Recently I began what’s proving to be a long, drawn-out task of organizing all of the word-related information I’ve collected over the past several years. My habit of clipping items from magazines and the newspaper has conspired to make my job of sorting the information into distinct categories time consuming indeed, as has my writing of words and ideas on whatever happens to be close at hand — be it a large or small legal pad or, more often, a nearby piece of scrap paper.

So far, I have my word collection sorted into 48 folders (which I fear is only the beginning) bearing labels such as: “Everyday Things,” “Sarcasm” and “Mnemonics/Acronyms.” The folder I find the most interesting is the one that for some reason I labeled “Word Tricks” (maybe I thought “Weird Words” was too predictable at the time).

Over the past few weeks, that folder containing the strange words has been tugging annoyingly on my shirttail and tapping me on the shoulder, nagging me to do something with it. So here it is, a column about some of the words that think they’re more interesting than all the others.

Let’s begin with words that begin with double letters such as: aardvark, oops, and eek. Llama stands out from the pack (heh, heh) by starting with a pair of consonants.

Of course many words contain double letters, be they vowels or consonants, which is probably why I can’t get the picture of an eel vacuuming the bathhouse in his skivvies out of my skull.

A lot of people have held out “Bookkeeper” as being the king of consecutive double letters, with three pairs. Some people have suggested that if “subbookkeeper” were a real word, it would contain yet another pair of letters. (Since we’re dealing in the hypothetical, I’d like to offer up “subbookkeepperson.”)


Since I’ve gone as far as I can with the double-letter thing, I’ll switch gears with “uncopyrightable,” which is what’s called an isogram, or a word in which each letter occurs the same number of times – in this case, once.  The single appearance of each letter makes it a first-order isogram, as is also the case with “dialogue.” In second-order isograms, each letter is used twice, think “deed” and “intestines.” “Deeded” and “geggee” (the victim of a hoax) are examples of third-order isograms.

Then there are the many words that contain groups of letters in alphabetical order, such as: HIJack, HIJab, caNOPy, DEFine, fiRST and STUpid. Going them one better are the RSTU group, which appears in the words “overstuffed” and “understudy,” and the MNOP group, which includes “gymnophobia” (the fear of nudity) and “limnophile” (thriving in salt marshes or ponds).

Have a thing for consonants? “Birthstone,” “offscreen,” “heartstrings,” “nightshade” and “backsplash” all have five consonants in a row, while “Rousseauian” (referring to Jean-Jacques Rousseau) and “queueing” do the same thing with their vowels.

If you prefer that your words contain A, E, I, O and U, you need look no further than “abstemious,” “facetious” and “arsenious,” which use them in alphabetical order, though not consecutively.

And while on vowels, let’s hear it for the letter “e.” Taking things to the extreme is “greenskeeper,” which uses the same vowel five times, while “strengths” is the longest word to use just one vowel one time.

If you’re wondering if there are any words that contain three consecutive vowels or consonants using the same letter, remember, you can’t be any freeer than being in a wallless room.

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.” He can be reached at

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