Jörg Zuther's Word Weird Web Index

"Everyone who speaks many languages can talk nonsense in many languages." (Alexander Roda-Roda)

"With each new learnt language you earn a new soul." (from Czechia)

Index Of This Page
Item  About This Page
Item  Comprehensive Resources Concerning Languages, Liguistics, And Word Play
Item  Link Collections
Item  Portals
Item  Formal Word Play
Item  Anagrams
Item  Palindromes
Item  Rhymes
Item  Acronyms And Abbreviations
Item  Semantic Word Play
Item  Sign (linguistics)
Item  Synonyms
Item  Antonyms
Item  Antagonyms
Item  Oxymora
Item  Pleonasms
Item  Puns
Item  Jokes
Item  Word Games
Item  Boggle
Item  Literature, Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and Glossaries
Item  Miscellaneous
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About This Page

On this page you find links and content concerning subjects that refer to language and words. While word play topics like anagrams and palindromes are covered extensively more serious topics like glossaries, encyclopedias and dictionaries are also addressed. Note that this page can serve you as a glossary for the word phenomena it covers. I do not claim my definitions to be scientific or to be authoritative in any other way. As a typical mathematician I use my definitions to tell you how I understand each particular term (or rather in which sense I want to use it on these pages).

When I started this page several years ago I hoped to find more time for its maintenance. Nevertheless, expect a slow growth of this page, both concerning the link collections as well as my own content.

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Comprehensive Resources Concerning Languages, Liguistics, And Word Play
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Link Collections
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Formal Word Play

'Formal' word play means operations on text that don't refer to the semantic contents of the text in the first line. For instance, the operation of anagramming a piece of text is purely formalistic (reordering of the letters). Nevertheless, to find good anagrams (funny or strange sounding ones) one has to be selective upon a possible semantic content of the anagrams. For example, 'ars magna' is an interesting anagram of 'anagrams', whereas 'mgrnsaaa' is just stupid - at least for people like me who only know German, English and some French and Latin.

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Definition Anagram: An anagram of a piece of text is an arbitrary rearrangement of its letters (without consideration of whitespace and punctuation characters and without regard to the semantic content).

If you do this rearrangement randomly, you'll get just a muddle of letters. Probably, this won't be very interesting to you. But it can be very funny to find anagrams that make sense by itself, especially if this new meaning interferes somehow with the original meaning. Here are some good links concerning anagrams:

An easy way to get anagrams is the exchange of the consonant groups at the beginnings of two words, e.g. "Main Page" - "Pain Mage". I do this frequently, esp. with the parts of German composed words - a passion, that results in

In the meanwhile, I have learned that such text fragments are called

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Definition Palindrom: A palindrome is a piece of text that reads backward the same as forward (excluding whitespace and punctuation characters).

Beispiele: "Red rum, Sir, is murder.", "On a clover, if alive, erupts a vast, pure evil: a fire volcano." oder "deified".

According to my definition of anagram, palindromes can be seen as very peculiar anagrams since the backward arrangement of the letters of a piece of text is only one among a usually astronomic number of possible arrangements.

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Definition Rhyme: Two similar sounding words are called rhyming. A rhyme is a written or spoken piece of text (mostly in the form of verses) where words are rhyming at recurrent positions (e. g. at the beginning or the end or even in the middle of lines/sentences/verses, or at more than one position at a time). It is possible to distinguish an according number of different types of rhymes.

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Acronyms And Abbreviations

Seemingly, an exponentially growing avalanche of acronyms and abbreviations increasingly hampers the understanding among different groups - a phenomenon concerning all aspects of life. Acronyms are willingly abused to exclude or humiliate the uninitiated (popular not only among specialists and "experts") and to hide the absence of content resp. the non-difference from the competition behind inflated buzzword monsters (popular not only among marketing departments of IT and consulting companies).

The following links have been compiled here to help you to navigate and to struggle through this fast sprawling jungle.

Definition Acronym: An acronym is a special form of abbreviation where a selection of letters from the text to abbreviate (in the majority of cases only the initial letters) is assembled in the sequence of their occurence to a single alphabetic string (mostly capitals) without any whitespace characters or punctuation marks (exception: sometimes there is a dot behind each letter).

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Semantic Word Play

Definition Semantics: Semantics is a subfield of linguistics (language science). It deals with sense and meaning of texts and other expressions of language.

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Sign (linguistics)

Since sense and meaning of text pieces and other language expressions by no means are determined by the meaning of the single words alone a notion is needed here to denote text pieces that carry a meaning. Examples: Figures of speech like 'It rains cats and dogs.' or 'to pull someones leg' which can't be understood literally.

Definition Linguistic Sign: I call a piece of text a liguistic sign if it has a certain meaning for someone in a certain context.

However, only linguistic signs are examined here whose meanings are defined by convention for bigger groups of human beings.

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Definition Synonym: Several linguistic signs (definition see above) are called synonyms resp. are said to be synonymic if they all share a common meaning.

Note that the meaning of a linguistic sign usually is determined by the context of its use (textual and situational). Another linguistic sign may be a synonym only with respect to such a situation. Example: "The soothsayer looked into the ball." In this special example "ball" could be replaced by "sphere", but hardly in the following one: "The dance at the ball fatally bored him." This shows that words can have different degrees of being synonymic. For instance, I suspect that "form" and "shape" are synonyms in a much stronger way than "ball" and "sphere".

The example also shows how extremely contextual the meanings of linguistic signs are. Concerning the example in the last paragraph I wrote "hardly" (and not "impossible") because the sentence "The dance at the sphere fatally bored him." could tell us about an astronomer dancing on a party in an observatory with an artificial firmament.

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Definition Antonym: Two linguistic signs (definition see above) are called antonymic resp. antonyms if at least one pair of oppositional meanings can be picked from the meaning lists of both linguistic signs.

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Definition Antagonym (a name suggested by Charles N. Ellis): A linguisitc sign (definition see above) is called an antagonym, if it has several meanings where at least two among them are converse resp. contradictory.

Examples: The word fearful has (among others) the meanings 'causing fear' as well as 'being afraid'. The German word fix can mean 'immovable' as well as 'fast'.

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Definition Oxymoron: An oxymoron is a linguistic sign which gets its meaning out of the composition of conflictive notions. It is possible to distinguish strong and weak oxymora. A strong oxymoron draws its meaning from notions with definitely antithetic meaning, whereas weak oxymora confront notions that are oppositional only in the opinion of the lanuage user. Accordingly, a weak oxymoron may not be seen as an oxymoron by everyone. Weak oxymora tend to stem from experience and prejudice and may be discriminating.

Examples: deafening silence, an open secret, and bad luck are examples for strong oxymora, whereas American culture, British cuisine, and Microsoft Works are examples for weak oxymora.

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Definition Pleonasm: A pleonasm is a linguistic sign which contains redundant (identical or similar in meaning) parts. Pleonasm and oymoron are antonyms.

Examples: null and void, free gift, overused cliche, fundamental base principles

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Word Games
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Boggle is an entertaining game for letter and word freaks. In a limited time interval (e. g. 3 minutes), find as much words as possible in a 4x4 or 5x5 square letter salad and write them down. Long words count more points than short ones. Since you are allowed to turn arbitrarily vertically, horizontally, and diagonally at each letter there is an astronomic number of possibilities. The only limitations are: The letters have to be connected in the same order as in the word and in one word you are not allowed to use the same letter cube twice.

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Literature, Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and Glossaries
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first published: 01.12.1997 Critics, comments, remarks, questions? Mail to © 1997 - 2008 Jörg Zuther
last modified: 04.05.2008