Thursday, April 19, 2007

English Word-Play

(Just for fun!)

Compiled by


English is the most widely used language in the history of our planet. One in every seven human beings can speak it. More than half of the world’s book and three-quarters of international mail are in English. It is the language of globalization—of international business, politics, diplomacy, computers and the Internet.

Nonetheless, English is a crazy language. There is no ham in hamburger, neither pine nor apple in pineapple. Sweetmeats are candy, while sweetbreads (which aren’t sweet) are meat. We take English for granted. But when we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither a pig nor from Guinea.

Why is it that a writer writes and singers sing, but fingers don’t “fing” and hammers don’t “ham”? If the plural of mouse is mice, shouldn’t the plural of house be “hice”? If the teacher taught, why isn’t it true that the preacher “praught”? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you also “bote” your tongue!

In what other language do people place a book and book a place, drive on a parkway and park in a driveway? Recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and quiet a few are alike? How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell the next? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which your alarm clock goes off by going on.

English reflects the creativity of the human race (which isn’t really a race at all). That is why, when stars are out they are visible, but when the lights are out they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch I start it, but when I wind up this essay I end it.


The word PALINDROME comes from the Greek palindromos which mean ‘running back’. A palindrome is a word or sentence which reads the same backwards as it does forwards. Madam, eye, redder, deified, race car, trap part, eroded ore and sublevel bus are the example of palindromes.

There are many good English palindromes, such as the words attributed to Napoleon, ‘Able was I ere I saw Elba’, or those written to honour the man who devised the Panama canal: ‘A man, a plan, a canal—Panama’. The other palindromes are listed below.

Rise to vote, sir.
Name now one man.
Was it a cat I saw?
Live not on evil.
I’m a nun, am I?
Ma is as selfless as I am.
Sir, I demand. I am a maid named Iris.
Are we not drawn onward to new era?
No mists or frost, Simon.
Draw pupil’s lip upward.
Anne, I stay a day at Sienna.
Not New York, Roy went on.
Nurse, I spy gypsies, run!
Niagara, O roar again!
Borrow or rob!
Dennis and Edna sinned.
Naomi, did I moan?
No, it is opposition.
Emit sex at taxes time.
Too bad! Ah, I had a boot.
Ten animals slam in a net.
Star comedy by Democrats.
I saw I was DNA and saw I was I.

IN EDEN, I . . . .
+ Madam!
- Oh, who?
+ Madam, I’m Adam.
- Name of a foe man?
+ O, stone me! Not so.
- Eve maid. I am Eve.
+ Eve. Drowsy baby’s word. Eve.
- I’m a Madam Adam, am I?
+ Now a seesaw on ....
- Mad Adam!
+ Aha!
- I won’t! O, not now, I ....
+ Pull up if I pull up.
- Top spot!
+ Won’t lover revolt now?
- No, none. My hero! More hymen, on, on ....
+ O God! I do? Go!
- Mmmmmmm ....

There are some palindromes in Bahasa Indonesia as well. Here are some examples.
Kasur Nababan rusak.
Idham, ini Mahdi.
Tamuku kumat.
Ibu, aku suka ubi.
Ira hamil lima hari.
Rudi & Tuti malam itu tidur.


An anagram is the transposed phrase or rearranged letters. Voltaire, whose real name was Francois Marie Arouet, formed his pseudonym by making an anagram of Arouet l.j. (le jeune, the young) using u as v and j as i. His friends suspected that Voltaire didn’t want to heard himself called arouer (‘whipping boy’).

Here are some anagrams.

revolution—to love ruin
telegraph—great help
sweetheart—there we sat
hysterics—his set cry
enigmatical—in magic tale
penitentiary—nay, I repent it
marriage—a grim era
mother-in-law—the warm lion
conversation—voices rant on
the eyes—they see
sauciness—causes sin
waitress—a stew, sir?
train—it ran
diplomacy—mad policy
parliament—partial men
softheartedness—often sheds tears
one + twelve—two + eleven
greyhound—hey, dog, run!
medical consultation—noted miscalculation
negation—get a ‘no’ in
a gentleman—elegant man
cabaret—a bar, etc.
received payment—every cent paid me
inconsistent—n is, n is not, etc.
protectionism—nice to imports
debit card—bad credit
the cafeteria—fact: I eat here
falsehood—has fooled
the nudist colony—no untidy clothes
a steward—draws tea
decimal point—I’m a dot in place
old master—art’s model
violence—nice love
nowhere—now here

