John Konrad Kern
Signal Hill, California

Strip a word of its meaning and etymology and what do you have? You have a collection of alphabetic characters arranged in a unique order. Devoid of definition, however, these strings of letters have virtually no utility. But I am here to tell you they are not useless. They can be as entertaining as all get-out.

What you do is go through a reputable collegiate dictionary (I used Webster’s Ninth) word by word selecting those that appeal to you solely because of their sound, appearance, rhythm, spelling, construction, or evocation of interesting, pleasant, or amusing feelings. This is a tedious and time-consuming process, but it also is fun. You will be surprised at your selections and tantalized by your reasons for choosing them. You’ll find, though, that the hardest. part is to consistently ignore all meanings, a requirement vital to the success of this adventure. When using the dictionary, you must discipline yourself to look at nothing but the word itself and its pronunciation. And equally important, you must consciously disregard any meanings you already possess in your memory.

After you have gone through every word in the entire dictionary and have compiled a list of all the words you selected, you make two or three additional cuts to get the number of your most-liked words down to whatever number you want as your final list. In my case I ended up with 857 on my first list, and after two more cuts had 100 words left.

I then decided to pick the 28 words that were my final favorites from that list and these are shown below. This exercise is similar to playing solitaire, except that this game can be played only once, unless you have partners who go through the same procedure and afterwards you all compare your respective final lists. That can be a lot of fun.

If you would be interested in playing this game and then sending a copy of your final list to me, I’ll be glad to keep a cumulative record of all words selected by everyone who does this. Then after every four months,, I will let each of you know the total list of selected words and how many players selected each one. Send your list and your postal address to me in care of our obliging editor, Erin McKean. [Send to either U.S. or U.K. address.–Ed.]

1. Collywobbles 15. Rigamarole

2. Persnickety 16. Jitney

3. Chautaqua 17. Thither

4. Scalawag 18. Curmudgeon

5. Caboodle 19. Derring-do

6. Hornswoggle 20. Cahoots

7. Twinkling 21. Crotchety

8. Lackadaisical 22. Whoop-de-do

9. Squishy 23. Gumption

10. Scoot 24. Balalaika

11. Skedaddle 25. Smidgen

12. Cantankerous 26. Spiffy

13. Oodles 27. Dreadnought

14. Dillydally 28. Nook

 

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