As an avid bibliovore from early childhood, and a writer to boot, occasionally I find myself inventing new ways to play with one of the fundamental tools of the trade, the word; or I’ll use established games as exercises in creativity. Some examples follow.

Some years ago, I asked what would be the longest joining of two-syllable English words into one long string, such that meaning flowed through them from start to finish? Each word would have two parts, themselves words, and they would link together thus:

bookwormwoodlandfalloutbackpackhorseflywheelbaseballparkwaylayoffcutoffhandgunfiremankinderringsidearmrestless… and so on. Each one-syllable word could be used only once; names should be omitted; and adding the next part should not change the pronunciation of what came before it.

My most recent play has been to add or substitute one or more letters to a word, in (brackets) or with /slashes, to change or extend its meaning and offer alternates. Such as:

tr(i)ump(h), immor(t)al, do(d)g(e), out(r)age, hat(t)er, (th)in(k), p(l)a(i)n, f(l)an, (night)mare, (g)host, cat(ch), sea/e, floa/ut, ni/ou/ght, and more. A text using too many of these types of extension would become too cumbersome to read easily, especially in today’s age of the micro-attention span, so perhaps merely a single such wor(l)d per sentence or paragraph would do. One does not want to make the reader work TOO hard!

What about my name, or the name of someone famous, as an anagram, the letters rearranged? Anthony Hanmer becomes: annoy then harm; on an earth hymn; thy name a horn; or nth Roman hyena… along with 3359 others. There are online anagram generators you can google to try your own name, with huge lists of variations and possibly hilarious results. Here are some more famous name anagrams:

George Bush = He bugs Gore

Osama bin Laden = A bad man (no lies)

Saddam Hussein = UN's said he's mad

Milosevic = Cos I'm evil

Adolf Hitler = Do real filth

Margaret Thatcher = That great charmer

Chairman Mao = I am on a march

Emperor Octavian = Captain over Rome

Elvis = Lives

Elvis Aaron Presley = Seen alive? Sorry, pal!

Madonna Louise Ciccone = One cool dance musician

Clint Eastwood = Old West action

Alec Guinness = Genuine class

William Shakespeare = I am a weakish speller; I'll make a wise phrase; He's like a lamp, I swear

Madame Curie = Me, Radium ace

Leonardo da Vinci = Did color in a nave

Florence Nightingale = Angel of the reclining

Here is where you can try anagrams of any word or phrase online: https://wordsmith.org/anagram/

Acronyms are made of the initial 1 or 2 letters of a set of words, such as radar (which was invented so long ago that perhaps most of us don’t know what it stands for: “radio detection and ranging”). Could there be another type, the NESTED acronym, in which repeatedly removing the first letter results in another well-known acronym, until you are down to the last letter? Radar would extend to adar, dar, ar and r, none of which is a famous acronym, however. Are there examples of this nesting? What is the longest such in English?

Sometimes one can find highly amusing rearrangements of a phrase’s parts into nonsense fragments, and here adjusting spelling to retain pronunciation is allowed. “Hazel nuts” becomes “nasal huts”; what other examples can you think of?

Such word play reminds me of the literally infinite power of “groups of letters” to become new things, startling, surprising, hilarious, deep things. I’m glad to still be able to be delighted by what can turn up in this rich landscape, millions of words, thousands of books from where I started decades ago.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


By Tony Hanmer

Photo: In the Beginning

16 May 2019 17:09