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.

 

Tomorrow kicks off National Library Week. According to a recent Gallup poll taken before the invasion of COVID-19, visiting the library remained the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average annual 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults reported taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities: movie theaters, sporting events, concerts, national or historic parks, museums, casinos, theme parks and zoos.

Please try your hand and mind at taking an authorial quiz. The titles of many works of literature, like Lewis Carroll’s Alices Adventures in Wonderland, Brandon Thomas’s Charley’s Aunt and Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams, adhere to a possessive name + noun pattern. Without bobbing your Adam’s apple over the prospect of opening a Pandora’s Box of Achilles’ heels, fill in the 20 names that begin each title and identify the author of each work:

  1. _____’s Ashes
  2. _____’s Baby
  3. _____’s Body
  4. _____’s Cabin
  5. _____’s Choice
  6. _____’s Complaint
  7. _____’s End
  8. ____’s Fan
  9. ____’s Game
  10. ____’s Last Case
  11.  _____’s Lover
  12. _____’s Mines
  13.  _____’s People
  14. _____’s Planet
  15.  _____‘s Profession
  16. _____’s Room
  17.  _____’s Travels
  18.  _____s Wake
  19. _____’s Way
  20. _____’s Web

Answers

1 Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt 2. Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin 3. John Brown’s Body, Stephen Vincent Benét, 4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe 5. Sophie’s Choice, William Styron 6. Portnoy’s Complaint, Phillip Roth 7. Howard’s End, E.M. Forster 8. Lady  Fan, Oscar Wilde 9. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott 10. Trent’s Last Case, Edmund Clerihew Bentley 11. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence 12. King Solomon’s Mines, H. Rider Haggard 13. Smiley’s People, John Le Carre 14. Mr. Sammler’s Planet, Saul Bellow 15. Mrs. Warren’s Profession, George Bernard Shaw 16. Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin, Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf 17. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift 18. Finnegans Wake, James Joyce 19. Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust 20. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

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April is National Humor Month, so in my next column you’ll be reading the best of hundreds of preys on words that you punderful readers have winged me. For starters, here’s a sampling of the best pundemic puns you submitted:

  • Did you hear about the new Commandment? “Thou shalt not COVID thy neighbor’s mask.” –Jake Jacoby, MD, University City
  • Pre- and post-pandemic: Now museum, now you don’t. –Michael Schuerman, Clairemont

Here’s my own pundemic entry:

A famous film director is making a documentary about the stay-at-home lockdown in New Jersey. His name is Trenton Quarantino.

And here are the best bilingual puns submitted:

  • I attended Oktoberfest in a small town in Switzerland. The main fare included different sausages and cheeses. I walked away with the Wurst Käse of indigestion I ever had. –Keith R. Goldman, University City
  • Some years ago, I decided to make empanadas for my aunt’s funeral. I had trouble matching the amount of dough to filling, and had to keep making more of each. It’s a good thing there were lots of people, as instead of empanadas, I made empamuchos. –Janet Taylor, Spring Valley
  • My wife complained about the waffles sticking to the top of the waffle iron. I assured her that even the German Department of Defense had aloof waffles. –Dennis Carter, Hillcrest
  • What caused that massive train wreck in France? Toulouse Lautrec. –Ariel Morales, El Cajon
  • I asked the waiter why there were no German wines on the wine list. He thought for a moment and then said, “I keep trying to come up with a Riesling, but I keep drawing a Blanc.” –Rudy Spano, Clairemont
  • Some people eat a big breakfast because one egg just isn’t un œuf. –Michael-Leonard Creditor, Clairemont