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.

The Festival of Books, held this past August in Liberty Station, celebrated both literature and literacy. One of the most astonishing stories of acquiring literacy is the life of George Dawson. He was born in Marshall, Texas, in 1898 as the first of five children, a farmer’s son and grandson and great-grandson of African American slaves. A life of hard labor that began at the age of eight deprived Dawson of an education for 90 years, and he did not learn to read.

When Dawson was 98, a recruiter for a local adult-literacy program knocked on the door of his home in Dallas. Dawson overcame his initial reluctance to reveal his illiteracy, telling himself, “All your life you’ve wanted to read. Maybe this is why you’re still around.”

George Dawson not only learned to read, but told his life story in his autobiography “Life Is So Good,” published by Random House when he was 103! “I figured if I could lay a railroad tie as well as any man and cook as well as any woman, I could learn to read as well as anyone else,” he wrote. “Now I think about God smiling when He hears me read.”


The recently released documentary film “California Typerwriter” features  Tom Hanks, John Mayer and Sam Shepard waxing nostalgic about what typewriters mean to them. The film focuses on the qwerty keyboard, so called because of the first row of letters. The entire layout of letters may have been an effort to slow down typists because the early machines jammed so easily.

When we seek to find the longest word that can be typed on a single horizontal row of a standard typewriter keyboard, we naturally place our fingers on the top row of letters—qwertyuiop—because five of the seven vowels reside there. From that single row we can type seven 10-letter words: pepperroot, peppertree, pepperwort, perpetuity, proprietor, repertoire and—ta da!—typewriter.


An ad in a recent U-T read, “They call it candy, snow, coke, powder, crack, ice cube, COCAINE. Would you like to call it quits?” This statement is reminiscent of the famous line “You can call me Ray, and you can call me Jay, but please don’t call me late for dinner.”

In both instances, we notice a surprising change in the meaning of the word call. That figure of rhetoric is labeled zeugma, derived from a Greek word meaning “yoke.” Zeugma features a clever left turn in the second use of a verb. Among the hundreds of Greek figures of rhetoric, zeugma is one of my favorites because I love the sound of it.

Two additional examples of zeugma come from one of our greatest presidents and another speaker who is a household name in his own household: Franklin Roosevelt, orator extraordinaire, had this advice about the art of public speaking: “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” As another example of zeugma, when I, Richard Lederer, am speaking on behalf of a large-hearted organization, I sometimes zeugmatically declare “ABC Charity validates your parking and your humanity.”

One final zeugma: If you still don’t understand me, don’t get mad. Get even.


John Ferlazzo writes me, “2017 would be a great year to open up a unisex haircut place and call it Totally Clips.”


How long does it take to read every word in the dictionary?

The answer is 41 hours of continuous reading. That’s according to Christian Saunders, who, along with a team of English teacher volunteers, undertook the Herculean task of reading every single word in the Oxford Dictionary of English on livestream this past World Teachers’ Day to raise money for the education of refugees in Europe.


NOte these two $ubliminal college letters:

Dear Dad,

$chool i$ really great. I am making lot$ of friend$, and $tudying very hard. With all my $tuff, I $imply can’t think of anything I need. $o you can ju$t $end me a card, a$ I would love to hear from you.      –$incerely, Your $on

Dear Son,

I kNOw that astroNOmy, ecoNOmics and oceaNOgraphy are eNOugh to keep even an hoNOr student busy. Do NOt forget that the pursuit of kNOwledge is a NOble task. -Love, Dad