Good morning! I hope Daylight Saving Time hasn’t worn you out and instead has given you more energy, like it somehow has given me. This week, or rather, today, is special because 22 years ago on March 14th, Wordsmith became a way to play with words, discover their origins, and share them with fellow logophiles. So happy birthday Wordsmith! In honor, this week’s words are all about having fun with, well, words!

rebus (REE-buhs)

noun: a representation of a word or phrase using pictures, symbols, letters, etc

From Latin rebus (by things), from res (thing). Earliest documented use: 1605

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Daniel Clowes’s narratives are full of anagrams and rebuses, clues (a wand, an eye, a movie camera) to an underlying mystery that is never solved.”
Tad Friend; Comics from Underground; The New Yorker; Jul 30, 2001.

calligram (KAL-i-gram)

noun: a word, phrase, or piece of text arranged to form a picture of the subject described

From French calligramme, from Greek calli- (beautiful) + -gram (something written). Earliest documented use: 1923. A word with the same root is callipygian.

Notes (from Wordsmith)
One of the best-known practitioners of the form was the French poet and writer Guillaume Apollinaire, whose work was published in the book Calligrammes.

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“In his calligram, not only does [Joseph Cornell] mention the names of artists, poets, and musicians alongside the names of scientists and their inventions, he also transforms the building of the laboratory/observatory itself into a sort of puzzle of words.”
Analisa Pauline Leppanen-Guerra; Children’s Stories and “Child-Time” in the Works of Joseph Cornell and the Transatlantic Avant-Garde; Ashgate Publishing; 2011.

ambigram (AM-bi-gram)

noun: a word or phrase written in a manner that it reads the same (sometimes, a different word or phrase) when oriented in a different way, for example, when reflected or rotated

From Latin ambi- (both) + -gram (something written). Earliest documented use: 1985

Usage (from Wordsmith)
Come In & Go Away Doormat. This fun and clever graphic uses an ambigram to greet and dismiss your visiting guests: ‘come in’ on arrival ‘go away’ when leaving.”
Wipe Your Feet in Style This Winter; The Kent and Sussex Courier (Tunbridge Wells, UK); Oct 4, 2013.

“Toryn Green already had his first Fuel album commemorated with an ambigram tattoo — in one direction it reads ‘angel’ and in the other direction it reads ‘devil’.”
Sarah Henning; Driven to Succeed; Anchorage Daily News (Alaska); Dec 16, 2007.

pangram (PAN-gram, -gruhm, PANG-)

noun: a sentence that makes use of all the letters of the alphabet

From Greek pan- (all) + -gram (something written). Earliest documented use: 1873

Notes (from Wordsmith)
The best-known pangram is: The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog. Here’s a pangram that makes use of the whole alphabet in a 26-letter sentence: Mr. Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx.

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“‘Whatcha working on, kid? Something new for me?’ …
‘Pangram,’ Bill said with the curtness of a drill sergeant.
‘When zombies arrive, quickly fax Judge Pat.’”
George Wright Padgett; Cruel Devices; Grey Gecko Press; 2014.

acrostic (a-KRAW-stik, a-KRAWS-tik)

noun:a composition in which the first letter of each line spells out a word or message

From Latin acrostichis, from Greek akrostikhis, from akron (head) + stikhos (line). Earliest documented use: 1585. A word with the same root is acrophobia

Notes (from Wordsmith)
When the spelled-out word is in the middle (instead of from the initial letters), it’s called a mesostic (example). Also see, a meta acrostic

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“In 2009, Schwarzenegger released a memorable message. He used a vulgar acrostic to reject a bill by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.”
Michael Mishak & Anthony York; Brown Sends a Message With His Pen; Los Angeles Times; Oct 8, 2011.

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