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.


It’s now been five years that I’ve had the surpassing privilege of sharing “Lederer on Language” with you in this space. My weekly adventure in columny has been a perpetual joy ride for me, and that includes the many letters you’ve winged me and the responses I’ve zinged back to you. This 5th- anniversary milestone — never a millstone! — provides me an occasion to share what I think it is that makes a verbivore, logolept and wordaholic..

Carnivores eat flesh and meat. Piscivores eat fish. Herbivores consume plants and vegetables. We verbivores devour words. We love tasting and digesting words and feeling their juices running down our cheeks.

How do we love thee, language? Let me count the ways:

Some of us are intrigued by the birth and life of words. We become enthusiastic, ebullient and enchanted when we discover that enthusiastic literally means “possessed by a god,” ebullient “boiling over, spouting out” and enchanted “singing a magic song.” We love the fact that amateur is cobbled from the very first verb that all students of Latin learn — amo: “I love.”

Then there’s the breed of logophile who enjoys trying to turn the briar patch of pronoun cases, subject-verb agreement, sequence of tenses and the indicative and subjunctive moods into a manageable garden of delight. Which is correct: “nine and seven is fifteen” or “nine and seven are fifteen” The answer, of course is “sixteen.” Bwa ha ha.

 The word language derives from lingua, “tongue,” so it is no surprise that many verbivores care deeply about the pronunciation of words. The pronunciation noo-kyuh-lur has received much notoriety because a number of prominent people, including presidents of the United States, have sounded the word that way. Nonetheless, noo-kyuh-lur remains a much-derided aberration.

Among my favorite wordmongers are those who prowl the lunatic fringes of language. These recreational word players delight in how we English users are constantly standing meaning on its head. Thus, in out glorious, notorious, uproarious, victorious, outrageous, courageous, contagious, tremendous, stupendous, end-over-endous language, we drive in a parkway and park in a driveway, and our nose can run and our feet can smell!

Still another denomination of verbivore sees words as collections of letters to be juggled, shuffled and flipped. Inspired by the word bookkeeper, which features three consecutive pairs of double letters, we fantasize about a biologist who helps maintain raccoon habitats: a raccoon nook keeper — six consecutive sets of double letters — and another biologist who studies the liquid secreted by chickadee eggs. They call this scientist a chickadee egg goo-ologist — and into the world are born three consecutive pairs of triple letters!

Finally, there are the legions of pundits, punheads and pun pals who tell of the Buddhist who said to the hot dog vendor, “Make me one with everything.” These pun-up girls and pun gents become even bigger hot dogs (on a roll!) when they pun about Charlemagne, who mustered his Franks and set out with great relish to assault and pepper the Saracens, but he couldn’t catch up. (Frankly, I never sausage a pun. It’s the wurst!) So please stop beefing and stewing about my meaty puns. After all, a good pun is like a good steak — a rare medium well done!

We verbivores are heels over head in love with language. When I say heels over head, rather than head over heels, I am not a syllable short of a coherent statement. Head over heels is the normal position, sort of like doing things ass backwards, which is the way we do everything. I don’t know about you, but when I flip over something, my heels are figuratively over my head.

When I say language, I mean, by and large, that pyrotechnic adventure that we call the English language. That’s because in matters verbal I am unabashedly lexist. Just as many would say that, among their manifold other accomplishments, the Italians do food well and the French do style and fashion well, I believe that we English speakers and writers do language especially well. One might say that we do it lexicellently.

Will I be writing more columns? Absolutely, affirmative, all in, amen, aye, bingo!, by all means, certainly, for sure, fo’ shizzle, jake with me, of course, okay, okey-dokey, positively, righto, right on, roger, sure, uh-huh, unquestionably, very well, yea, yep, yes, yes indeedy, you bet your bippy, life, etc. yowzah, yup, 10-4.