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L’Ishing du Gwujlang

by Dorothea Dorfman and Theodora Mundorf
with additional assistance from Lini Nealey and Lucia Chaloux


Even minimally informed linguists and serious amateurs will be aware of verlan (from Fr. l’envers), the French reverse-syllable argot. Fewer will, however, know of a similar secretive cant based on English, and reportedly used by members of a splinter group of the Original English Movement.

In keeping with the re-spelled pattern of verlan, this jargon is known as l’ishing. Unlike verlan, however, l’ishing users prefer words that map onto one another when some portion of the sounds at the end of a given word are moved to the front, or vice versa. For example, dinner /dɪnər/ and innard /ɪnərd/ can be used in place of one another, as in “I’m hungry, let’s get some innard.”, or “That guy just cut that other guy’s stomach and a bit of his dinner came out.”

Similar well-known examples include Amherst /æmərst/ and stammer /stæmər/, and upturn /əptɜrn/ and turnip /tɜrnəp/:

Make fun of my brother’s Amherst again and I’ll beat you until you are dumb as an upturn.

The flowers in stammer open gently in the Massachusetts spring, and turnip their faces toward the strengthening sun.


Unlike verlan, l’ishing words generally cannot be concocted on the fly, so glossaries have been created for neophytes. However, words are not listed in the glossaries, only mnemonically merged definitions (MMDs). For example:

a Massachusetts college town stutter
(referring to Amherst stammer)
an evening meal for an intestine
(referring to innard dinner)
the upheaval of a white root vegetable
(referring to turnip upturn)

We have recently acquired a clutch of such MMDs, and seek your help in determining the paired words they refer to. The MMDs are provided below.

In order to increase the response rate from SpecGram readers, The SpecGram Puzzle Elves™ have agreed to treat this as a puzzle. Submit your answers to the editors of SpecGram by December 15, 2013, and you could win a prize.* Some most likely correct answers and winners will be announced in the January issue.


Your dialect and/or transcription system may vary.

The answers to last month’s EtymGeo™Weird Little U.S. Towns, Part III puzzle are: Convent, Louisiana; Starboard, Maine; Accident, Maryland; Ware, Massachusetts; Paradise, Michigan; Nimrod, Minnesota; Sanatorium, Mississippi; and Fidelity, Missouri.

* Note that new SpecGram Anti-Hoarding Guidelines stipulate that puzzle-related prizes cannot be won by anyone who has won a puzzle-related prize in the last six monthsthough honor, fame, and glory may still be seized on the metaphorical field of puzzle-related battle.

Except where taxed, prohibited by law, or otherwise restricted, constrained, limited, regulated, controlled, hindered, impeded, hampered, obstructed, checked, curbed, shackled, confined, or otherwise subject to thesaural interference.

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SpecGram Vol CLXVIII, No 4 Contents