Ena and Mr Cheetum

 A Guest Post by QQ contributor Mark Carew (@lexigraphiclove)

Author’s Note: Being a logophile of un-obsessive stripe, I had written a few resolutions to daily QQs, and had found them to be fun, educational and a great creative workout.  It was one of the joys of writing fiction when Ena (a young lady living in a tiny flat/apartment in Wales) arrived on the scene.  She was closely followed by her American landlord, Mr Brad Cheetum.  Ena turned out to be a canny girl and she quickly ensnared Brad as her lover and meal ticket, once she learnt that his fortune came from unscrupulous business practices concerning the production of sausages.  (Like many, I was aiming for QQ resolutions to be funny or absurd.)  Brad tried to stamp his authority on Ena as her landlord, but he had already fallen for her, and once a romance starts, and two characters suddenly become alive, who knows where the story will end.  I continued with resolutions to daily quandaries, developing the story, mostly tongue in cheek for amusement’s sake, until the point when Brad suddenly asked why it was that he and Ena spoke in crosswordese.  

To me it seemed that my two characters were trapped in a crossword puzzle (represented by the regular ten by ten design of a block of flats).  As a solver of the daily QQs I was also trapped – each resolution was separate from the previous and the solving experience was getting a little worn.  I also write short stories (markcarew.wordpress.com, @lexigraphiclove) and it seemed to me that linking the QQs into a story was the perfect way of giving the resolutions a bigger meaning and form.  Thus, for my characters it would be appropriate for them to escape and find the source of their predicament.  Instead of waiting for the daily QQs to solve, I looked up past puzzles at random to give the words to finish the story off.  Brad and Ena finally escaped and found out what was happening to them.  

I’d like to thank Rudi for providing a daily diet of the most creative of writing constraints.

When Ena clocked, with a percipient gaze, Brad Cheetum, the dishy new owner of her tenement block, she attorned to him as her new landlord, hid her ungulate goat shoes in a cupboard, and poured the bottle of gin, her favourite nepenthe, down the sink: life was looking up. 4/12/2013

Having made Brad her lover, Ena wasted no time in securing a sizeable imprest once she found that most of his money came from the contentious addition of a meaty pink slime to bargain sausages. 4/13/2014

“No!  Attorn to me as you landlord and lover, or sleep outside in the Welsh winter,” countered Brad, mightily chuffed, and mindful to mirandize Ena as to her expected silence. 4/14/2013

But she replied with a word he had never heard before, a hapax legomenon, that made him all the more keen on her as she batted her eyelids and said: “Oh, flother.” 4/14/2013

Brad tried to quell her protests about the sausages with a curious eschatology explaining how all living and non-living things, including sausages, would be recycled in the stars, but this only made him appear more heinous, and now there were other concerns: they had acquired a peeping Tom. 4/15/2013

Why, it was only young Tom, heir apparent to the Cheetum fortune, who had listened (while clinging to the drainpipe, and ogling the nice nelly) to the verbiage his Dad had spouted and, ultimately, doubted its verisimilitude. 4/16/2013

Ignoring Ena’s grunts, squeals and other surds of delight, Brad Cheetum spotted the nosy parker, put down his bowl of kasha and dragged his son into the bandbox of a room he rented Ena as an apartment. 4/17/2013

And it was in this milieu, amidst the soft music, candles and cereal foods, that doubting Thomas questioned his father about the sausages, while Ena decamped to the roof, escaping her oubliette and the inquisition that carried on below her. 4/18/2013

Ena uncapped a ready-made gin and tonic from the rooftop lazy Susan, knocked a veritable cornice of ice into her drink from the frozen chimney top, and lay back on her sun-lounger, unadmonished and debauched. 4/19/2013

Brad appeared holding a capias warrant and uttering xenophobic insults, but his mouth fell open at the sight of Ena sunbathing with her hair styled into a soigné updo. 4/20/2013

Ena picked out a strawberry daiquiri for Brad, who was standing at the corner of the roof, kicking the quoin for its demulcent effect.  “I heard you overawed young Tom,” she said. 4/21/2013

“Yeah, honey, it transpires that he’s gonna crawfish his way out of any legal action,” said Brad, kicking the masonry blocks until the building bombilated, “and anyway, what I want to know is: why do we talk in crosswordese?” 4/22/2013

“I mean, Tom called me a fanfaron, when braggart would have done, and after his little gander he referred to you as Lamia, whoever that it is, and believe me, he’s no bardolator,” – Brad clutched his head – “see what I mean!” 4/23/2013

(QQ to this point)

“It’s true,” placated Ena, “but our terpsichorean wordplay has had a unitive effect, drawing me to you.”

