Logophile: Cordelia’s Brown Thumb

Put your vocabulary to the test with this short word quiz.

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  1. Cordelia lay _____________ and stared sullenly at the sky.
    1. prone
    2. prostrate
    3. supine
  2. Her azaleas won’t grow because all the nutrients have ______________ out of the soil.
    1. leached
    2. leeched
  3. Cordelia likes patchouli but not sandalwood, pantyhose but not tights, wizards but not sorcerers, and palindromes but not anagrams. What does Cordelia like?


1. c. supine

2. a. leached

3. Cordelia likes words with no repeating letters.

This article is featured in the July/August 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. A million years ago, when I was in 10th grade science class, our teacher asked us to riffle through a dictionary and list as many words as we could that ended in “-ology.” His purpose, of course, was for us to start gaining an apprecation for the numerous fields of scientific endeavor. Yes, I dutifually listed “Biology, Archaeology, Geology, Sociology,” etc. I also wondered why “Chemistry” was not “Chemology,” or “Physics” was not “Physicology.” Yes, I even listed “Physiology” and “Pharmacology”– and was confused by it. But I also listed “Apology.” Searching for an explanation, I found none so I devised one of my own: “The science and practice of studying Aps.” Sure, I understood the meaning of the word Apology, but why did it have the “-ology” suffix”? Teacher was not amused by my investigation into the word. All he said was, “It came from a different root.” I think my relevaton into the background of “Apology” started when a truly marvelous English teacher, Mr. Drury, had us read the Greek Myths, by Robert Graves. And there I discovered the god Apollo. Today, thanks to Wikipedia, I understand that Apollo “made mortals aware of their own guilt and purified them of it.” In that context, “apology” makes sense. Of course, now I am troubled by the “-gy” ending of the word. While words ending in “-ology” appear to be the most numerous, words ending in “-ggy,” such as “piggy” are also abundant. More rare are those in which “-gy” is a necessary part of the word. Examples are “Clergy, Energy, Prodigy,” and of course my favorite, “Orgy.” Perhaps you, Mr. Hollenbeck, can provide further elucidation into this worrying matter. If not, I offer my apology for troubling you.


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