by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©1996 Resource Books All rights reserved.

iotacism n. The conversion of other vowel sounds in Greek to the sound of iota. 

Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.
     -- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Words have two lengths: number of letters when written, number of syllables when spoken. There are several words which have 8 letters but only one syllable (strength, sleights, and thoughts).
Now, "iotacism" holds a record: 8 letters and 5 syllables.
Does the date January 27, 1777 mean anything to you?  Sixteen syllables when spoken.  That's a record which will stand for exactly 1,000 years.  January 27, 2777 will establish a new record of 17 syllables, and it won't be exceeded for 5 millenia.

The shortest dates, by the way, have 3 syllables (March 1, 1 and May 10, 10).  The most recent 3-syllable date was June 12, 12.  Jesus still faced puberty.

  • What word can be pronounced quicker by adding a syllable to it?
  • What word can be pronounced funny by taking a syllable out of it?
Abbreviations save letters.  Often they save syllables.  For example, IBM saves 6, same as U.S.A.  But 3M saves 10.  TLD (Triple Letter Designator) saves 5.  RBI only saves 1.  TWA costs an extra syllable.  World Wide Web costs 6 syllables when abbreviated WWW.

In realms of commerce, of course, TLDs do more than abbr.  Building big motorcycles motivated Birmingham Small Arms to become BSA, diversification into computers induced National Cash Register to become NCR, and the name Bavarian Motor Works is known to fewer than half the yuppies making payments on BMWs.  It is unclear to me, by the way, that initialization improves Trans World Airlines.

Another record held by "iotacism":  It is the least useful word in the English Language.
Here's what I want to know: If some old Greek had enough initiative to invent "iotacism," why can't somebody come up with a word for "run batted in"?

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