“Yes!” smiled Brad, pouring her another G & T, “away Scrooge, and let me be mother, and let us find the linchpin behind our perorations.”

“You are a deucedly handsome darling,” said Ena, staring into his eyes, “you have made me devil-may-care” and, to herself, “with connubial feelings.”

But Brad was considering the box-like structure of their la-la land, ten rooms up and ten rooms across, listening to its eclectic residents and the farrago of their burlesque speech.

All words garnered to the residents below, like lightning in a valley, and when he looked out over the cwn; his eyes fulgurated with understanding: “It’s in the water,” he cried!

Ena had her arms around Brad, she wanted to lallygag, to make love, neck, but Brad could not acquiesce, or be accused of infanticide, because at the spring at the top of the valley stood an English teacher with a leather chagal.

“Quick, we must stop him,” cried Brad, “his potion will not slake our thirst, but instead will bumfuzzle us, his malversation will damage our conversation” – Brad held his head, still in the grip of this terrible amercement.

Ena helped Brad out of the building and up to the top of the valley where the man, having just deposited his pabulum with a practised legerdemain, turned away as if the unattractive guest at a party, his gaucherie signalling the other guests to get the book off.

“Not so fast!” exclaimed Ena, her brow wetted by the rory May-dew, “Why do you want to improve us rubes?  Is it the little impression left by the antitype of our language schooling, or are you after some academic accolade?”

The teacher turned and he was fearsome: “My vulnerary potion will heal the damage done to our neglected language, masticated like food, leaving us with impoverished vocabularies.”  He eyed Ena’s zaftig figure: “Had I the means I would cure the population,” he added in an optative mood, “but I will start here.”

Brad and Ena floundered to find a fillip, a click of the thumb and fingers that could reason against the teacher.  Instead they allowed the tenants of the apartment block, arriving at the spring head, to carry them aloft amidst this lexical revolution.

877 words

What if my QQ isn’t funny?

Occasionally someone will tell me, “Oh, I wrote a QQ the other day but I didn’t submit it because it wasn’t…”  Either it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t interesting, or it wasn’t “good enough” — so they thought. 

If you ever find yourself in that position, please go ahead and submit your sentence.

When in doubt about a piece you’ve written, remember that being funny, or interesting, or clever is not a QQ requirement.  We love sentences that exhibit those qualities, but we also welcome sentences that are plain.  As one contributor wrote, “for me it’s only the variety of ‘solutions’ that entertains, not which is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another.”

I’m not writing this post to tell you that QQ is easy and anything goes; we do have specific submission guidelines, and most people I know find the game quite challenging (including me).  Some submissions don’t make it to publication because 1) they don’t use all four words, 2) they don’t show an effort to illustrate the word meanings, or 3) they don’t show care in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  However, as moderator, I’ve never turned down a sentence because it wasn’t “interesting.” 

If you’ve really managed to illustrate all four words in a single sentence, I assure you that what you’ve come up with is interesting enough—you’ve solved a very unusual challenge, and no two solutions are the same.  I bet you’ll never have occasion to use those four words together again, so mark the moment.  Don’t let your sentence wither in isolation; submit it to QQ where it will find some good company.

If you have a solution for a past Quandary that you never submitted, please send it to rudi@quadrivialquandary.com.

To proofread, or to proofread?


This image is from a Bible printed in 1631. Due to a single missing word, the publication became known as The Wicked Bible.  Most copies of The Wicked Bible were burned.

This example may be taken as an admonition to proofread before submitting QQ resolutions. 

No, if some wickedness slips through, we won’t burn your entry.  We do ask that you write to us so that we will know to correct it.  We wouldn’t want any readers of your typo to get the wrong idea, now would we?

Call For Submissions

I’ve been building up quite a TODO list for the QQ blog, and I’ve heard from readers that they’d like to see more discussion here. While I won’t promise a steady stream of “fresh content,” I’ll endeavor to post more often, and I invite you to join me.

