Tag: words

The non-phonetic alphabet

September 5th, 2009 — 7:11pm

There are many different phonetic alphabets out there, for various applications including telecom, military etc. A variety are covered here.

I’m fascinated with what a hodgepodge the English language is and how often the spelling or pronunciation of its words are counter-intuitive. In appreciation, here’s a start at the Non-Phonetic Alphabet:

A as in Aoxomoxoa, aurulent
C as in Cthulhu
E as in eugenics
G as in gnostic, gnarly, gnome, gnat
H as in honor, hour, herbivore
K as in knife, know, knob, knot
M as in mnemonic
O as in ouroboros
P as in psychotic, pneumatic, psalm, pterodactyl
S as in seedy
T as in tsunami
W as in wrestle, wrong, write, whole
X as in xylem, xenophobe, xantham

Many thanks to Christine for great contributions.

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4 vowel words

August 26th, 2009 — 1:20am

There is a small set of English words that have 4 consecutive vowels, such as “sequoia” and “Kauai”. After trying in vain to come up with more than a few, I brute forced a solution and enjoyed reviewing the results.

I got a huge English word list from here (I used the Scowl one).

The following command line searched for all words with 4 vowels in a row and cleaned up the output:

egrep "[aeiou]{4}" * | awk -F: '{print $2}' | sort | sed -e "/'/d" | uniq

I was really surprised by how many came up (366)! Add “y” and it goes up to 694.

It’s interesting to look up the definitions of the results. So far they’ve all been real words, albeit really obscure.

A list of the words returned is here.

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Words about groups

October 27th, 2008 — 10:58pm

For some reason, etymologists and scientists have felt the need to address groups of organisms using different words. Some, are more commonly known, like a “gaggle of geese” or “herd of elephants” . Here are some lesser known examples:

aarmory of aardvarks
army of ants
barrel of monkeys
battery of barracuda
bed of clams
bloat of hippos
cast of crab
cete of badgers
cloud of bats
coalition of cheetah
coffle of asses
company of parrots
congregation of alligators
flight of butterfly
intrusion of cockroach
leash of deer
lodge of beavers
maul of bears
murder of crows
orchestra of crickets
pack (wild) / litter (young) of dogs
parliament of magpie
peep of chickens
pod of dolphins
pounce of cats
prickle of porcupines
rout of coyote
scourge of mosquito
shoal of bass
stripe of zebra
swarm of bees
thunder of bison
train of camel
troop of baboons

Comment » | science, words


March 21st, 2008 — 2:13am

For some reason, I like words about words. These are not so useful in casual conversation, but awareness of them lends insight into the evolution of language and its structure. Following here are some of my favorites:

retronym – A word that has been changed to allow greater specificity for that word. e.g. “television” had to become “broadcast television” with the advent of “satellite television” and “cable television”. See here for more examples.

eponym – a word naming a place, discovery, era or other item after its discoverer. Most interesting to me are the corporate eponyms that become the general term to describe something, e.g. Kleenex for tissue, Band-Aid for adhesive bandage, Xerox for copy machine. A more complete list is available here

capitonym – a word with the same spelling but different meaning based on capitalization. e.g. August vs august (the month vs the adjective)

heteronym – two words spelled identically but with different meanings and pronunciation. e.g. tear (rip something) vs tear (water from the eye)

meronym – Using part of something to refer to its whole. e.g. Threads (slang) as a meronym of clothes.

hyponym – a word of more specific meaning than another. A subset. e.g. Blue is a hyponym of color.

hypernym – a word of more broad meaning than another. A superset. e.g. Color is a hypernym of yellow.

antonym – a word opposite in meaning to another. e.g. love is an antonym of hate.

homonym – words with the same pronunciation but different meanings. e.g. There, their and they’re are all homonym’s of each other.

toponym – a word/phrase naming a place based on some physical feature. See place name origins for a more complete description.

metonym – a word/phrase used as a substitute for something else it is closely associated with. e.g. “Madison Avenue” is a metonym for advertising.

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May 24th, 2007 — 1:18pm

Alternate names for a few of the ASCII characters:

# = the octothorpe

& = the ampersand

` =  the grave accent

@ =  abbreviation for “at the rate of”

/ = solidus

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SI Prefixes

September 7th, 2006 — 3:10pm

With things only getting much bigger and much smaller, boning up on the terms for various magnitudes seems appropriate. Following is set of the International System of Units prefixes. This way when Apple comes out with it’s next smallest gadget, you’ll be right there with them.

Factor Name Symbol
1024 yotta Y
1021 zetta Z
1018 exa E
1015 peta P
1012 tera T
109 giga G
106 mega M
103 kilo k
102 hecto h
101 deka da
10-1 deci d
10-2 centi c
10-3 milli m
10-6 micro µ
10-9 nano n
10-12 pico p
10-15 femto f
10-18 atto a
10-21 zepto z
10-24 yocto y


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