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.

Dear Mr. Lederer: My grandchildren tell me there are no words that rhyme with the word orange. I said I doubted it but you would know. – Gordon Gill

A number of words, such as breadth, depth, fifth, gulf and month, are famous for being unrhymable. A spectrum of color words — most colorfully orange, purple and silver — are often cited as having no words that rhyme with them. But they do.

A man named Henry Honeychurch Gorringe — I’m not kidding — entered the earthly stage in 1841 and exited in 1885. Gorringe was the naval commander who in the mid-19th century oversaw the transport of Cleopatra’s Needle to New York’s Central Park. Pouncing on this event, the poet Arthur Guiterman wrote:

In Sparkhill buried lies a man of mark

Who brought the Obelisk to Central Park.

Redoubtable Commander H.H. Gorringe,

Whose name supplies the long-sought rhyme for orange.

Or you can bend the rules of line breaks and sound as Willard Espy did:

Four eng-


Wear orange


So orange is rhymable – well, sort of.


Dear Mr. Lederer: We met recently at the U-T Successful Living Expo in Escondido. At that event, I asked if you would address in your column the pre- plague that is sweeping our country. I am annoyed at the meaninglessness of being pre-approved for credit cards and mortgages that I do not want, bombarded by ads to pre-order books yet to be printed and urged to pre-plan an investment portfolio or for retirement. My granddaughter has a Pre-Algebra text book. Is there no end to this madness? – Matthew Pastell

The proliferation of the prefix pre- doesn’t yank my chain and rattle my cage as much as it appears to yank and rattle yours. If pre- clearly confers a meaning of something happening before the action, I’m cool with it.

To wit, when pre-approved means “approved before the customer has actually requested approval,” I can live with that, as I can when Pre-Algebra means a course in mathematics that prepares students for the study of algebra.”

But to my ear, pre-plan and pre-arrange don’t mean anything different from plan and arrange, so the pre- is simply dead weight.


Dear Mr. Lederer: I’m drawing a total blank and no Internet searching seems to be helping me answer this simple question: What do you call a word you make from initials? i.e., CIA, FBI, etc. I know it is called something, but alas, memory fails. I want to call it an anagram but that’s certainly not right. – David Merino

What you describe is called an initialism, when each letter is sounded. Popular examples include OK, TGIF, LOL and OMG. When the letters run together to make something that sounds like a word, as in CARE, UNESCO and NIMBY, we call it an acronym (formed from the Greek elements acro, “high,” and nym, “word”).


Dear Mr. Lederer: Just want you to know that I savor your columns about the English language. I clip them and send to relatives “back East” and read aloud to my partner at breakfast or lunchtime. I haven’t checked website. Maybe I should to find out if you have written about some phrases that my grandmother would come up with: “Land o Goshen (which I thought might be Atlantic Ocean as a child) and “Oh my stars and garters.” She would also say commence when I would say begin. – Joan Cudhea (age 82)

Many of my readers write to tell me that they cut out and send “Lederer on Language” to family and friends. Please know that all my U-T columns repose on my website (see below). You can copy them therefrom and electronically wing them to whomever you wish. Or you can like me on my Richard Lederer Facebook page, where you’ll also find every installment of “Lederer on Language.”

To trace your grandmother’s regional expressions, please explore DARE, “Dictionary of American Regional English,” available at many libraries.


Please send your questions and comments about language to richard.lederer@utsandiego.com