February 8, 2013

When I Say ‘Statutory,’ You Say _____

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Leftism/Phill
Leftism/Phill

I just got a cold-call from my neighborhood H&R Block which means A) It’s time to change my number again and B) Tax season is officially upon us.

The only reasonable antidote? A W-2 themed word game.

We’re all familiar with “dependents” — those singularly pathetic rubes that would sputter and die if not for the oversight of a benevolent sugar-somebody. In tax speak, “kids.” Or “Grandma.” My mom’s 10-year-old pug comes to mind. Sure Hazel may not be “human,” and so not a “great example,” but you get the point. Hazel needs my mom.

In the English language there are similar instances of dependence. Words that could survive on their own, but have instead elected to live fastened to the teat of another, more resourceful word. Take “statutory.” A word by itself, no doubt. Required, permitted, or enacted by statute. But when I say statutory — you hear rape. You’re lying if you say you don’t. Another example: “whirling.” To move rapidly around and around. But when I say whirling — you hear dervish. You just do.

From here on out I’d like us to refer to these dependent words as “Hazels.” (Sorry about starting the party with rape.) And the challenge is simply to come up with as many as possible.

Here’s a handful of Hazels I’d like to submit for your consideration… If you can’t immediately hear the subsequent word, I’ve failed. Really, we’ve both failed. (I’ve ranked them in order of swish factor.)

Transistor ______

Scantily ______

Extenuating ______

Ulterior ______

Receding ______

Helter ______

Bated ______

Hunker ______

Thatched ______

Corrugated ______

Homogenized ______

Piqued ______

Wrought ______

Wreak ______

Rabble ______

Stave ______

Again, independently these are all words – that are simultaneously condemned to live in the shadow of a superior parent word for the rest of their word lives.

There’s also a Reverse Hazel:

____ Amok

____ Aspersions

____ Akimbo

And then there are Step-Hazels, which (I believe) don’t really count:

Strep ______ (An abbreviation for Streptococcus)

Thin-crust ______ (Compound words don’t really fly because we’re compounding enough as it is, dammit… Though “four-leaf” and “three-hole” are admittedly tempting.)

Bubonic ______ & Abominable ______ (Proper nouns are cheats, might as well throw in Cumulonimbus or Humpty… Scrabble rules apply for all word games, just like Price Is Right rules apply for all recreational gambling.)

Moot ______ (Sure, you hear “point,” so it satisfies the call and response element of the game – but moot’s used too widely on its own… In the parlance of this article, moot would pay its own taxes.)

Batten (… “down the hatches” …  The fact that I felt compelled to write it out is red flag enough, but this game is also not in the business of triggering idioms – we’re talking about two-word dependencies, period. That said, batten’s a great example of a word that doesn’t see a lot of daylight on its own.)

Vim & ______ (Though I am personally distrustful of the flashy “Ampersand Hazel,” a wise man did tell me once — Y’aint seein’ no vim without no vigor, bro.)

The next question — who cares? And that’s a fair question. To which I say, it’s just a W-2 themed word game for tax season, jerk. Cool out. Challenge your friends, your enemies, a bunch of kids you’ll definitely beat — have fun with it!

There are close to a million words in the English language… I think we can get this up to at least 1000 legit Hazels. TC mark

Anthony Pucillo

Anthony has written for HBO and apologizes if you have seen any of his stand-up.

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