How can you become a guest blogger here at Omnium Gatherum? It’s as simple as sending me a few thoughts in an email—just a single paragraph could make for an enjoyable post. If you can’t decide on a topic, start with #1 below. Or if you’re looking for an “easy” form of post, try #2. You can email me at rudi@quadrivialquandary.com with the finished text of your post or just a sketch.

If you’re not yet inspired to post, you can still participate by looking over this Call For Submissions and telling me which ideas you’d like to see explored. A friendly nudge always helps me get started on posts of my own. If you’re new to QQ or haven’t contributed a sentence yet, you might still enjoy browsing our list, as it will give you a sense of what the site’s all about—I’ve included links to previous discussions, which you’re welcome to join. I’d say this list is pretty long, but please add to it if you can!


  1. Why do you do QQ? What do “get” from it? What does it mean to you? What’s the hardest part (e.g. have you experienced the “fourth word phenomenon“)? What do you enjoy most? How did you first discover it? (You can find my own answers to some of these questions in my Origins essay.)
  2. Have you come across an article on writing, words, or creative problem solving that relates to QQ in some way? Send in the link along with a quick summary or teaser—one or two sentences would be great. (For example, this one about invented languages is on my reading list.)
  3. What is your creative process for solving QQ? How do you go about it? Do you have a routine — time of day, place, etc.? What do you do when you’re stuck? How long does it take? (In the logs of Omnium Gatherum, you’ll find notes on process by cusheamus, Captain Thunderbeard, and Et Seqq.)
  4. What makes a successful QQ resolution?  (Along with our guidelines, the topic is addressed here — further thoughts are welcome.)
  5. Essay idea: what is a sentence anyway? Different ways of defining “the sentence” — as a grammatical unit, an orthographic unit, an expressive unit, a rhythmic unit.  How well is Wikipedia doing in pinning it down?  Examples of extreme sentences.  Where is the boundary between a long but cohesive sentence and a run-on? What definition of “a single sentence” is best for QQ? Do some QQ submissions fall outside that definition?
  6. A look at “The Long Sentence” in QQ and in general. Techniques for making a long sentence work.  Spoofs of those techniques. Thoughts about why “long is lovable” — what makes the experience of reading long sentences so different (and for a certain type of reader, so much more engaging) than a sequence of shorter sentences including the same material.  (See these thoughts in the LA Times from Pico Iyer.)  Selections of favorite long sentences from literature. Discussion of changing views about writing, why long sentences fell out of fashion, and whether “copia” is undergoing a revival.
  7. Sentence Spotlight: pick a favorite resolution from the archives and discuss why you like it, why it works.
  8. Which challenge do you find more interesting: writing the tersest possible QQ resolution, or the most illustrative one?  How often do you find those goals to be at odds?
  9. Word recall: do you look to QQ as a way of learning vocabulary for future use, or simply as a way of experimenting with words that you’ll be OK with forgetting? How many words from past resolutions do you remember?  Which of those have you used outside QQ?
  10. Take a look at a specialized “genre” of QQ entry, including the Limerick entry, the self-referential entry (specifically, entries that both include and exemplify a rhetorical term, like rhopalic), the non-fiction entry (managing to state a fact or describe a historical event), the dialect entry (imitating a specific style of speech), the epistolary entry, the position entry (where you state a belief that you actually hold), the Homeric Simile entry, and so on.
  11. Provocative phrases: gather a few of your favorite phrases from within long QQ sentences and present them as teasers, along with links to the full sentences
  12. Memorable characters: take a look at the most memorable characters (and character names) that have appeared on QQ; also talk about character naming as a QQ technique
  13. Memorable places described in QQ resolutions; memorable place names.  Places that occur in multiple entries (e.g. since meeting it as a QQ word, I’ve become fond of Ruritania.)
  14. The running story: explore a phenomenon that has occurred at several points in QQ’s history — a story-line that managed to extend (through the efforts of a persistent author) across several days’ resolutions
  15. A closer look at “illustration”: what does it it mean for a sentence to be illustrative? Can we categorize different ways of illustrating word meaning?  How do you judge whether a QQ sentence succeeds in illustrating a word—how much illustration is enough?
  16. In QQ our goal is to illustrate each of the four words, whereas in other writing we often simply employ words, assuming the reader already knows their definitions. In some cases we do end up illustrating a word by employing it, with no extra fuss. But is there value in paying conscious attention to illustration outside of QQ—in deliberately hinting at a word’s meaning even as we rely on the word to carry that meaning?
