Word of the Week (187): RHOPALIC (probability 18936), by David Sutton

RHOPALIC refers to a sentence or line of verse in which each word increases by one syllable (or sometimes one letter); the word derives from the Greek rhopalos, for a club or cudgel, which is thicker towards one end than the other. Such a sentence is a RHOPALISM.

Creating rhopalic sentences is a kind of wordplay, indulged in by benighted souls who clearly have not yet discovered Scrabble. Such unfortunates might also play CRAMBO (plural CRAMBOS or CRAMBOES), a game in which one player gives a word or line of verse to be matched in rhyme by other players, or they might try to have fun with PARAGRAMS, a PARAGRAM being a play on words consisting in the alteration of one letter or group of letters of a word, esp an initial letter, for humorous or ironic purposes e.g. 'an axiom waiting to happen'. Or perhaps they will contrive a REBUS, a representation of syllables or words by means of pictures or symbols, especially as a kind of pictorial riddle; not quite the same as a CALLIGRAM (or CALLIGRAMME), which is simply a design made up of letters.

Another form of wordplay involves the creation of SNIGLETS, a SNIGLET being a humorous word to describe some thing or concept that has no "official" word. Sometimes such words make it into the the dictionary: apparently SPORK (a combined spoon and fork) started life as a sniglet.


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