The Friday Fillip: Wordnik Et Al.

“phantosmia” means smelling bacon when there’s no one cooking breakfast.

That’s my definition. But don’t trust me. Take a look at wordnik, where, as the about page explains, you’ll find a better definition of this or any word, examples of its use, lists of (somewhat) related words, brief discussions of the phenom, and more. Indeed, I only came across “phantosmia” because I hit the random word button.

Now that site alone could lead to hours of harmless amusement, but this is your lucky day. I’m piling on. Here are three more word-ish sites that belong on your reference list, if only for the times you defend your world champion status at Scrabble. (“phantosmia” is not a valid Scrabble word, apparently. Huh.) Herewith, then, the promised trio:

  • The Virtual Academic is “a random sentence generator” from the University of Chicago Writing Program. Why play with just one word when a clot of them is readily available? For example:

    The fundamental principle of humanist organicism is often found in juxtaposition with, if not in direct opposition to, the legitimation of the enigmatic.

    To which proposition by Pootwattle, Smedley, the Virtual Critic, responds:

    Pootwattle’s ironic reference to the relationship between the fundamental principle of humanist organicism and the legitimation of the enigmatic revives the often neglected field of poststructuralist semantics.

    Can’t you just see tweets like this?

  • Word Spy offers a neologism a day, pretty much. You know, those cant phrases you hate but wind up using a year after you’ve first heard them. Ones that seem immediately useful to me are “ineptocracy”, “fat-finger problem”, and “hopium” (for which what-are-you-smoking coinage there are actually tweets).
  • More Words is the last word today. It’s a search tool that lets you use wild cards for that elusive word and then lists all results by length, for that stubborn crossword. So, for instance, you could search for a three-letter word ending in “r” [–r], words containing the sequence “sswo” anywhere within them [*sswo*], or words starting with “ab” that don’t contain an “e” or an “o” [ab* ^eo]—just the sort of quasi-Boolean stuff to get your heart racing.

    As the help page says, More Words draws from the Enhanced North American Benchmark Lexicon’s supply of 173,528 words, which, as it happens, you can download as a simple list in very long text file.

    Sadly, perhaps, “phantosmia” is not in the list.

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