Column: Addicted to isograms

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Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Are you constantly on your phone? Do you bury your face in your Facebook feed? Do you find yourself all atwitter for Twitter? Do you constantly talk about TikTok? Personally, I’m tempted to spend every instant on Instagram. The studies and statistics I found are all over the place, but the average smartphone user spends more than two hours per day using social media.

Instead of Instagram, how about we spend some time on isograms? Although that segue was a bit of a stretch, I found the statistics on social media use shocking, and now I have your attention.

You Greek scholars out there know that isogram means “equal letter.” An isogram is a word that has an equal amount of each letter in it. For starters, let’s discuss first-order isograms, which do not repeat any letter. My name, “Curtis,” is a first-order isogram. So are the words “customizable,” “nightwalkers,” “flamethrowing” and “ambidextrously.” None of these words use the same letter twice! The longest English language isogram, weighing in at 17 letters, is “subdermatoglyphic,” which has to do with certain patterns in our fingerprints (I think).

Things get twice as interesting when we consider second-order (or pair) isograms. That’s when we get into words including “deed” and “noon.” But we’re not here to talk about four-letter words, are we? Let’s make it interesting, why don’t we? The perfect place to start is with “intestines.” Each of the letters appears exactly twice. Of all my friends who are “hotshots,” I would never expect one of them to be a semi-professional “horseshoer.” I never thought my “couscous” would “reappear.” All the words in quotations in the previous sentences are second-order isograms.

Now that we’re warmed up, let’s go all-in with third-order (or trio) isograms. These words are about as rare as a “dodo,” which is another second-order isogram. After scouring the worldwide web, the darknet, “Dragnet” and a secret internet just for people who enjoy going into nets (it’s called the “enternet”), I found only four third-order isograms. The list includes “deeded,” “sestettes,” “reprepper” and “geggee” (a victim of a hoax).

Isograms are fun, and it’s easy to find yourself spending two hours or more down the rabbit hole of words containing equal letters. If you thoroughly study up on isograms, you may very well find yourself addicted to a form of anti-social media. After all, it’s nice to have friends, but wouldn’t you rather collect words?

Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life. Find more at curtishoneycutt.com.


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