  17. Word spotlight: what are your favorite words that have appeared on QQ? Also, give suggestions for words you’d like to see here.  (I had been waiting for zugzwang, but now I see it already appeared—on 7/19/2011, when I was away from the game.)
  18. Audio recording of you reading a QQ sentence, or if not you, then an actor friend
    of yours.  Could you read it like Amy Walker?
  19. Sketch or cartoon illustration of a QQ sentence; or, an interesting image from the public domain that goes particularly well with a QQ sentence.  (Edward Gory’s work has come to mind more than once.)
  20. Language resources: links to favorite word/dictionary sites, corpora, etc.; also other language games and writing challenges that might be of interest (OEDILF, Bulwer-Lytton)
  21. Difficult words: how you handle words you might not like or fully understand how to use — do you remember one that was hardest for you?  (I’ve shared some thoughts on “useless” words.)
  22. Contributor spotlight: anything about yourself you’d like to share, other writing activities, other interests. Personal anecdote involving an interesting word. Your history: when did you first develop or recognize your interest in words?
  23. Site suggestions: for building the community around QQ, adding new features to the site (does everyone know about comments?), networking with other sites/forums, showcasing our achievements, expanding QQ’s readership
  24. “Applications” of QQ: specifically, how it could be used in education or language learning
  25. Announcements of anything relating to QQ (like Sami’s book) and anecdotes or stories relating to QQ (like Queen of East Pond’s victory)
  26. Pure silliness (like my QQ photo shoot and discussion of QQ’s cartographic celebrity)
  27. Evangelism: have you been able to persuade any of your friends to try QQ? Have you met resistance? What do you say to people who think they could “never” do QQ?  Is there an innate predisposition to QQ?
  28. Collaboration stories: have you ever worked on a solution with someone else? How did it go?
  29. Vacations: have you needed a break from QQ? How did you come back to it? Thoughts on staying with it and/or returning to it.
  30. Changing approaches: has your approach to writing QQ sentences changed as you’ve continued to do it? Have your ideas about what makes a good sentence changed?
  31. Has QQ made you a better writer?  Has it hurt any aspects of your writing (aggravated sesquipedalianism, etc.)?
  32. QQ as an exploration of creative problem solving, QQ as a writing prompt
  33. Book Reviews: books on writing (with a focus on the sentence), rhetoric, linguistics, flash-fiction.
  34. Pose an open question to the forum for others to respond to.  Ask for help with a sentence.
  35. Other languages: if English is your second language, tell us about your particular experience with QQ. If you’re fluent in another language, have you called upon it in solving QQ?
  36. Is there a connection between the skills involved in QQ and those involved in improv or sketch comedy? Does practice in connecting unrelated ideas help us with anything outside QQ?
  37. Rejects and Train Wrecks: share a sentence that you just couldn’t complete, or didn’t see fit to submit—maybe one that included only three of the words.
  38. Extended resolution: take one of your QQ sentences and expand it (perhaps into a paragraph-length story). Or, try writing a short story using all the words from one week of QQ. Or (for daredevils) try writing a single sentence using all words from two consecutive days of QQ.
  39. Punctuation: discuss: courteously.
  40. Do you think computer scientists will ever be able to develop a generator for vaguely plausible QQ solutions, like this Postmodern essay generator?  Why or why not?
  41. Review “a day of QQ”: compare and contrast the approaches that different contributors took to solving the same day’s Quandary.
  42. Archive Trivia: explore patterns and oddities in the history of QQ’s daily words. For example, has the same word appeared twice in one day? How many times has a word been accompanied by one of its synonyms on the same day? Have we had four parts of speech represented on the same day? What’s our longest word so far? How often has a word appeared both as an adjective and a noun (as I write this on 12/21/2012 I see we’ve got solstice and solstitial)?

Useless Words?

Have you ever seen a word that made you ask “How and why would I ever use this?”  It happens to me all the time.  The difference between stumbling on a “useless” word in the dictionary and finding it on QQ’s homepage is that QQ requires action: no matter how you feel about the word, you must use it somehow — before midnight Eastern.

If solving QQ always means answering the how-do-I-use-this question, solving it with craft means addressing the why as well.  The best solutions go beyond employing the words, even beyond illustrating them; the best solutions situate the words, creating a context where each word seems to fit more snugly than other options, thereby making a case for the utility, even the necessity of a few syllables that we might otherwise call useless.

