Excerpt from A Word A Day by Anu Garg, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Word A Day

A Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English

by Anu Garg

A Word A Day
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    Jan 2003, 224 pages

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Discover the Theme I

It is human nature to find patterns in things where there might be none, whether it is in the shape of clouds or in the arrangement of sand, in a chain of events, or in the digits of pi. Or in a list of words. What unites these words here in a common thread? You find out! Don your word-sleuth hat and discover the theme that weaves these words. Each word is another piece of the puzzle. Answer at the end of the chapter.


tessera (TESS-er-a) noun, plural tesserae
A small piece of stone, glass, etc. used in making mosaic pattern.

This word comes to us from Greek tesseres, meaning "four," as in four corners of a piece used to create a mosaic pattern. From Latin, from Greek, neuter of tesseres, variant of tessares (four).

  • The kings delighted in playing chess on a giant checkerboard made of thousands of black and white tesserae, with live animals and people dressed as chess pieces standing on it for hours.

hypolimnion (hip-o-LIMN-ee-on)
The lower layer of water in a lake that is stagnant and remains at a constant temperature.

From Greek hypo- (under) + limnion, diminutive of limne (lake, pool).

  • The cruise ship Sultanic hit the iceberg and soon it was resting among the hypolimnion layers of the lake.

decerebrate (de-CER-uh-brayt)
To remove the cerebrum

One who is devoid of intelligence or reason.
From Latin cerebrum (brain).

  • When Dr. Braegen decerebrated his third patient in a botched brain operation, his surgery privileges were taken away and practice limited to treating toe-nail fungus.

homonym (HOM-uh-nim)
A word that is the same in spelling and pronunciation as another word but different in meaning. For example, quail (the bird) and quail (to lose heart.)
From Latin homonymum, from Greek homonumon, from neuter of homonumos (homonymous).

  • When the animal refused to come out of the cage in the middle of the circus, the animal-trainer didn't miss the opportunity to make wordplay with homonyms, "Please bear with me while I get the bear out."

extravasate (ik-STRAV-uh-sayt)
verb tr
To force to come out of a vessel, such as blood from blood vessels to surrounding tissues or lava from underground.
verb intr
To pour forth.
From Latin combining form extra- (outside, beyond) + vas (vessel) + -ate.

  • Unhappy at his wife's complaints that he squeezes the tube in the middle, Johann bought a rolling pin to extravasate the last remaining atoms of the toothpaste out.


Of course, there was a pattern in those seemingly random words. All of these words can be typed on a standard QWERTY keyboard using only one hand - either left or right. Try it. Here are some other words that fall in this category:

  • Left hand only: abstract, reverberate.
  • Right hand only: lollipop, lollop, minikin, minimum, opinion.

Copyright 2003 by Anu Garg and Stuti Garg. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the author.

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