Do you love words? See how you do on our latest logophile quiz.
- Which of the athletes is jumpier?
- Ellen hurtled down the track
- Andrea hurdled down the track.
- Which of these things is limpid?
- A freshwater spring
- A man with no spring in his step
- A worn-out bedspring
- My Uncle Dwight likes columbines but not amaryllis, halogens but not florescents, wordplay but not crosswords, and both Democrats and Republicans but not Independents. What does Uncle Dwight like?
1. Depending on where you’re from, the words hurdle and hurtle may or may not sound exactly alike. Regardless, they have different meanings: To hurtle means to move at great speed, typically in an uncontrolled way. To hurdle means to jump over an obstacle — in track and field competitions, those obstacles are also hurdles. The answer, then, is B; Andrea is doing more jumping than Ellen.
2. Limpid has nothing to do with either limpness or limping. It likely traces back to the Latin lympha, “water,” and means “clear.” The correct answer, then, is A — a freshwater spring is, one hopes, clear.
Limpid can also mean “simple and clear in style” (limpid prose) or “serene and untroubled “(a limpid demeanor).
3. Notice that the disliked word amaryllis contains two As and two Ls; fluorescents has two Es and two Ses; crosswords has two Rs, two Os, and three Ses; and Independents has two Ds, two Ns, and three Es.
Uncle Dwight doesn’t like that. He likes words that have no repeating letters.
English contains a large number of shorter words with no repeat letters — for example, Uncle and Dwight — but as words get longer, the chance for repetition increases. At 15 letters, uncopyrightable appears to be the longest nonscientific word with no repeated letters.
These three questions appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of the Post. Not a subscriber? You can start a new subscription here.