But let’s take a step back — what is this talk of “uselessness” on a site dedicated to the joy of uncommon words?  Do we not presuppose an interest in everything obscure, antique, and tragically obsolete?

I confess to two reasons for considering words as useless to me.  The first case is when the word refers to some extremely technical or specialized concept in which I have no plan to develop an interest.   Often this case arises with medical terms describing conditions that I hope never to develop.   Rhabdomyolysis: if I’m ever diagnosed with it, I’ll look it up.  But in such a circumstance, I’d have no quibble with the word.  That’s just what it’s called — if you want to identify the condition, you need that term.

Now, to use rhabdomyolysis in QQ, you might create a character who suffers from it.  The challenge is to fit this detail into a story-sentence with the other three words and to give some hint of what your poor protagonist’s ailment involves.  That’s no easy feat, but once you’ve done it, there can be no question whether rhabdomyolysis was right word; alternatives don’t abound.

The second case for calling a word “useless” is when alternatives do abound, when the word is outshined by more popular and perfectly effective synonyms.  Rugose, for example, means wrinkled.  Why not just say wrinkled?

On days of low energy, I will sometimes think of the simpler word, like wrinkled, when constructing my sentence, and then replace it with the harder one before I finish, hoping that rugose doesn’t sound terribly misplaced, which it probably will.  This is not the approach I recommend, as it can lead to sentences that only reinforce the question: Why does this word exist?

One fertile approach to championing a word (and I take this championing as an implicit, though not always reachable goal of each QQ resolution), is to concentrate on its particular sound.  Can you create a context where that sound — more so than any synonym’s — is just what a reader would want to hear?

A poet might choose an uncommon word if it fits into a scheme that a common one does not: the rhyme creates the need.  And we do have poetry on QQ, including some clever limericks.  The bulk of QQ solutions don’t involve rhyme or strict meter, but many solutions still make use of roughly “poetic” techniques.  For example, on 10/22/2009 luigi’s character remembered his grandmother’s “rugose, ringed, rugelach-kneading hands.”   In this case, alliteration binds the obscure word into a phrase with more familiar words, making rugose seem like “one of the gang.”  Arguably, wrinkled could have worked here too, but one feels that losing rugose would be very sad for rugelach, its companion in the dictionary under rug… as well as in this phrase.

Along with the poetic approach, focused on sound and feel, one can take a narrative approach to championing the word, looking for a character who might gainfully employ it.  A natural character type for QQ solutions is a crazed logophile who uses obscure words simply because he or she is obsessed with them.  Since many QQ contributors have something of that character inside them, this is a tempting voice to assume — do have fun with this approach, but remember there’s more to try!  You might create a character who is not necessarily a word lover but who must use jargon in a specific social or professional context.  American Heritage Dictionary gives one definition of rugose as a term from botany: “Having a rough, wrinkled surface, as in certain prominently veined leaves.”  Your character might be a botanist who speaks much of plants, or who speaks of everything in the world as if it were a plant.

New Feature: Comments

One of the most frequent questions I receive from QQ contributors is whether there’s a way to share feedback with other contributors.  Today we’re introducing that feature.  We’ve just added a comment section at the bottom of each sentence’s dedicated page.  Users who have published at least one sentence on QQ are eligible to post comments.

The comment forum is meant as a place to express appreciation for sentences you’ve enjoyed, and to offer constructive feedback. 

I welcome your thoughts on this addition to our site — share them with me at rudi@quadrivialquandary.com.



PS.  As I’ve tried to keep the main announcement short and sweet, I’ll take the liberty of reflection in this addendum.  Well, the new comment feature has been a long time in coming.  Very soon after QQ was born in 2009, I began hearing from contributors who hoped for more interaction on the site:


What a wonderful idea Quadrivial Quandary is! I wish I’d thought of it, which brings me to my question: what about some way to give a round of applause to particularly felicitous solutions? Every now and then there’s something absolutely brilliant that leaves unfulfilled the urge to shout, ‘Oh, well done!!’ through one’s tears of envy.


Thanks for the site. … Would it be possible to have comments on the QQ page?  There’s just so much information in some of these posts, I’d love to be able to comment or follow-up with questions. I think it could be a really neat addition.


