A few weeks ago my “Word Tricks” folder dragged me into its jumbled innards and forced me to write about some of the stuff that’s in there (and there’s a lot of random stuff in there, believe me). Well that folder must have its own gravitational field because it’s happening again, so instead of fighting it, I’m just going to surrender to the weirdness and jump right in.

For instance, for what it’s worth, there’s a scrap of paper in the folder on which is written that “rememberer” uses one B, two M’s, three R’s and four E’s, and that “sleeveless” follows the same pattern with its V, L’s, S’s and E’s.

Three weeks ago I pointed out that in “uncopyrightable,” the single appearance of each of the word’s letters makes it a first-order isogram, that second-order isograms (such as “happenchance”) use each letter twice, and that “deeded” is an example of a third-order isogram.

Well, while researching isograms on the thoughtco.com website, I also discovered that the longest “nonpattern word” (another term for isogram) is “pubvexingfjord-schmaltzy.” The creative combination is not an accepted word, but is making its presence known on the internet in part because of this definition: “As if in the manner of extreme sentimentalism generated in some individuals by the sight of a majestic fjord, which sentimentalism is annoying to the clientele of an English inn.”

The term uses 23 of our alphabet’s 26 letters, nearly making it a pangram, which uses all the letters, as does, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” (“Mr. Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx” is considered the perfect pangram because it uses each letter only once.)

By the way, the folder doesn’t contain just stuff about our English alphabet either. Nope that would be too easy. For some strange reason, there’s also a lot of random information about the Hawaiian alphabet too, which I feel compelled to share with you.

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First of all, the Hawaiian alphabet consists of 13 letters, with the vowels coming first: A. E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W and the okina, which is a glottal stop that’s similar to the sound between the syllables of “oh-oh.” While the okina looks sort of like an apostrophe, it’s considered a consonant. (While the American apostrophe looks kind of like a tiny 9, the okina resembles a tiny 6 and, according to the University of Hawaii, is made by using a single open quotation mark.)

Then there are those who say that Hawaii’s alphabet consists of 18 letters, which is true if you include the five vowels with a macron, a diacritical mark Hawaiians call a “kahako,” over each of them. (The kahako – a straight line above a vowel – functions the same as the English macron, serving to make the vowel sound long, such as the A in “fate.”)

The okina and kahako are used to help clarify pronunciation of words and make the small Hawaiian alphabet very versatile. For example, “pau,” depending on the placement of okina and kahako, can mean “completed,” “moist,” “smudge” or “skirt.”

While many people spell the name of our 50th state “Hawai’i,” (with an okina), others point out that the 1959 Statehood Act spells it “Hawaii.” Many still spell the name of the big island “Hawai’i,” and point out that it’s OK to use an apostrophe in close proximity to an okina, such as when talking about “Hawai’i’s tropical climate.”

Besides our own state of Maine, the three other U.S. state names that can be spelled using the letters in the Hawaiian alphabet are Iowa, Ohio and Oklahoma. Now that I feel like I’ve made a fairly sizable dent in the material in that infernal Word Tricks folder, I’ll say aloha.

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 Jlwitherell19@gmail.com.


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