Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “Writer”

The scrabble for a better word

Second hand board gamesDealer's Choice, Scrabble, Boggle...Bird Bingo, James Bond 007, Subbuteo...

For someone who loves words, reads a lot and works as a copywriter, I’m surprisingly mediocre at Scrabble. But then, only around 30,000 of the 171,476 words in the 20-volume OED are used frequently, which means that – however great your vocabulary – around 3/4 of potential Scrabble words are likely to mean little or nothing to you. This makes having an interest in the language or even an English degree less important to Scrabble success than your willingness (or ability) to memorise little-known words, particularly those pesky two-letter ones, as well as the strange vowel-intensive ones like Alii, Ilia and Uraei. I don’t think I’m ever going to be that person…


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Wordy Wednesday: neologism

Every day I'm capuling

Today’s Wordy Wednesday was inspired by Turkish protest graffiti – ‘Everyday I’m çapuling’ – and by the viral video it gave rise to.
Before I explain the provenance of çapuling though, it’s probably a good idea to remind ourselves of the kind of neologisms we hear and see every day, such as these from the techie world:
  • google (as a verb)
  • troll
  • spam
  • crowdsource (book lovers out there should check out crowd sourcing book publisher, unbound)
  • geotagging – something my friend Dingo does all the time, posting pics of himself on the plane, up a Swiss mountain, in the US, on Lake Geneva, at the Hamble… Frankly, it’s exhausting.
The Washington Post runs a great competition in which it invites readers to create neologisms, usually by changing just one letter of a word. Below you’ll find some wonderfully funny and insightful neologisms coined over the past decade by its readers:

Wordy Wednesday: tmesis


(WARNING: this particular Wordy Wednesday starts off sweetly, but the language it contains goes downhill from here on in…)



If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, you’ll no doubt have heard Ned Flanders, Homer’s much abused, luxuriantly moustached Christian neighbour, saying “Wel-diddly-elcome, Simpsons!” 

Ned’s homey catchphrase is an example of tmesis. And if that sounds like Greek to you, it’s because it is: Tmesis comes from the Ancient Greek for ‘a cutting’; ‘I cut’, and it’s the linguistic phenomenon in which a word or phrase is separated into two parts, with other words interjected between them.

Other homey examples of tmesis are “just put it any-old-where,” and ‘it doesn’t matter, do it any-old-how’.

While these coinages are as wholesome as Mom’s apple pie, some of the most effective examples of tmesis are less so, involving as they do the insertion of a swear word into a word or phrase. There’s even a special term for this, ‘expletive infixation’, used for phrases such as:

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“Don’t gobblefunk around with words…” BFG

Just a quick note to wish you a happy Roald Dahl Day!

It seems highly appropriate to be celebrating Dahl and his darkly humorous stories on Friday 13th this year.
Roald Dahl Day

Amongst Roald Dahl’s enduringly popular works are:

James and the Giant Peach

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


The Witches

Fantastic Mr Fox

The Twits

Danny, The Champion of the World

George’s Marvelous Medicine


It’s difficult to choose a favourite, but if I had to, I’d choose Danny, The Champion of the World, because the warmth of the relationship between Danny & his dad makes me cry. Which is your favourite?

Wordy Wednesday: solutions (vs. Eddie Stobart)

"Thank you, goodnight and may your God go with you."

“Thank you, goodnight and may your God go with you.”

Some people, like Billy Connolly and Dave Allen, are great storytellers, able to keep you enthralled and entertained through the most unlikely of shaggy dog stories.

Others could be giving you the solutions to the Kennedy assassination and the death of Princess Di and all you’d hear would be ‘Blah, blah, Kennedy, blah de blah, blah Princess Di blah blah…’

The words we choose can either draw people in or make them tune out. And some words, or combinations of words, are like black holes, reflecting nothing at all back at the reader or listener. ‘Solutions’ has become one of these.

Wordy Wednesday: naming



What have cute little meerkats and a portly and rather annoying Welsh opera singer got to do with naming choices?

They’ve become stars because Compare the Market and Go Compare chose generic names, making it difficult for the public to distinguish one from the other, or from the dozen or so other price comparison websites out there.

As a result, clever ad agencies had to come up with ‘sticky’ brand assets that would make the companies stand out, and the companies themselves were required to spend millions on TV, billboard, radio and press ads to establish the link with their brands.

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Elmore Leonard’s writing rules

Elmore Leonard

As you have probably heard, Elmore Leonard, the US crime writer known as the ‘Dickens of Detroit’, died earlier this week at the age of 87.

Leonard started his career writing ads for Chevrolets: on the side he was writing Westerns that he hoped to sell to Hollywood. In The Times this morning, Will Pavia reported Elmore saying that when the market for stories about Apaches and bounty hunters dried up, “I had to switch to crime,” and added that Elmore’s “dialogue was zippy and the characters leapt from the page, frequently into the grateful embrace of Hollywood producers.”

More than 40 of Leonard’s works have been made into tv shows or films, with his film credits including 3.10 to Yuma, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty and Hombre . (Hombre is a great excuse to show a picture of the gorgeous Paul Newman, who was, indeed, the man).

"My momma taught me to remove my hat and my cigar in the presence of a lady. Whatever else I take off depends on how lucky I get."

“My momma taught me to remove my hat and my cigar in the presence of a lady. Whatever else I take off depends on how lucky I get.” Hombre, starring Paul Newman & Diane Cintrillo 

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