These Quirky Words Are Spellbinding

Rob Kyff on

Today, I serve up an alphabet soup of lettery lore. Letter rip!

"Strengths" is the longest word in English to have only one vowel, while "rhythms" is the only common word in English without an a, e, i, o or u.

The word "latchstring" latches on to a string of six consonants in a row (tchstr), while "queueing" (a variant spelling of "queuing") has five vowels queueing up in a row (ueuei).

The consonant clusters "tchst," "sthm" and "tchph" might seem unpronounceable, yet we say them often in "matchstick," "asthma" and "catchphrase."

The longest one-syllable word is "squirreled," while the longest word in which no letter is repeated is "copyrightable."

The letter cluster "ough" can be pronounced in seven ways, as in through, though, thought, tough, plough, hiccough and lough (an Irish-English word for lake, pronounced "loch").

And now plough through this thorough and tough, though thoughtful, quiz to see whether you're letter perfect:


1) What three letters of the alphabet are used most often? 2) What three letters are used least? 3) What do the words "abstemiously" and "facetiously" have in common? 4) What is noticeable about the vowels in "unnoticeably"? 5) What is notable about the following sentence? "Mr. Jock, TV quiz Ph.D., bags few lynx." 6) What is interesting about the arrangement of letters in the word "wizard?"


1) in order of frequency: e, t and a, though some sources put i, n, o and s in third place 2) in order of frequency: q, z and j 3) "Abstemiously" and "facetiously" contain all five vowels (six if you count y) in alphabetical order. 4) "Unnoticeably" contains all five vowels in reverse order. 5) It uses each of the 26 letters of the alphabet only once. 6) "Wizard," aptly enough, is what might be called a mirror-image word, with a twist. The first and last letters of "wizard" (w and d) are the fourth letter from the end of the alphabet and the fourth letter from the beginning of the alphabet. The second and fifth letters of "wizard" (i and r) are the ninth letter from the beginning of the alphabet and the ninth letter from the end. And its middle two letters (z and a) are the last and first letters of the alphabet.


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. His new book, "Mark My Words," is available for $9.99 on Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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