Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
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.


From alpha to omega,
You can bet the alphabet,
Like a painting done by Degas,
Will leap and pirouette.

See dancing words, entrancing words,
Sterling words unfurling.
Watch prancing words, enhancing words,
Whirling, twirling, swirling.

 The word alphabet is a joining of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. The Greeks inherited their letters from the Phoenicians, who probably took their alpha from the Hebrew aleph, “ox.” The old Cambodian alphabet, with 74 letters, is the world’s longest. Rotokas, spoken on the South Pacific island of Bougainville, uses only 11 letters.

Now let’s listen to the sounds of silence. All 26 of our letters are mute in one word or another. Here’s an alphabet that demonstrates the deafening silence that rings through English spelling:

A: bread, marriage, pharaoh             

B: debt, subtle, thumb                        

C: blackguard, indict, yacht                           

D: edge, handkerchief

E: more, height, steak                         

F: halfpenny                                       

G: gnarled, reign, tight                       

H: bough, ghost, heir             

I: business, seize, Sioux                      

J: marijuana, rijsttafel            

K: blackguard, knob  

L: half, salmon, would                       

M: mnemonic                                     

N: column, hymn

O: country, people

P: psychology, receipt

Q: lacquer, racquet

R: dossier, forecastle

S: debris, island, viscount

T: gourmet, listen, rapport

U: circuit, dough, gauge

V: fivepence

W: answer, two, wrist

X: faux pas, grand prix

Y: aye, prayer

Z: rendezvous


A palindrome is a word or a word row that reads the same both ways, as in taco cat. Last year, 6-year-old Levi Budd, of Vancouver, Canada, coined the word levidrome to describe a word that, when spelled backward, forms another word. Levidrome is currently under consideration for inclusion in the dictionary.

Examples include no/on (2 letters), rat/tar (3), pots/stop (4), decaf/faced (5), diaper/repaid (6), deliver/reviled (7) and — ta da! — desserts/stressed (8 letters), which yields the best of all levidromes: When you feel stressed, you should eat desserts.                                                                                         ***

A lipogram is a statement that excludes a key letter in the alphabet. Once Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar jokingly asked Madhusudhan Dutt, “Because you are a Master in English, can you make a sentence without using a single e?”                       

Dutt wrote this: “I doubt that I can. It’s a major part of many, many words. Omitting it is as hard as making muffins without flour. It’s as hard as spitting without saliva, napping without a pillow, driving a train without tracks, sailing to Russia without a boat and washing your hands without soap. And, anyway, what would I gain? An award? A cash bonus? Bragging rights? Why should I strain my brain? It’s not worth it.”


Bookkeeper is the only common word that features three consecutive pairs of double letters. But wait. There’s more!

It is easy to imagine the bookkeeper’s assistant, a subbookkeeper, who boasts four consecutive pairs of double letters.

Now let’s conjure up a zoologist who helps maintain raccoon habitats. We’d call that zoologist a raccoon nook keeper — six consecutive sets of double letters!

Not done: Now let’s visualize another zoologist who studies the liquid inside chickadee eggs. We’d call this scientist a chickadee egg goo-ologist — and into the world are born three consecutive sets of triple letters!