

More examples of amphibology:

  • Used cars for sale: Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first!
  • King Harold walked and talked, ten minutes after he was dead.
  • Medical services here. You won’t get better.
  • Wanted: chair for a person with a wooden leg.


A Phonestheme is consonant cluster apparently associated with a particular semantic field, but with no distinguishable independent meaning.

Some examples:

English phonaestheme “gl-” occurs in a large number of words relating to light or vision, like “glitter”, “glisten”, “glow”, “gleam”, “glare”, “glint”, and so on.

Also, “sn-“, related to the mouth or nose, as in “snarl”, “snout”, “snicker”, “snack”, and so on, and “sl-“, which appears in words denoting frictionless motion, like “slide”, “slick”, “sled”, and so on.

While phonesthemes have mostly been identified in the onsets of words and syllables, they can have other forms.

There has been some argument that endings like “ash” and “ack” in English also serve as phonesthemes, due to their patterning in words that denote forceful, destructive contact (“smash”, “crash”, “bash”, etc.) and abrupt contact (“smack”, “whack”, “crack”, etc.), respectively.

Click here to read more.


William Spooner

Ever heard of the term “Spoonerism”? No! Then read these

fighting a liar
you hissed my mystery lecture
cattle ships and bruisers
nosey little cook
a blushing crow
tons of soil
William Spooner

William Spooner

So what’s wrong with these sentences? Well, in isolation, they are all correct, but this was not the intended usage. Have a look at the table now.

fighting a liar lighting a fire
you hissed my mystery lecture you missed my history lecture
cattle ships and bruisers battle ships and cruisers
nosey little cook cosy little nook
a blushing crow a crushing blow
tons of soil sons of toil

The intended usage is on right. This problem of switching words is called Spoonerism. It refers to the linguistic flip-flops that turn “a well-oiled bicycle” into “a well-boiled icicle” and other ludicrous ways speakers of English get their mix all talked up.

Born in 1844 in London, Spooner became an Anglican priest and a scholar. During a 60-year association with Oxford University, he lectured in history, philosophy, and divinity. From 1876 to 1889, he served as a Dean, and from 1903 to 1924 as Warden, or president. Spooner was an albino, small, with a pink face, poor eyesight, and a head too large for his body. His reputation was that of a genial, kindly, hospitable man. He seems also to have been something of an absent-minded professor.

Some more spoonerisms here

know your blows blow your nose
go and shake a tower go and take a shower
tease my ears ease my tears
nicking your pose picking your nose
you have very mad banners you have very bad manners
lack of pies pack of lies
it’s roaring with pain it’s pouring with rain
sealing the hick healing the sick
go help me sod so help me God
pit nicking nit picking
bowel feast foul beast
I’m a damp stealer I’m a stamp dealer
hypodemic nurdle hypodermic needle
wave the sails save the whales
chipping the flannel on TV flipping the channel on TV
mad bunny bad money
I’m shout of the hour I’m out of the shower
lead of spite speed of light
this is the pun fart this is the fun part
I hit my bunny phone I hit my funny bone
flutter by butterfly
bedding wells wedding bells
I must mend the sail I must send the mail
cop porn popcorn
it crawls through the fax it falls through the cracks
my zips are lipped my lips are zipped
bat flattery flat battery
would you like a nasal hut? would you like a hazel nut?
puke on coupon
belly jeans jelly beans
eye ball bye all
fight in your race right in your face
ready as a stock steady as a rock
no tails toe nails
hiss and lear listen here
soul of ballad bowl of salad

Read this and this for more.


Shortest and Longest Word

Shortest word should be “a” or “I” naa… Or prolly there are words that are half sounding…

Longest one according to Wiki is
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis .

Thats 45 letters. There are longer words but are not recognized by most dictionaries.

a lung disease caused by breathing in particles of siliceous volcanic dust.
This is the longest word in any English dictionary. However, it was coined by Everett Smith, the President of The National Puzzlers’ League, in 1935 purely for the purpose of inventing a new “longest word”. The Oxford English Dictionary described the word as factitious. Nevertheless it also appears in the Webster’s, Random House, and Chambers dictionaries.

So what’s this blog about?

Another attempt? Well yes. Attempting to figure out another sustainable model (there are some other attempts going on parallel-ly). Well, we have a lot of questions in mind. we read up stuff, we do some research to find answers to these questions. This is an attempt to publish that little 15-20 minute research.
July 2018
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