Dennis Marek: What else can that word be?

May 19, 2019

When one is sitting on an airplane for a four-hour flight without a computer and the phone is in airplane mode, one’s mind begins to wander. The crossword puzzle is solved, and the Sudoku diagram falls to your pen. The book you brought becomes a bit of a blur.

So, one can try to talk to their neighbor, who really wants to nap, or look at the Southwest magazine and see all the places it goes. Or one can turn to the arcane.

I often have struggled with certain English words dealing with language. What is onomatopoeia? That means the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named. For example, “sizzle.” Then, there is the palindrome. This is a word that is spelled the same forward or backward, such as “racecar.” But the one I struggled with is the anagram. It is a word formed by rearranging the letters of another.

Well, that sounded like fun. Mr. Alex Trebek, on “Jeopardy,” has columns in that category with the contestants rearranging the given word to match the clue. Or they even have to make a sentence out of an extra-long word by rearranging all the letters.

As a youngster, I rearranged the letters of my name. James Dennis Marek became an Arabic person named Semaj Sinned Keram. When I worked with the CIA, we were given an alias if we were to go abroad. These names were usually the same number of syllables as your name so we would pronounce the new name more easily, but we didn’t dare use all the letters of our real name.

Having read an article on anagrams and struggling to answer Mr. Trebek’s questions, I decided to make some anagrams. I also reused several the article had used as they often were better than mine. Some I read were words that were so different. “Gestapo” became “postage,” and “bordello” became “doorbell.” Hmm. Is someone ringing?

Our love for movies made “American” become “Cinerama,” and old hippie weirdos became “rowdies.” In a movie, Mr. Hoffman could change “Dustin” to “nudist,” an “alpinist” could use some “antislip,” or he could be in a “tailspin,” and one quite deranged becomes a “grenade.” A “lawmonger” is nothing more than an “angleworm”; “elitisms” are the “slimiest.”

There are those that naturally follow. Listen is silent, but adventurers are certainly different from the untraversed. The slimy adder is a dread.

As I sat there, I decided United meant untied, and Delta was neatly dealt. Mothers became a thermos, and the screen had a censer. Then, there were some almosts. Ringo just missed being a bridge expert Gorin. (Yes, it is Goren.)

Then, the most dangerous one was determining an anagram for my wife Cathy. Is it “tachy”? No; I think we should stay safe and use the other anagram, “yacht.” As a lawyer, I am a yawler or a bit warley. Mr. Small has malls, and Bradley is quite dryable.

I knew mine weren’t as good as those the writer, George Towner, had manufactured in his article “A Grand Swarm of Word Anagrams.” He even admitted once chatting with a graduate of the prestigious university, Swarthmore, and not exactly endearing himself to her when he hatched the word “earthworms” out of her college. Guess that wasn’t a long, warm conversation.

Then, I decided to pick on my Tuesday night golf league buddies in a similar manner. Engineer Dave Tyson is stony, and car dealer Jeff Chiero is the luckiest being a coheir. Radio station owner Tim Milner is really Merlin, entrepreneur Mike Pinski could cover as harpsichordist Igor Kipnis, and dentist John Vallone is a complete novella.

On “Jeopardy,” the categories can mix and match. Perhaps shorter words can come out of a larger word or even a sentence. I cannot imagine the intelligence of the writers to come up with some of their gems.

My sympathy to my golf buddies whose names I couldn’t invert. But as the airplane landed, I was a lot more amused than I had been. I think I will be better watching “Jeopardy” with my practice as well.

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