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Newest Comments about how Readers feel about Literary Magic, answered by our Editor:

     Thank you for the feedback about my story and for publishing it online in your next issue. I will be looking forward to this.
     I read all the stories in your winter issue. I really like "Requiem for a Loser" and "Homecoming". 'Remembering" is an interesting one too, with an unexpected twist at the end.

            --Elisabeth Lewkowicz

As always, thank you for your comments. Hope you enjoy this issue's stories too.


The "Heaven for Dortguller" story by Richard Cahill is VERY VERY good.

                                    --Heidi Hirner

A question for the linguist – why is a gnu called a gnu? 

               --Katriel Reichman




The Name "Gnu":"Gnu" comes from the southern African Kaffir word "nqu." "Wildebeest" is the Afrikaans (South African Dutch) word for "wild animal."

                    Yours Etymologically,

                                The Grammarnator (Rocky) of Literary Magic




Also, the gnu makes a sound that sounds like gnu!  (Kind of like moo, but starting with gn…)





I would like to thank you and your team at Literary Magic magazine for running such competitions that encourage people worldwide to let their creative juices flow!

                   --Kevin Loughnane, Writer




Your magazine is great and well worth reading!

               --H.M. Schierloh



Just want to say I thought the Gothic Internet dating story ["The Tourist"] by Heidi Hirner was absolutely brilliant! Great site altogether.

Ginny Swart, freelance writer

Member of the South African Freelance Association


Glad to hear you enjoyed "The Tourist" by Heidi Hirner. Read her new story too, titled "Paradox." You will enjoy it as much as you did "The Tourist."


    "Bonjour! What a super websight! Very refreshing to peruse from where I

live in Paris (France). Best regards!"

"Nice design, I must say."



Columnist William Safire Recognizes Editor of Literary Magic:

New York Times Columnist William Safire recently corresponded with Rocky Reichman, Editor and wordsmith of Literary Magic.

In an e-mail message, Safire wrote:

  "Tell Rocky Reichman he has a good future as a word maven. Thank you for letting me see his fine work."
                                       --William Safire

To read some of our Editor's articles on language, click here.


We received many letters in our mailbag for our past issues of Literary Magic.  Below each letter is a personal response from Literary Magic's Editor-in-Chief. Unlike in other magazines, these letters are not transitory, but remain. Our Editor welcomes letters and comments. The most recent letters come first; for older letters, look below.

The Longest Word in the English Language 
Dear Editor,

Here is the longest word ever; I thought it might be of some interest to you and other readers. What do your etymologists and wordsmiths think?

                 --David (Dov) Adler

Oh my!
No matter; no etymological query is too great for the Etymologists and Wordsmiths of Literary Magic. According to Wordsmith Anu Garg on, the longest word in the English language is only 45 letters, and is pronounceable. On the other hand, this word is not in any way prounounceable (unless you are maven at prouncing words or you are the host Jeopardy). This word is over 1,000 letters long--incredible! (To be exact, it is 1,019 words--I counted.)

Nice discovery, but no etymologist (especially ours) will buy it, no matter what the price. This word is too long and and too hard to prounounce to really exist in wide usage. Indeed, lexiocographers would probsably agree that Anu Garg is closer, and that this word, even if it does exist in the English language, is not listed--and likely will never be listed--in any major dictionaries. It is extraordinary though how our language changes--and so fast!

Which one?
Dear Editor,

Here's a piece for you:

There is a term for the word or sentence that appears somewhere in a book (usually the middle or even end) that represents and speaks about the work's title? What's the word?

                     --John Stevens, English Professor

After consulting the Etymologists of Literary Magic, Etymologist Geoff Anderson found the perfect word to answer your question: Logline.
I would define it here, but think it's better to let you look it up (it may not be listed in every dictionary). When you find the word, the connection will be easy to make.

Dear Editor,

Your article on Grammar was hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
                             --June Coeln, France

Thank you for your kind compliment, June, and we hope you continue to enjoy our Humor section and its new articles.

The Last Word
Dear Editor,

In the Humor section on the thought of the day you wrote that the last word of the English language is zymurgy. It is really zyzzyva.
                       --The Computer Master

Thank you, Computer Master, and good catch. Our editors saw this quickly, but decided to leave it the way it was. It's good to see that other literati noticed.

Dear Editor,

What is the origin of the word red?

