Did you know that the English alphabet once had 27 characters? It used to be:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z &

Raise your hand if you have just read the last characters as “X, Y, Z, ampersand!” :) If you did, you’ve just once again propagated a mistake made centuries ago.

In the early 1800s, school children often ended their alphabet recitations with “ex, why, zed, and per se and.” Per se means by itself in Latin, so and per se and means and ‘and’ by itself. Over time, the words and per se and became clumped together and, like a bad (or really good) game of telephone, the words became ampersand.*

The history of the ampersand is quite interesting in and of itself (an interesting history per se?), but its story is merely here to introduce the concept of a mondegreen: the mishearing and misinterpretation of something due to some mistake in pronunciation or sound perception.

The term mondegreen came from Sylvia Wright, an early 20th-century American writer. At a young age, Wright had read a 17th-century ballet called The Bonny Earl O’Moray. In it, the pivotal lines are:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,
And laid him on the green.

Except, when read aloud, Wright had misheard the last line as:

And Lady Mondegreen.

This, of course, had produced an effect that the writer probably did not at all intend.

Wright admitted that she had perceived that someone had slain the bonny Earl AND Lady Mondegreen and that the two of them lay dying together. In truth, there was never a woman mentioned in the four lines – and, thus, was born the word mondegreen.**

As a side story: my discovery of this word, in turn, led me to look up a related word “game” called a holorime (or holorhyme).*** This is a type of verse where a rhyme maintains itself across an entire line or phrase. For example:

Poor old Dali loped with an amazin’ raging cyst, as
poor Roald Dahl eloped with Anna-May’s enraging sisters.

— Steven F. Smith

Not that anyone of us will go out and immediately start rhyming whole sentences; nevertheless, it’s still interesting to know that there’s actually a word that describes our ability to fantastically misunderstand something. It’s thanks to Wright, that, decades later, we now have a specific term to describe this pretty entertaining Volkswagen commercial:

new line
*The character ‘&’ itself was the result of combining the letters ‘e’ and ‘t’ (et is and in Latin).
**Portuguese actually also has a word describing this phenomenon: virundum.
***In French, one can produce these vers holorimes/olorimes as well. Par exemple:

Par les bois du djinn, où s’entasse de l’effroi,
Parle et bois du gin, ou cent tasses de lait froid.
(By the woods of the djinn, where fear abounds,)
(Talk and drink gin, or a hundred cups of cold milk.)

– Alphonse Allais

Want to read more about other uncommon words? :) See the Interesting Words page.

- Wikipedia – Holorime
- Wikipedia – Mondegreen
- Wikipedia – Vers holorimes
- Veja

HSK 2 1.0 (Android)

To download, please see the download page.

As it’s currently only 15 days into the new (Julian) year and just a mere 16 days away from the Chinese New Year – a.k.a. the Lunar New Year – I figure it’s a great time to introduce the second installment of my Mandarin app series! :D

For the HSK level 2, there are 286 words available (comprised of 207 unique characters). For more information about how I approach the HSK in general, see my first post about it.

Go check it out! I’d love to hear your comments on this! :)

To download, please see the download page. I hope you enjoy it!

HSK 1 3.1 (Android)

To download, please see the download page.
For the previous version, see HSK 1 3.0.

This app has been put on the back burner for some time now. Today, it’s finally getting a much needed update:
1. There were some inconsistencies between some traditional and simplified characters. These differences have now been resolved.
2. Various bugs were also fixed.

For the previous version, see HSK 1 3.0.
To download, please see the download page. I hope you enjoy it!


Once in a while, I run into a non-Western word that fits perfectly into the Western lifestyle, and I think it’s hilarious. Iktsuarpok is a fantastic (Inuit) word and one could probably be fooled into thinking it was invented by the fast-paced, live-by-the-minute world of English speakers of modern New York City or something.

Iktsuarpok is the feeling of anticipation you get that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone’s coming – a feeling that I think we all know too well, but often don’t know how to phrase succinctly.

And, ever since internet communication and commerce really took off, this yearning for something that may or may not arrive probably began to extend way beyond the physical realm. Honestly, who amongst us hasn’t looked at his/her phone every few minutes just to see if someone’s recently texted/emailed/called?

And who amongst us hasn’t checked (and re-checked) the delivery status of our package?

And (don’t deny it!)… You’ve probably been one of those people that kept turning your head to check whether or not the stupid bus you’ve been waiting for had finally turned the corner that one time those three seven times?

But then again… Now that I think about it… Maybe it’s best that most people don’t know about this word. If it ever entered mainstream speech, people might think it’s perfectly all right to obsessively check on things all the time… We all probably could use a good disconnect once in awhile…

Want to read more about other uncommon words? :) See the Interesting Words page.

- urban dictionary


I’ve been pretty busy with some work so my posting schedule has suffered, but since it’s the holiday season, I figure it’s the perfect time to talk a little bit about this very useful word. :)

As opposed to my other choices, which usually can be rather obscure, miswant, on the other hand, is actually a very simple word and concept. The only thing I don’t understand, actually, is why it’s practically never used.

Miswant basically means wanting something for the wrong reason. It’s pretty much the sayings “be careful what you wish for,” or “there are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it,” summed up in one succinct word. :D

Why do I not see this word being used more often? Especially around Christmas, when, everywhere I look, it’s always people getting things they don’t want/need. We’d probably all be better off if this word became part of our daily vocabulary. ;)

Want to read more about other uncommon words? :) See the Interesting Words page.

- Wiktionary – miswant
- World Wide Words – Miswanting