Monday, January 31, 2011

Eunoia, etc.

Hey guys,

Through a couple of classes here, I've been introduced to the work of Christian Bök, who is an amazing experimental poet. My favorite project of his is Eunoia (literally "beautiful thinking"), a book which, along with some other miscellany, has five chapters, each of which uses only one vowel. I just ordered it online and I'm pretty excited to read it. Bök prepared for it rigorously, and tried to use as many words that obeyed the one-vowel rule as he could find.

I'm probably partial to it because univocalic writing is something I've attempted before in prose, which you can find on my small site for constrained writing from my younger days, OtherWORDly. I only did it for E and O, my acumen not as quite as honed as Bök's (note dramatic understatement.) Also on that site are some abecedarian stories, where each word starts or ends with the next letter of the alphabet; some "counting stories," in which each word has an ever-increasing number of letters; a story without E; and a sort of prose riddle.

Texts which leave out letters are more generally called lipograms. One of the most famous of these is Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright.

Anyway, I can't let this go without giving you some trivia. Bök chose the title Eunoia at least in part because it's the shortest word he could find in English that contains all five vowels. So, the answers to all the trivia below are words that also contain all five vowels.

Can you name:

1. A word with all five vowels that rhymes with eunoia?
2. A country with all five vowels?
3. A nine-letter word with all five vowels in order?
4. A scientific term consisting only of the five vowels?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Trivia 1

Hello all,

This blog is a compendium of linguistic trickery. I'm a lover of puns, etymology, constrained writing, and wordplay, and I'm using this as an outlet. I also love trivia and especially trivia questions, so both will appear frequently here. In fact, I plan to have at least one major trivia question each week (hence the title of this post.) Often these will require some linguistic sleuthing. Post your answer in the comments - correct answers will at the very least receive some praise or recognition.

For a while now, I've been collecting what I call "etymological redundancies": phrases whose constituent parts share a meaning somewhere along their etymological paths. For example, the Milky Way Galaxy is an etymological redundancy because galaxy comes from the Greek gala, "milk." Another favorite of mine is prayer beads - bead derives from the Old English gebed, "prayer." (Bead shifted in meaning because of phrases like count one's beads.) Or the White Album, album originally being a "white tablet."

Your first trivia question is this: Name a very common etymological redundancy often used in Mediterranean cooking.

Some additional hints:

1. The phrase is two words, and they both begin with the same letter.
2. The words derive their meaning from the same Greek word, which came to English through Latin and then Old French.
3. This product has had a huge economic effect on Mediterranean civilization for at least a few thousand years.