                   --Dov Adler

A simple question, but one with a compex etymological answer. Our etymologists are currently working on an article on the word red; however, in the meantime I can enlighten you with the following.
There are many definitions the word "red" can be listed for (both in print and online), but I will assume you are referring to the noun "red."
In terms of etymology, the word "red" originates from Middle English, from Old English rEad; and it is akin to Old High German rOt red, Latin ruber & rufus, Greek erythros. (M-W's definition.)
The noun "red" alone has at least four meanings in most dictionaries. The most widely used definition is: Merriam-Webster defines the word as "of the color red; having red as a distinguishing color."
Thank you for your word query; as always, they are welcome.

Dear Editor,

Que sera sera
What dies it mean?
                      --Aton A

Dies, oh you mean does. Simply put, it means "what will be will be." New York Times columnist William Safire (his picture is posted above) discussed this phrase earlier this year. There is an article in the etymology section on the phrase "The Oxford Comma," and que sera sera is etymologized (yes, that's a word!) there.


Older Letters to the Editor:

Mathematical Linguistics
Dear Editor,

I find the whole site intriguing. I love words, words for their own beautiful sake. I enjoyed the statistical review of the monkeys typing Shakespeare. Frankly, I can't see how even a human being could manage to write the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Not in one lifetime. Not in a million lifetimes. William was beamed down from the same spacecraft as Wolfgang.

-Geoff Anderson, United Kingdom

Thanks for your comments, Geoff. I'm glad you liked the Mathematical Linguistics article "Can Monkeys Type Shakespeare?" because so did I. I don't think William Shakespeare was beamed down from the same spacecraft as Wolfgang, but I do agree with you in that William Shakespeare, the father of the English language, was a very unique person.

Dear Editor,

About the Etymology section:

1. 'kid'

I've found a link between 'kid' and the song of Chad Gadya:

Chad Gadya seems to mean 'one (goat) kid' in Hebrew.

I have a personal interest in this connection because I went to school in an English town called Kidderminster. The school's crest was topped by a goat kid. However, this is purely a play on words, because the name of the town was originally Chadminster, after St Chad. He appears, unadulterated, in other English place names such as Chadlington and Chadbury. It is perhaps easier to understand how Chadminster became Kidderminster when one remembers that the 'ch' in 'chad' (also sometimes transliterated as 'khad') is not pronounced as in 'cheese' but as in the Scottish 'loch.'

I find etymology so fascinating because of the various byways of knowledge it can lead you down - in this case hagiology, geography and whatever the study of Hebrew songs is called!

2. 'literati'

This was actually first raised in the Letters page of the magazine, but it has become a matter of etymology.

'Littera' was Latin for a letter of the alphabet. The 'i' changed to 'e' in the Old French 'lettre.' We kept that change when we formed the English 'letter' in the 12th century. However, in later developments, such as 'literature' in the 14th century, taken from 'litteratura' ('writing formed with letters'), and 'literati', taken from 'litteratus' ('lettered'), first coined in the 17th century to describe the 'lettered' class as a whole, the 'i' was preserved but the double 't' became a single 't.'

Besides the reasons you gave for preferring 'literati,' I would like to add a good reason for avoiding the singular 'literatus': it is a bogus word, back-formed as if the English word 'literati' were Latin. Indeed, some apparently use 'literato' instead, the singular form of the Italian word 'literati.'

Three footnotes:

a. Glitterati has its first attested use in 1956, playing on the word 'literati.' I'm amused that the double 't' has returned because of its presence in 'glitter.' And note that no-one has coined a singular version 'glitteratus'. The whole thrust of the words 'literati' and 'glitterati', in my opinion, is that they describe

a class of people, a social grouping. It sounds better to describe an individual as 'a member of the literati' or, say, 'one of London's glitterati.'

b. 'literature,' etc, lost its original double letter. 'accommodate' is an example of a word that has gained a double letter, since it derives from the Latin 'accomodatus' meaning 'suitable'. Maybe a good contest would be for people to find ten English

words that have lost or gained 'doubles' in the development from their source.

From your fellow literato, member of the literati, but definitely not of the glitterati.

