Words Words Words
The smallest change can make a big difference
The Saturday edition of Timeless & Timely is just for word nerds. If you’re not yet a subscriber and you’d like more words, here’s your chance:
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain, 1888
This week in the free and paid versions of Timeless & Timely, we mulled over the negative effects of abundance (“How Much Is Enough?” and “Indecision by Abundance”).
That led me to wonder: what about the flip side of that? Instead of too much of something, what about the slightest tweak?
Well, it doesn’t have to be some theoretical game. The perfect solution — especially for we word nerds — awaits.
The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing just one letter, and supply a new definition.
Think about that for a moment: what a wonderful thing language is when altering a single letter in a word can give us a wholly different meaning—or even an entirely new word.
Enough philosophizing. This is Saturday, after all. On to the winning entries.
The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of having sex.
Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it
To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
A degenerate disease.
Timeless & Timely is a family of publications, supported by readers like you. Who are you? You love the wonder of words that make up history, literature, and communication, and you look for quirky ways to be inspired.
It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
All talk and no action.
The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
The color you turn when you discover half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.
Speaking of abundance, they say the only thing worse than finding a worm in your apple is finding half a worm.
If you enjoyed these, and if you’re in constant search for just the right letter to make just the right word, you might want to pick up a copy of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
Very interesting. I definitely agree with the distinction between the right word and the wrong word: people's use of the wrong word, when it's so easy to look things up, is irritating! I mentioned this article in a post of my own called Mind Your Language. There was a British humorist called Paul Jennings who sometimes created a fake dictionary from place names. (I wrote about him recently as he has been a great inspiration for me for many years.)
Isn't "Decafhalon" a misspelling?