I’m really enjoying both reading and contributing to the wonderfully creative linguistic cauldron you’ve devised.  I have a suggestion that might make it even more fun. It occurred to me today when I read [a certain] highly enjoyable submission. I found myself wishing I could give it a ‘thumbs up,’ like you see on YouTube, Facebook, and oodles of other websites; just a way to express appreciation or enjoyment.  So I figured I’d ask you about it. What do you think of the idea of being able to express appreciation for a fellow poster’s work?


The idea is to create a way for players to interact with each other. Perhaps something like a message board kind of place, where we could actually ‘meet’ each other, become friends, compliment each other’s work, etc. I’ve often thought it would be nice to make friends with some of these clever logophiles.


I’m wondering if a bit of feedback might help.  I looked at the blog again today and realized that I had hoped to see some new discussions there.  … I would have liked to offer kudos for some of the contributions I’ve seen, or make an occasional comment — or hear what folks thought of my scribbles.



At the same time, I’ve heard some strong reservations about increased interactivity:



I enjoy Quadrivial Quandary tremendously just the way it is. I love trying to find a story to fit the words instead of words to fit a story. The only time I wish there were a way to comment is when something is particularly (and usually hilariously) felicitous, like managing to use the phrase ‘shored up’ when one of the words is ‘littoral’. Better have no comments than have more comments than there are sentences.  Don’t you bet that most of us are Shy Persons? (I myself go under the subheading Eccentric Recluse, Amiable Crackpot variety.) I don’t think we want to be doing, you know, open heart surgery on puzzle solutions. But anything you decide is fine with me, as long as the essential Quandary remains unchanged.


I think you’ve got the site about right as it is. If it were to be opened up to ‘comments’, there is (what I see as) a danger of a voting system arising, or of the (not necessarily impartial) bestowing of laurels and hurling of brickbats, and for me it’s only the variety of ‘solutions’ that entertains, not which is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another. Since in many cases we’re struggling to define and accommodate words new to us – resulting in occasionally some poor usage or downright misunderstanding – I think that it might deter some Friends if any smart aleck  (presumably another moderated contributor) came along nose-tweaking and wrist-slapping and generally putting down. At worst, this could degenerate into rancorous mudslinging. [One curious side-effect of participation on your site is for just-typed words to clamour to be candidates in a parallel QQ – e.g. (1) rancorous (2) smart aleck (3) wrist-slapping (4) brickbats . . . insidious, or what? – (5, bonus word:) insidious.]


I can’t thank you enough for creating the site. What a joy to have found it and what a pleasure to participate in the daily challenge. With regard to commenting on the sentences I am severely conflicted. A part of me really, really wants to and another part thinks it’s not a good idea. That bi-polar response is probably my way of saying that it is your creation to do with as you see fit and I will support your  choice. … A brief second thought: the process of creating the sentence is intrinsically competitive and we all applaud, groan, and or vilify the creations of the others, but having an area to comment directly about this could only generate the distractive noise of which you speak. Whereas without it that competitiveness is dedicated entirely to the service of the sentence and drives us to new heights of focused creativity.  Short version: comment part not good.


Over the years, I’ve felt “severely conflicted” about comments, to quote the contributor above.  I too have wanted a way to celebrate the best sentences I’ve read, and to know when others have gotten a kick out of what I’ve written.  But I’m sometimes frustrated by the norm of today’s web, where everything is commentable, voteable, likeable, shareable and subject to other social operations.  I’ve often thought of QQ as one place of refuge from all that chatter, where we invest in the old-fashioned pursuits of writing and reading in as close to an “acoustic” or “unplugged” setting as one can find in the buzzing digital world.  Words reveal their power more fully, I think, when they’re not drowned in commentary — when we commit to finding meaning in them just as they are, taking the time to hear their unamplified sounds before turning to the peanut gallery for a surrogate opinion or a quick path to judgment. 

What was the clincher for me?  First of all, the number of requests for a comment feature over the years was just too high to not act on somehow.  Second, I considered my goals as founder of QQ, and realized that building our community is a deeper aim than protecting the site from growing pains.  I like to think of the new comment forum as an experiment we’ll undertake together as contributors.  If the feature works for us in its current instar (to use one of yesterday’s words), great.  If there are complications, we’ll improve it. 

When I finally decided to move forward with comments, earlier this year, the next question was how to make it happen.  QQ’s software infrastructure needed a major upgrade before we began new development.  I’m indebted to aslam, one of QQ’s very first contributors, for all of his great work on the technical front, and to saintduf
for discussion, encouragement, and help in testing the new feature once it was ready.  Now, I look to your feedback on how it’s working.


