Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Mechanics of Words

Word Mechanics
Part Four
We haven't quite finished with looking at words for words sake, but today's post is also about how words work. Don't be frightened off by the word mechanics, we aren't doing mechanics puzzles for a good while yet; although we will be looking at them. I just really thought it was important, after the last post, to get you minds working with a whole string of puzzles, and word mechanics is definitely the way to do this.

Word mechanics puzzles are usually vocabulary puzzles, and they will really help with al kinds of word problem. After all, if a word isn't in your vocabulary you're unlikely to be able to come up with it as an answer to a puzzle. Here of course we're closing in on the boundary line with quizzes, but puzzle setters - particularly crossword setters - will always try to test both your knowledge, and your thinking.

Remember this, always look up the meaning of any new word you come across, don't just try and get the meaning from the context. Exploring the words you already know can also give rise to some interesting properties. These puzzles are mostly about the properties of words, I really want to get you thinking about how words work.

Speaking of vocabulary, did you get all five countries from the last post? Yes, that's five countries. Go back and take another look if you only found four. Once you've done you can crack on with these puzzles which all explore how words work.

Just One Connection?

Here is a set of words some of which are quite common, some of them less so.

Trousers, Pliers, Cattle, Smithereens

Now here is another set of words, one of them however actually belongs in the first set. Which word is it, and why?

Scissors, Knives, Papers, Remarks

A Mouse Lived in a Windmill

What is the plural of mouse?

The spelling of numbers is a famous favourite of puzzle setters; and in the spirit of explaining that word puzzles are rarely about words. here are some more drills about numbers.

The Letters in Numbers

How many letters of the alphabet do not appear in any number at all, when written out in English?


If you wrote out all the numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine; then wrote underneath each, the number of letters either side of the hyphen as below.

How many times would you have the same number written in words and in numerals below?

6 3

6 4

Next one of my favourite riddles of all time, it's a pain to get your head round but it's a wonderful meaning when you finally work it out.

A Simple Question

How many letters are there in the correct answer to this question?

Finally the promised word drills, a selection of new words for you to ponder the meaning of. As usual, try not to google - if you must look them up then go for a dictionary, online or otherwise. I'll cover them all in a later post so you won't miss out in the long run if you hold off looking them up.

Word Drills

How would you stand akimbo?

What would you eat if partaking in anthropophagy?

What kind of people might macerate?

Who do you like to osculate?

Why is this one the penultimate word?

Finally, from above, what exactly are smithereens?

Hopefully that's got your vocabulary developing, believe me you'll need it some day soon, until then however, keep puzzling.

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