-Geoff Anderson, United Kingdom

Once again, I'm glad to see your interest and vast knowledge in etymology. I visited the website you listed above and found it very clever. I can't say whether I agree with everything you've said, but I can say that I don't outright disagree with any of it. I realize you are correct in your argument about replacing literatus with literato, although for the time being, I'm going to go with language standards, and continue (though not without some hesitation!) using literatus. Thank you again for both your comments on the etymology of the words "kid" and "literati."


Dear Editor,

I have a grammar question that I need help answering. My friend had a twin brother who recently passed. The other day she was talking about him, and said, "he was my twin brother." Is that correct? Is it grammatically correct to say "he was my twin brother" or he is my twin brother?"

-Jan Weiss

I understand your question. I may need the Totalitarian Grammarian's help for this, but I think I can answer it on my own. It can get confusing: You can say is since he is her twin brother, but you can also say was because he has passed. At this point, it seems to me that the grammatically correct way to say it--atleast in terms of style--would be "he is my twin brother." The reason is that even though her twin brother has passed, you still don't use was. You use is, since he is her twin brother, and nothing, not even death, can change the fact that they are (still) twins.

Begging the Question

Dear Editor,

I enjoyed the etymology article on Begging the Question very much. I think it was highly intelligent and better than my students' work.

-Anonymous English Professor

Thank you for your "highly intelligent" comment. You're not the only one to have liked Begging the Question.

Dear Editor,

Great magazine! It looks fantastic and good luck with it!

-Sereen Rothbaum

Thank you for your comment, and I hope our magazine continues to be great!

Dear Editor,

Fantastic reading-best I have ever seen. One question though: Who are the other Literati?

-Katriel Reichman

I appreciate your kind comment. As to your question, I am very glad you asked, since I’ve been waiting for someone to inquire this of me. When you say “Literati” in your question, I am assuming you are referring to our e-mail address, Literati2006. The reason why our e-mail is Literati which is plural, and not literatus which is the singular form of the word, is because, as is written wherever our e-mail address is visible, when you email Literary Magic you’re e-mailing all of us (all our writers), not just the editor. Therefore, our e-mail, Literati, is correct, and should not be Literatus in the singular. The other literati are the other writers of Literary Magic. We prefer the plural form of the word, Literati, over its singular form because when a reader contacts us, he speaks not only to our editor, but to all of Literary Magic’s staff.

The Oxford Comma

Dear Editor,

Hi, my name is Moshe Mayefsky, and I would like to thank you for your On Language piece in my former high school’s newsletter. I always enjoy reading it and I learn a lot from it. I graduated in 1997.

I would like to comment on your most recent piece, The Oxford Comma. Even though you prefer not to use the Oxford Comma, I would agree with Strunk since some cases do require it. If, for example, I wrote "I would like to dedicate this email to my parents, Robert and Rebecca," then I might ask you how many people I have dedicated this email to. If I was dedicating this email to four different people, then I would have no choice but to use a comma after "Robert" to remove the ambiguity that there might be only two.

Since the case above requires a comma, for consistency, I prefer to use the Oxford Comma whenever there I write a series of three or more terms. Of course, you might just reorder the terms and write "Robert, Rebecca and my parents," but at least I have shown that it is not always que sera sera.


-Moshe Mayefsky

Thank you very much for your comment; it's greatly appreciated, and I hope you send many more. Comments are the best, and those of yours I enjoy reading the most. I am glad when I get arguments, especially good ones like yours, and I see you sure do have a point.

Your argument concerning the Oxford Comma is plausible, since in the case you mentioned above it would be best to use it. However, you don’t always need the Oxford Comma: sometimes it can merely be a hindrance, the extra comma adding more stops to the sentence and creating confusion regarding a clause’s structure. An example would be: “Thomas was small, light, and cheerful,” where the extra comma, due to the added stop, breaks up the sentence and can confuse the reader. Additionally, using the Oxford Comma can lead the reader to think that the beginning and end of a thought are really separate, i.e. in the case of “Brad brushed his teeth, got his lunch, and went to the kitchen.” In the above case, it seems to the reader that the end of the sentence (“and went to the kitchen,”) is not related to the first part of the sentence.

It’s not always que sera sera regarding when to use the Oxford Comma; however, we can say que sera sera when it comes to those who have already chosen to either use or not use the Oxford Comma, since they are usually too set in their ways or have good reasons for either using or not using the Oxford Comma.

To use the Oxford Comma or not to use it-that is the question.

Dear Editor,

Great site- I had fun reading it.

