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.

holiday

 

“Have Smart Phones Destroyed a Generation?” asks SDSU psychologist Jean M. Twenge in a recent Atlantic magazine article. She concludes that, in many ways, they have, as evidenced by increases in isolation, depression and diminished social skills.

Since the arrival of the Smart Phone in 2007, humankind has experienced a growing paradox. While the world has become more connected, people have lost face-to-face communication. We’ve needed a word to describe the act of people ignoring others sitting right next to them in favor of their Smart Phone, and now we have one.

In May, 2012, a group of linguists gathered at the University of Sydney, Australia, to create a word to describe the act of ignoring others in a social situation because of falling into the cyberworld of a Smart Phone. The wordstruck group at the bottom of the world forged the neologism phubbing, a blend of phone and snubbing. Within a year, phubbing went viral around the globe.

Now that you have a word for it, you can concisely admonish your family and friends to stop phubbing you!

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William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, perhaps the last play the Bard ever wrote, is gracing the stage of the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre under the stars at the Old Globe, San Diego’s most venerable cultural institution. Directed by Joe Dowling, this enchanting fantasy, which kicks off the summer Shakespeare Festival and runs through July 22, features an innovative twist. The sorcerer Prospero is now the sorceress Prospera, played by Kate Burton, daughter of actor Richard Burton.

In Shakespeare’s day, theaters were considered too disreputable to allow women to act on stage, so the parts of women and girls were played by young men and boys. The resulting lack of physical contact in the plays is more than compensated for by the passionate and poetic language of the love scenes, some of the most exalted ever written. The Old Globe’s re-imagined production of The Tempest regains some of that lost time when women were forbidden to stride the stage. The innovative gender swapping adds tenderness to the mother-daughter bond and offers new insight into what the play means.

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In Las Vegas, also known as “Lost Wages,” the $10,000 buy-in main event in the World Series of Poker is underway, a perfect occasion for me to offer examples of the convergence of poker and wordplay.

If you add up the number of letters in a deck of playing cards — ace king queen jack ten nine eight seven six five four three two — the total comes to 52, the exact number of cards in a deck.

Here’s a provocative poser that also involves playing cards: What is the pattern of the following names? The answer has nothing to do with the letters, syllables or sounds in each name. Rather, the answer is “straightforward”:

Eddie Rickenbacker, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth, John F. Kennedy, Bo Derek
Answer: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten

And why is marriage like a deck of cards?

Answer: You start off with two hearts and a diamond — and pretty soon you want to grab a club and use a spade!

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I recently attended my granddaughter Lucy’s high-school graduation party. Her mother, drilled in proper punctuation by her father, i.e. me, hung out a banner that read, “Congratulations, Lucy.” I was proud that my daughter knew to place a comma before the second-person (vocative) address.

But a dozen Mylar balloons also adorned the venue, and they all read “Congratulations Grad,” with no such comma. So what’s a Conan the Grammarian like me to do but to go around with a black Magic Marker and squiggle a comma on each of those balloons!

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I recently asked readers to come up with a better greeting than “Happy Memorial Day” because that holiday is somber, not happy. Responses included “Have a reflective Memorial Day” (Alan Iglesias), “Have a grateful Memorial Day” (Ted Dederick) and “Have a meaningful Memorial Day” (David Robertson, who adds, “Attend a service. Visit a national cemetery and see how scouts and families have placed flags and flowers on the graves”).

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Next week, we’ll experience Friday the 13th. If you’re queasy about years, days and hotel floors that include the number 13, you are displaying triskaidekaphobia, cobbled together from the Greek word parts tris, “three” + kai, “and” + deka, “ten” + phobia, “fear.”