Vo­cab

Friday - - Mind Games -

An old school quiz ques­tion asks, “What do the let­ters A, I and O have in com­mon, be­sides be­ing vow­els?”

The an­swer, of course, is that they are the three – the only three, in fact – that are words by them­selves (for O, think of “O brother, where art thou?”).

There are other let­ters that in­tro­duce a word, some­times be­ing ap­pended to it by a hy­phen and in some cases the let­ter be­ing an ab­bre­vi­a­tion for another word. Here is a short­list.

A-Train: The first line of the city-owned and op­er­ated In­de­pen­dent Sub­way Sys­tem (IND) of the New York Sub­way Sys­tem, opened in 1932, nat­u­rally, B, C and other lines fol­lowed. On the other hand, the ‘A’ in a mil­i­tary ‘A-Team’ stands for ‘alpha’, re­fer­ring to the best team mem­ber of an elite group spe­cial­is­ing in an in­fil­tra­tion skill or a par­tic­u­lar mis­sion-set such as com­bat div­ing.

B-movie: Low-bud­get western, hor­ror or se­rial movies that were clubbed with the main film (the ‘A’ movie) as part of a dou­ble fea­ture.

C Note: A slang term for an Amer­i­can $100 bill.

D-Day: An in­stance of an al­pha­bet not stand­ing for any­thing, but added on to em­pha­sise a spe­cial or land­mark day. E-mail: Elec­tronic, of course. F-hole: A sound hole in in­stru­ments from the vi­o­lin, man­dolin or viol fam­i­lies, from the shape of the hole.

G-Man: Short for ‘govern­ment man’, slang for agents of the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, etc.

H-bomb: The Hy­dro­gen bomb (though in most ap­pli­ca­tions the ma­jor­ity of its de­struc­tive en­ergy comes from ura­nium fis­sion).

I-beam: A beam in the shape of a cap­i­tal ‘I’, made of struc­tural steel and used in con­struc­tion and civil engi­neer­ing.

K-Mart: Chain of Amer­i­can dis­count stores named af­ter its co-founder Se­ba­tian Kresge.

Q-tip: They are cot­ton buds, or ear buds, as we all know. But what does the ‘Q’ stand for? It’s ‘qual­ity’.

Z-drug: One of sev­eral drugs that is a hyp­notic, used in the treat­ment of in­som­nia, and most of whose names be­gin with ‘z’ – ap­pro­pri­ate as sleep is of rep­re­sented by ‘zzzz’.

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