-Roslyn Embraihimoff

As always, readers’ comments are greatly appreciated.

Dear Editor,

Your magazine shows creativity and audacity. I was highly impressed when reading it and was thrilled by the marvelous amount of wisdom and knowledge you advocate. Magic seems to flow through the page, and the only word to describe it is Literary Magic.

-Man of Wisdom

On behalf of every writer at Literary Magic, we thank you for your wise words.

Etymology: Kid

Dear Editor,

I enjoyed reading your magazine very much. My favorite part was the Etymology section. I was very interested in the Etymology article on the word “Kid”-could it be that it is related to the kid in Chad Gadya from Passover? I would greatly appreciate it if you could research it for me. Thanks.

-Yossi Essrog

Thanks for commenting on our Etymology section, Yossi. Concerning your question, I unfortunately was not able to find a link between the word “kid” and the song of Chad Gadya from Passover. While it is doubtful the theory is correct, I’m still glad you brought it up. You sound very knowledgeable when it comes to Etymology, so if you do find a link between “kid” and Chad Gadya, feel free to submit it to our magazine. I would enjoy reading it.

Dear Editor,

First of all, I don't consider myself all that knowledgeable in etymology; I am just curious, and able to note some patterns. I would like to point out that it is only a suggested etymology based on a theory I once heard of that most languages are based on Hebrew. My favorite examples of this include the following (again, still conjecture):

Grain (and corn)--from Hebrew word "goren"

Fruit--from Hebrew word "peirot"

Two examples I recently read:

Ankle (and angle)--from Hebrew for heel "eikev" (the "n" is a result of nasalization, and I forget how the "v" became an "l"), but I have included the website from which I read this and the next example.

Samurai-from Hebrew "shomer"

While these are all more or less conjecture, they are still interesting to note.

-Yossi Essrog

Please note that the etymologists of Literary Magic do not agree that most languages come from Hebrew.

I am glad that you know such an essential rule of Etymology: Never say or assume you are correct, even if you only have the slightest doubt. We can assimilate this to when Norman W. Schur, in his 1000 Most Challenging Words, once wrote, “Never fool around when it comes to etymology!” I am glad that you have such an interest in language, especially in Linguistic theories, which can be found in our Linguistics section. Regarding the book you have mentioned and the web site, I will still need to research it more. However, from what I have learned so far, I can tell that the author of the book is a very knowledgeable linguistic and as William Safire would put it, a language maven. I’m sure his theories regarding Hebrew being the source of most English words is correct: many of my readers, both friends and strangers, have commented on a book like this, and I’m sure this is the one, so thank you for finding it for me. Those who I spoke to seemed confident about it, and I’m glad they were. While I’m a great lover of Hebrew, and while several of the etymology columns I write concerns English words originating or being related to Hebrew, I still have my doubts, since I am a Literary Magician first and foremost. I only like to accept theories when I know enough about them. I’m sure his theories are correct, although from a wordsmith’s, etymologist’s, and language maven’s point of view, I doubt every English word originates from Hebrew. However, I have not read the entire book, so I cannot yet judge.


Dear Editor,

Hi, I love your website. I particularly like your linguistics section.

-H.M. Schierloh

Thank you very much for your comment, and I hope you will continue to read our magazine and take interest in our Linguistics section.


Dear Editor,

How were the letters of the alphabet formed?

-Nissan Holzer

Good question, Nissan. The letters of the alphabet have a long history-I will not digress to speak about it in detail now, but I will tell you that our modern day letters come from long ago. Many of them stem all the way back to Egyptian hieroglyphics, where pictures were used to represent words. From there, it moved on to the Semites and perhaps the Assyrians, then to the Greeks. It eventually made its way to the Romans, into Latin and eventually entered Modern English-the language we speak today. Though the symbols of these words varied throughout history, they did bear resemblance as they evolved from pictures to the twenty-six-letter alphabet we have today. Regarding where the actual word “alphabet” comes from, that’s simple: it originates from Latin from Greek. It is a compound of two words of Greek: Alpha and Beta, which, believe it or not, come from the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Corrections: Literary Magic would like to thank Geoff Anderson, H. M. Schierloh and J. Weck for their proofreading corrections.

Letters to the Editor are greatly appreciated, and they are published in our next issue or sooner. Literary Magic welcomes intelligent and intellectual comments.

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