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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a male sorcerer, a legendary magician

ian mckellen as gandalf fighting the balrog in the lord of the rings fellowship of the ring

We’re dedicated to obscure vocabulary and etymological tales here at Haggard Hawks of course, but every so often we like to indulge in a little bit of wordplay:

But besides dollop, eight and spoonfeed, some other words that could have made this list include strengths (the English language’s longest common monosyllabic word), bookkeeper (which contains three pairs of double letters) and asthma, which is the longest word beginning and ending with a vowel with no vowels in between (a title for which it ties with the much less familiar isthmi, the plural of isthmus).

Tsktsks, representative of sounds of disagreement, is the longest word with no vowels. Hijinks is the only English word spelled with three dots or ‘tittles’ in a row. Excluding chemical names, the nine Ss used to spell possessionlessnesses comprise the most repetitions of a single letter inside an English word, while overnumerousnesses is the longest word with no ascenders or descenders, climbing above or hanging below the line. And in the word archetypical, a record-setting five letters are in precisely the same position as they are in the alphabet: A is first, C is third, E is fifth, I is ninth, and L is twelfth.

Trivia like this—which falls under the umbrella term of ‘recreational linguistics’, or ‘logology’—can be taken to extraordinary lengths, especially when the letters of the alphabet are given their numerical values. One example of that is dollar words, whose numerical values total 100, like buzzy or gobbledegook. And another is the linguistic quirk that makes wizard one of the most interesting words of all.

If each half of the alphabet is given a numerical value counting up to and then down from 13 (so A = 1 and Z = 1, B = 2 and Y = 2, and so on), wizard produces the pattern 4 9 1 1 9 4, which makes it one of the longest numerically symmetrical words in the English language. Hovels and evolve are two more six-letter words that exhibit this bizarre (and admittedly fairly niche) phenomenon, alongside a bevy of four-letter examples including vole, grit and wold. But what makes wizard so noteworthy is that it also includes Z, one of the rarest letters of the alphabet. It’s magic, isn’t it?


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