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.

Riddler Reacher at your service. That’s an anagramof my real identity, Richard Lederer, a reshuffling of all the letters in my first and last name.

What’s in a president’s name? Plenty, when you start anagramming the monikers of our 20th- and 21st-century chief executives (using every letter, no more, no fewer). Some presidents work better grammatically than others. Some are more appropriate to the president, some less telling:

Theodore Roosevelt: LOVED HORSE; TREE, TOO.

William Howard Taft: A WORD WITH ALL: I’M FAT.

Woodrow Wilson: O LORD, SO NOW WWI.

Warren Gamaliel Harding : REAL WINNER? HIM A LAGGARD.

Calvin Coolidge: LOVE? A COLD ICING.

Herbert Clark Hoover: O, HARK, CLEVER BROTHER.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: ELEANOR, KIN, LAST FOND LOVER

Harry S Truman: RASH ARMY RUNT

Dwight David Eisenhower: HE DID VIEW THE WAR DOINGS.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy: ZING! DARKEN JOY THEN FLED.

Lyndon Baines Johnson: NO NINNY, HE’S ON JOB, LADS.

Richard Milhous Nixon: HUSH— NIX CRIMINAL ODOR!

Gerald Rudolph Ford: A RUDER LORD; GOLF PH.D

James Earl Carter: A RARE, CALM JESTER

Ronald Wilson Reagan: A REAL DARLING SON WON

George Bush: HE BUGS GORE.

William Jefferson Clinton: JILTS NICE WOMEN; IN FOR FALL.

George W. Bush: HE GREW BOGUS.

Barack Hussein Obama: ABRAHAM IS BACK. ONE U.S.

In honor of our very first president, I present a stately sonnet (14 lines), composed by David Shulman more than 75 years ago. Each line is an anagram of the title, yet the lines are cast in reasonable meter, and each couplet rhymes! That’s what I call letter perfect.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

A hard, howling, tossing, water scene;

Strong tide was washing hero clean.

“How cold!” Weather stings as in anger.

O silent night shows war ace danger!

 

The cold waters swashing on in rage.

Redcoats warnslow his hint engage.

When general’s star wish’d “Go!”

He saw his ragged continentals row.

 

 

Ah, he stands— sailor crew went going,

And so this general watches rowing.

He hastens — Winter again grows cold;

A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.

 

 

George can’t lose war with ‘s hands in;

He’s astern— so, go alight, crew, and win!

Recent surveys reveal that one-quarter of Americans say that Columbus set sail after 1750, and one-third can’t identify the century in which the Revolutionary War was fought. Three-quarters of respondents do not know that America achieved its independence from Great Britain.

Only 7 percent can name the first four presidents of the United States in order(Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison), and only 21 percent know that the faces of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are carved on Mount Rushmore.

While only 25 percent of Americans can identify more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights (freedom of the press, petition, religion, speech, peaceful assembly), more than half can name at least two members of the Simpsons’ cartoon family (Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie).


D’oh! In an effort to make the knowledge of our nation’s history at least match the nation’s knowledge of the Simpsons, I’ll be performing “Fascinating Facts About Our Presidents” around our town during February, National Presidents Month. These events are open to the public: Monday, Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m. — North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach Saturday, Feb. 6, 2 p.m. — La Jolla Public Library