Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Happy New Year. It’s nice to have You Near.

To celebrate a brand new year, here are 35 brief definitions of words that have the sound noo or n(y)oo in them. Sometimes the word will contain the actual letters new, as in newspaper. In other instances, the word will have a different spelling, as in nuisance.

We’ll begin with words that themselves start with the sound of the adjective new. I’ll lay some brief definitions on you, and you give me each word. Answers repose at the end of this column.

1. naked
2. masculine, feminine and _____
3. middle of the day
4. food in ribbon form; also a metaphor for the head
5. the necktie at a necktie party
6. nourishing
7. wildebeest
8. a small salamander
9. a disease of the lungs
10. a mental disorder (less serious than psychosis)
11. shade of distinction
12. sexually attractive, especially as in young women
13. an elementary particle that is present in an atomic nucleus
14. relating to matters atomic (one of the most mispronounced of all words)
15. acute pain radiating from the nerves
16. last name of a handsome, perennially popular actor who is still in his salad days
17. last name of a British scientist who reputedly got bopped on the head by an apple

As an additional challenge, here are more words containing the sound noo or nyoo, but not at the beginning of the word:

18. to restore to freshness
19. yearly
20. hint
21. the Eskimo people
22. a famous choo-choo
23. Charlie Brown’s favorite dog
24. looking down one’s nose, disdainful
25. to sleep
26. a tendon
27. countless
28. having little substance or strength
29. a naïve young woman
30. a broad street or road
31. to keep on, persist
32. locale
33. income stream
34. entourage
35. last name of the vice president who preceded Gerald Ford

In many offices, everyone is physically fit. That’s because they get plenty of exercise racking their brains, wrestling with details, grappling with problems, slinging the bull, jumping to conclusions, hopping on the bandwagon, bucking the system, skating on thin ice, bending the rules, breaking promises, splitting hairs, stirring up trouble, running amok, flying off the handle, twisting things around, slinging mud, spreading rumors, poking fun, pulling rank, pushing the envelope, climbing the corporate ladder, twisting someone’s arm, giving someone the runaround, carrying things too far, running into a brick wall, passing the buck, dodging responsibility and exercising their prerogative.

But you can throw your back out trying to keep your nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel, ear to the ground, foot on the throttle and eyes on the prize.

On the subject of speechifying, President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.” The best illustration of the value of brief speech was given by Mark Twain. His story was that when he had listened for 5 minutes to the preacher telling of the heathen, he wept and was going to contribute 50 dollars. After 10 minutes more of the sermon, he reduced the amount of his prospective contribution to 25 dollars. After a half hour more of eloquence, he cut the sum to 5 dollars. At the end of an hour of oratory when the plate was passed, he stole 2 dollars.

According to Brig. Gen. Jackson Rozier, the six most important words are: “I admit I made a mistake.” The five most important words are: “You did a good job.” The four most important words are: “What is your opinion?” The three most important words are: “If you please.” The two most important words are: “Thank you.” The least important word is: “I.”

Quiz Answers

1. nude 2. neuter 3. noon 4. noodle 5. noose
6. nutritious 7. gnu 8. newt 9. pneumonia 10. neurosis
11. nuance 12. nubile 13. neutron 14. nuclear 15. neuralgia
16. (Paul) Newman 17. (Isaac) Newton 18. renew 19. annual 20. insinuation, innuendo
21. Inuit 22. Chattanooga 23. Snoopy 24. snooty 25. snooze
26. sinew 27. innumerable 28. tenuous 29. ingénue 30. avenue
31. continue 32. venue 33. revenue 34. retinue 35. (Spiro) Agnew