Posted by: Jack Henry | February 26, 2016

Editor’s Corner: …And Sometimes None?

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher made a wager. She would give one hundred dollars to any student who could name a word with no vowels.

Many students tried, but none succeeded. Most of the suggested words contained vowels. My contribution, the onomatopoeia grr, was rejected as "not a real word."

Grr is an interjection (an exclamation expressing an emotion). Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary does not have an entry for grr, but it does include three other vowelless interjections:

  • hm/hmm/hmmm: used to express the action or process of thinking
  • sh: used to urge or command silence or less noise
  • tsk: used to express disapproval

The Oxford Dictionaries website includes grr ("used to express anger or annoyance"), and also the following interjections:

  • brrr: used to express someone’s reaction to feeling cold
  • mm/mmm: used to express contentment or pleasure
  • pfft: used to represent a dull abrupt sound as of a slight impact or explosion
  • psst: used to attract someone’s attention surreptitiously
  • tch: used to express irritation, annoyance or impatience

Even if we accept my teacher’s stipulation that interjections are not real words, a student could have claimed the hundred dollars with the adjective nth (as in, "to the nth degree"):

  • nth: numbered with an unspecified or indefinitely large ordinal number; extreme, utmost

The Oxford Dictionaries website also includes xlnt as an alternate spelling of excellent, to which I say pfft, grr, and tsk tsk. Even in kindergarten, I had some standards.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

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