James Watt—a steam wit
Clint Eastwood—old west action
Margareth Thatcher—that great charmer
Florence Nightingale—flit on, cheering angel
Ronald Wilson Reagan—ran on all wrong ideas
Richard Milhouse Nixon—his climax: ruined honor
Victoria, England’s Queen—governs a nice quiet land
William Shakespeare—we all make his praise
Nicholas Copernicus—can helio-spins occur?
The Morse Code—here come dots
Rocky Mountains—o, man, ski country
The United States of America—a site for each destitute man

The words defined in each group are composed of the same letters but in different arrangements.
*A small rock; Brief messages; Pitches in music.
*Sends payment; Earns; A title of respect.
*Gone by; Faucets; Small piece of butter.
*To load, as a ship; A metal; A round in a card game.
*Rules, as a king; To quit formally; A songster.
*Felines; Persons in a play; Divisions of a drama.
*Chronological measure; Short article; To issue.
*Makes a clear profit; A number (plural); Bird’s home.
*Supplications; Turns wan; Slip into error.
*Accepts or selects; Large cut of meat; A shoe on wheels.
ANSWER: stone-notes-tones; remits-merits-mister; past-taps-pats; lade-lead-deal; reigns-resign-singer; cats-cast-acts; time-item-emit; nets-tens-nest; pleas-pales-lapse; takes-steak-skate.


A pangram (“all letters”) can be defined as a group of words using all the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. The most familiar pangrams, often used in learning to type, include all the letters but contain some of them more than once.

Here are some pangrams with their respective letter-totals:
The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog (33 letters)
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs (32 letters)
The five boxing wizards jump quickly (31 letters)
How quickly daft jumping zebras vex (30 letters)

A perfect pangram must use all the twenty-six letters exactly once:
Mr Jock, TV quiz Ph.D., bags few lynx.


What’s the difference between a hungry boy and a greedy boy?
One longs to eat, other eats too long.

What’s the difference between a married man and a bachelor?
One kisses the miss, other misses the kiss.

What’s the difference between a tube and a Dutchman?
One is a hollow cylinder, other is a silly Hollander.

What’s the difference between a stamp and a girl?
One is a mail fee, other is a female.

Why is honey scarce in Bandung?
Because there’s only one ‘bee’ in Bandung.

What’s the longest word?
‘Smiles’, there’s a mile between its first and last letters.

What’s the longest name?
The Sundanese name IIM, eleven meters!

Why do we go to bed?
Because the bed won’t come to us.

What’s the hottest letter?
‘B’, because it makes oil boil.

Why is the letter ‘F’ like the banana skin?
Both make all fall.

Where does Thursday come before Wednesday?
In the dictionary.

What has four eyes but cannot see?

What starts with T, ends with T, and is full of T?
A teapot.

With which hand should you stir your tea?
Neither, you should use a spon.

What liquid can’t you freeze?
Hot water.

What’s the cheapest way to get to America?
Be born there.

Why do doctors and nurses wear masks?
If someone makes a mistakes, they won’t know who.

What’s an autobiography?
The life story of a car.

Why do birds fly south in winter?
Because it’s too far to walk.

What word allows you to take away two letters and get one?

Why did a boy draw a square when the teacher asked him to draw a ring?
It was a boxing ring.

When can you move as fast as a train?
When you are inside it.

What belongs to you, but is used more by other people?
Your name.

Are you mad if you talk to yourself?
Only if you answer.

How can you drop an egg ten meters without it breaking?
Drop it eleven meters.

Why do mother kangaroos hate rainy days?
Because their children play inside.

What time is it when your clock strikes thirteen?
Time to get a new clock.

What question can never be honestly answered ‘yes’?
Are you asleep?

What is too much for one, enough for two, but nothing for three?
A secret.

Where are elephants found?
They’re so big that they never get lost.***


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