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.

Richard Lederer

The 50th annual San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee will take place this coming Thursday, March 14, at the Town & Country Hotel and Resort in Mission Valley. The overall winner of the contest will be awarded an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee Washington, D.C., in May.

This orthographic anniversary inspires me to share three of my favorite stories about the consequences of a misspelled word:

The Durham, N.C., Sun reported that a Durhamite had been brought before a Judge Wilson in traffic court for having parked his car on a restricted street right in front of a sign that read “No Stoping.”

Rather than pleading guilty, the defendant argued that the missing letter in the sign meant that he had not violated the letter of the law. Brandishing a dictionary, he noted that stoping means “extracting ore from a stope or, loosely, underground.”

Your Honor,” said the man, “I am a law-abiding citizen, and I didn’t extract any ore from the area of the sign. I move that the case be dismissed.”

Acknowledging that the defendant hadn’t done any illegal mining, the judge declared the fellow not guilty and commented, “Since this is Friday the 13th, anything can happen, so I’ll turn you loose.”

Climbing up to the second story: A friend of mine once stopped to buy some writing supplies in Kansas and noticed that the gold-lettered sign on the window read “Stationary Store.” She pointed out to the woman behind the counter, “Stationery refers to materials for writing, but stationary means ‘immobile, unmoving, in one place.'”

“Well, honey,” the clerk said as she returned the change, “we’ve been at this location for 17 years!”

Ascending to the third story: A famous private school sent out a letter to parents advising them it would have to increase its tuition by $500 per annum. Unfortunately, the Latin phrase at the end of the statement was spelled per anum.

An irate parent wrote to the headmaster thanking him for the notification but saying, “For my part, I prefer to continue paying through the nose!”

***

Tomorrow, at 2 am, daylight saving time will kick in, Notice that I didn’t write daylight savings time. Think about it: we’re not talking about a savings bank here; we’re talking about saving daylight (even though daylight saving time doesn’t actually save any daylight).

A recent cartoon depicts ancient Brits at Stonehenge struggling with ropes to move a colossal pillar from one spot to another. One of the men complains, “Man, I hate daylight savings time.”

But, again, it should be daylight saving time. Linguists call our penchant for tacking on an extra hiss to the end of perfectly good words “the gratuitous s.” Simply excise that gratuitous s from each malformed word — in regards to, anyways, brinksmanship, the Book of Revelations, Down’s syndrome, numbers crunching and sports-utility vehicle — and you’ll have the correct form.

***                                                              

The Library of Congress State Literacy Awards program recognizes an organization that has made an outstanding contribution to promoting literacy and reading in the local community or state. The 2019 Library of Congress Literacy Award in California will honor the San Diego Council on Literacy. This fall in Pasadena, Jose L. Cruz, the Council’s CEO, will accept the award on the group’s behalf.

On March 14, another engine of literacy, wordsmith.org, will celebrate its 25th anniversary. What began as a way for founder Anu Garg to share his love for the magic of words has since grown into a community of wordies in 171 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia. Wordsmith.org is the home of Word a Day, Dictionary, Thesaurus, Anagram Times and an array of other oases for wordaholics, logolepts and verbivores. Here are four of my favorite Anu Garg quotations:

  • A large vocabulary is like an artist having a big palette of colors. We don’t have to use all the colors in a single painting, but it helps to be able to find just the right shade when we need it.
  • A right word is the most direct route between two minds.
  • Each word comes with a biography. These words have fascinating stories to tell, if only we take the time to listen.
  • I have a dream where society will replace guns with dictionaries.