Please Stand By For Stupid Word Tricks

by Kevin Burton

   So I’m not a plumber, not a fashion designer, I do words. Words are what I do. 

   I got skillses and stuff. I’m qualified. 

   Not to brag, but I know my palindromes backward and forward.

   So now and then you may see, here on this platform, some of the evidence of what happens when a word man acquires great gobs of free time and has already washed the dishes.

   That’s right, you get Stupid Word Tricks.

   You will of course recognize this as a takeoff on David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks. NBC Dave was the first and the best Dave. In the absence of actual training I used NBC Dave as my model and approach for teaching English in Mexico.  

   As I recall, some of the pet tricks were cool, some feel flat. You could say that for my classes as well.

   With that preamble, on you go then, forewarned:

   “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is a sentence that uses all 26 letters of the English alphabet. It’s a good typing drill, very useful in case you wake up in 1977 and have to go to Mrs. Fishlaven’s typing class.

    But if you make it a “sleazy” dog instead, you have a choice of tense on the verb “jump.”  Because sleazy has an S you don’t need the one on “jumps.” You can now say jumped or jumps.  AND, if you go with jumped, since you have a D on jumped you can now make it a sleazy hog.

  No need to thank me, I told you, this is what I do.  My first editor said my job was to give him options.  I just gave you more than one. 

   Here’s a fun exercise that goes along with the typing drill.  Take a word or short phrase and keep adding words to it until you have used all 26 letters at least once.  But your sentence has to make sense.  Good luck!

   Here’s mine: “Fixing quality Zydeco music just about always makes me very happy.”

   That makes sense, right?

   OK then, let’s hear yours!

   Want more?

   Merriam-Webster says the word varicose means “abnormally swollen or dilated.”  But can anything besides veins be varicose?  Would you say someone has a varicose ego? A varicose bank account? Has that adjective been hijacked by veins?

   More typewriter fun. Here are three love notes you can write with punctuation and only one row of the typewriter:

   Top row, “You pretty it up quite pretty. Yep, quote it!”

   Home row, “Glad lad all a-gaga, gal.”

   Bottom row, “Mmmmmmm. Vmmm, Vmmm!”

   Sorry I didn’t get that to you before Valentine’s Day.

   Actually you can do a lot with the top row because it has four vowels and both of the “sometimes” vowels, W and Y. 

   Here’s a note for after the breakup: “We were poetry, pity.”

   Or if you’re happy about the breakup: “Power poop to you, I quit!”

   Why is it OK to keep hot dogs right next to the cold cuts?

   You can rearrange the letters in my name and spell “verb noun kit.”  You can also spell “bovine trunk.”

   I have a copy of a book called “The Must Words.” It’s a “collectionof 6,000 essential words to help you enrich your vocabulary,” according to the cover. 

   Well I do believe the pandemic has helped us determine what is and is not “essential.”

   I have found some words that are distinctly unessential, “Must NOT Words” if you will. 

   One such is “mischance” on page 146.  It’s supposed to mean bad luck or disaster. Usage: “The mischance of the blizzard delayed him.”


  This book was produced by the makers of Merit cigarettes, who apparently were intent on poisoning people’s brains as well as their lungs.

   I wish wordtending had a cool sound to it, like the sound of a deck of cards shuffling.  That would be perfect. The typewriter sound is cool, but hopelessly outdated.

   Or maybe capes I could wear, home white and powder blue for word work on the road. 

   I’m off duty for now though. You’re on your own for a while. I’m off to fix me some Zydeco!

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