Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I luv werds.

In my experience, there are two general reactions to things that we don't understand:  fear or fascination.  From this stems my fascination with words. 

And my fear of plastic furniture.  But this is beside the point.

Imagine an adjective like "small."  To make the comparative form, we add "-er" to make the word "smaller."  To make the superlative form, we add "-est" to get "smallest."

Now it is perhaps reasonable to argue that I have chosen a bad example, in that "smaller" is longer than "small" and "smallest" is longest of all, but you get the general idea.

My question is:  how many sets of three words are there where the trio takes the form of a base adjective, its comparative form, and its superlative form without being any of those things?  We've come up with two sets so far:

temp
temper
tempest

dive
diver
divest

I was wondering if anyone could come up with any more of these.  Or at least make fun of me for devoting so much of my dwindling mental energies to questions such as these.

4 comments:

Amy Ksir said...

Hmm.... So far all I've got is "inter" and "interest" (but "interer" isn't a word that I know of...)

OK here's my question for you. Apologies if I've asked you guys this one before. My daughter has a toy with three wheels (like a slot machine), and on each wheel are three letters, so if you line them up correctly they say

CAT
DOG
BEE

but you can also line them up to spell DOE and COG and BAT and lots of other words. And COE and DEG and several other non-words. So my question is: is there any set of letters you could put on there so that it would spell a word no matter how you turned it?

mfliving said...

Will you accept "honer" as "one who hones" as a word?

Jay Livingston said...

Be
Beer
Beest (as in wilde)

Is cong a word? Or conque?

Lobelia said...

Honer? Well, the Scrabble dictionary accepts it, so good enough for me. Add it to the list:
Hone
Honer
Honest

Now, as for this letter wheel puzzle. I think it all comes down to what you will accept as a word. I've come up with a combination that works, provided you will accept a few questionable three-letter strings as words:
BET
MOD
RUG

To take the questionable words in alphabetical order:
BOD, for "body," is in the Scrabble dictionary, as is BOT for "the larva of a botfly" (not for "robot" as I was originally thinking).
MED, for "medical," is accepted. MEG, for "megabyte," is not, but surely we can all agree it's a legitimate word--I mean, everyone talks about megs of RAM, at least those who haven't moved on to talking about gigs.
MOD for "stylish," MOG for "to move away" (though I had been thinking of a pussycat) and MOT for "a witty saying" are all listed.
MUT appears in the Scrabble dictionary as a variant of "mutt." That's the only one I really feel bad about using.
PED is listed as "a natural soil aggregate," though I had actually been thinking of those little socklets that you wear with flats.
POG is not listed--I guess it's a trademark. But I remember when collecting pogs was all the rage, don't you?
And finally, PUD for "pudding" is accepted.

So I couldn't get 27 words that are all listed in the same dictionary, but at least I have 27 that are listed in *some* dictionary. Has anyone else done better?