Announcing a new book: As a poet, you’re a disaster!

I’m delighted to announce that longtime contributor Sami JK has compiled a book of over two hundred of his QQ resolutions.  The collection’s title, As a poet, you’re a disaster!, is taken from Sami’s post of May 10, 2011.  You can see a preview and order the book at this Lulu page:


Congratulations to Sami, and thanks to him for setting an inspiring example!

QQ contributors, do you have ideas for other publishing projects?  If so, please write me or add a comment.

A Quadrivial Quandary Triumph!

Queen of East Pond writes:

I knew there had to be some higher purpose when I made the decision to join the cerebral ranks of the QQers.

Yesterday evening at 7.30pm British Summer (ha!) Time I took part in a pub quiz, within the warm dark confines of an Olde English Public House. ( Actually ’tis not that old.) One question that arose on science and nature was: what kind of habitat is littoral? I was the only person on my team to know the answer, for I had only learned the word a few days earlier on QQ! What’s more, my team won by two whole points!

How to receive QQ’s words by email

Many of QQ’s readers and contributors have asked if there’s a way to receive the daily words by email. Till recently the answer has been “Uh, not really” but this has just changed to “Yes, absolutely!”

To sign up for a daily email announcing the QQ words, just click the link below and specify the email address where you want to receive the updates:

Subscribe to Quadrivial Quandary Words by Email

Here are a few notes about what to expect:

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Which word does not belong?

When you tackle the Quandary, do you find that one word stands out as the most challenging to work with?

This question came up in recent correspondence I had with QQ veteran cusheamus.  I’d like to invite readers of Omnium Gatherum to join in the discussion.

It all started with the motley quartet of 1.26.2011.  Cusheamus wrote:

Today’s quandary is a good example of something that I find particularly difficult: making a convincing arrangement out of flowers from four different continents, as it were. Guerdon is via French from Latin and has a medieval feel; ding-dong ditch is pure Anglo-Saxon; bathetic is Greek; and gung-ho is Chinese.”  ??????Can you imagine a more dissonant chord?! Ugly, ugly, with only one chance to resolve it so it sounds like music and not noise.  Well, actually, resolve it so it sounds like language and not noise.??????  This is another layer of difficulty, in other words: not just using four difficult words in one illustrative sentence, but speaking four different languages in one illustrative sentence. I feel pleased with myself for even being brave enough to try. 🙂

My response:

I see what you mean about the particularly strong dissonance of this quandary.  I appreciate the reminder, as I’ve grown so accustomed to this dissonance that I often take it as a matter of fact and am more inclined to notice something out of the ordinary when the words fit together particularly well.??????  Often I find the challenge being at the boundary between three and four what I mean is, I can quickly find a good fit for three of the words but I spend considerable effort trying to integrate the??? remaining word the one really dissonant note.   I find this??? situation is sometimes more challenging than today’s, where none of the words seem to have natural affinities.   When three words do form a good fit, I grapple with the question of preserving my initial formulation (and jamming the fourth word in somehow) or scrapping it and looking for a way to treat the words more evenly.

From cusheamus:

I often have exactly the same experience you describe of having to shoehorn the fourth word into something that otherwise works quite well, which is fascinating when you start to think about it. Is it something about our neurology? You know how [alert: generalization coming up] it’s often easier and more satisfying to think creatively about odd numbers of things? An even number of something can have a closed, clunky feeling and adding one seems to open it up again.

More from cusheamus:

While acknowledging that observing anything changes it beyond recognition, I propose a modest, informal experiment: when we read the list of four words, starting at the top, notice how often it is the fourth/last word that doesn’t fit. That is, by the time we get to the fourth word, have our brains already begun on the first three? I noticed that strongly with today’s four [1.27.2011]. As I went down the list, I quickly had a picture in my mind of a detective looking at someone lying dead or severely injured at the bottom of a ladder, “procumbent” was there and a tremor of “dubitation” and some undeserved “censure”, but then “jobbery” stopped me cold. There was not remotely an actual sentence yet, just a sketchy picture with the word “jobbery” hangin’ off it.

Try to notice your pattern of seeing the words for the first time and see how often it’s the last word you look at that makes everything difficult. 

Comments from QQ participants are warmly invited — what’s your own experience of handling the words?