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May I have a word: Something that’s been under one’s nose all along, and a palindrome for ‘palindrome’

Two challenges yield a plethora of new coinages. Plus: Who can put a name to that thing that makes all parents cringe when they find themselves doing it?

The philtrum is literally under our noses. Could the word double as a coinage, too?Dr. Johannes Sobotta/Wikimedia Commons

Last time (and the time before that) I asked you for a term for someone or something you’ve been seeking that turns out to have been under your nose the whole time.

Bill Falk, of West Newton, sent me pretty much what I’d requested, reporting: “Anatomically speaking, the groove under one’s nose is a philtrum, so I think that would be an appropriate word.” But most readers proposed names for the state of mind of the seeker — so I’m accepting those too. Bev Stohl, of Watertown, proposed the short and sweet mydopia, a combination of myopia and dope. Louisa Grauel, of Cape Cod, suggested obvimyopic. And Kathie Flatley, of Manchester-by-the-Sea, thought probobscurity might fill the bill.


Marc McGarry, of Newton Highlands, wrote: “I was thinking about a theme in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ — Dorothy realizing she already had what she was looking for the whole time — and also about a synonym for seeking something (prospecting). I came up with prozpecting.” “The Wizard of Oz” also came to mind for Jim Murphy. He quoted one of Dorothy’s famous lines — “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard” — and continued: “I think Dorothy nails the feeling. So the realization in question ought to be called a Dorothy. I’d rather something more snarky; I guess Doh-rothy would work. Or doh-piphany?”

Stephen Mulloney declared: “You’re in a state of obvilivion. The adjective is obvilivious, ob▪vi▪liv▪i▪ous. ‘Obviliviously, he hadn’t realized that his long-sought soulmate was there all along, on the other side of the white picket fence.’”

I was about to award Stephen bragging rights for that coinage until Rick Mattila, of Hull, topped it with obvioblivious. (Sorry, Stephen.) I prefer Rick’s word for two reasons: I don’t need a hint to know how to pronounce it. And it has a rare property I prize in a word. Namely, it could serve as the sixth or seventh line of a double dactyl, double dactyls being whimsical verses like this one, by Arthur W. Monks:


Higgledy-piggledy / President Jefferson / gave up the ghost on the / Fourth of July.

So did John Adams, which / shows that such patriots / propagandistically / knew how to die.

Congratulations, Rick!

In response to my palindrome challenge, wherein I requested a term for a palindrome that is itself a palindrome, Anil Adyanthaya, of Newton Upper Falls, wrote: “How about calling a palindrome a revver? Rev is a Latin root meaning ‘revolving’ and ver is a Latin root for ‘truth.’ I think it is apt to consider a palindrome a ‘revolving truth.’” Similarly, Herman Marshall, of Lexington, and Raphael Sulkovitz suggested rever.

Raphael suggested droword too. I thought that was good — but John Bassett, of Brookline; Michael J. Bohnen, of Newton; Mike Czitrom; Jim Lynch; Gracelaw Simmons, of Medford; Liz Stillman, of Brookline; and Samantha Timmerman, of Melrose and Vion, France, went it one better with a word they all thought of. As Liz put it: “I think wordrow would be a perfect palindromic word for palindromes! In the plural form, we could use swordrows.” Nice! Pertinent, pronounceable, and having a plausible plural. I hereby award all seven of those readers bragging rights.

And now for our new challenge. Some time ago, Paul von Hippel, of Columbus, Ohio, asked for “a word for the common experience of saying something to your child and then realizing — often with a shock — that you sound like one of your own parents.” Can you come up with a word that meets Paul’s need? Send your ideas to me at Barbara.Wallraff@globe.com by noon on Friday, Aug. 5, and kindly include where you live. Responses may be edited.


Barbara Wallraff is a writer who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and London.