About DVS Words
Professor Colton's Devious Words Lists
I have long been amused by words and phrases can can be spelled out.
For example, EZ is "easy", and OICURAB means "Oh, I see. You are a
bee." In February 2007 I began my own hunt for these words, before
finding the web pages mentioned next. I thought I might be able to
work them into some assignment for the Computer Speech Recognition
class I teach.
My original Google search turned up nothing. I tried a few of the
longer words from my list in hopes someone was also playing this game.
I guess I must have chosen badly for my search.
A later Google search for "CNMNE" (sea anemone) turned up two
interesting websites. One I really like is a column by Richard
Lederer in Jewish World Review. He identifes these DVS words as
"Grammagrams, words that when pronounced consist entirely of letter
sounds." I have stolen a few that I did not already have from his
article and identified them in my list below as (Lederer).
Paul Wright (c)2000 in a delightful web page (link now broken)
Word Oddities gives a wonderful list of SLWSs (Single Letter Word
Sentences) as he calls them. Paul has a
really excellent list of DVS words sent in by a visitor to his
I decided on the following rules.
- Only letters and digits can be used. A purist might stick with
just the 26 letters of English. I included digits because both can be
used in Vanity Plates on vehicles. Symbols like @ would be nice, but
are not allowed. Heart (for love) would be nice, but is not allowed.
Letters from other languages, like "pi" from Greek would be nice, but
are not allowed.
- I have not considered but would accept alternate pronunciations of
letters, such as Z which can be pronounced "zee" or "zed". I used
"zee" below. I am also willing to accept British, regional, and
colloquial pronunciations of words.
- The resulting word must be understandable by native English
speakers. Foreign words are only allowed if they have essentially
been adopted into English.
- Each letter or digit must be individually and fully pronounced.
We do not allow text-messaging shortcuts like "GR8" for "great"
because the G and R are not pronounced individually as letters.
- Common abbreviations are not allowed. For example, DVD, CD, TV,
MC, AM, PM, BMW, LA, NY, R2D2.
- Personal names have their own list because they are not normal
words, and can be constructed at a whim.
- Bonus points apply to phrases that can be spelled when the
individual words cannot, such as "CQ" for "seek you", "2A" for "two
way", and "UL" for "you will". That is the main way that phrases can
be included on the main word list.
- Penalty points apply when the letters do not match full syllables
of the word. Syllable-stretchers like "ES" for "yes" are second-class
citizens. Words that require too much twisting of the letter names
are also second-class citizens.
- Longer words are more impressive than shorter ones.
- A separate but also fun activity is to string the words together
into DVS phrases. Bonus points for saying something meaningful.
I needed a name for this type of word. I knew it had to be one of
the words on the list itself. EZ did not seem right. DVS had a nice
feel to it.
I encourage you to submit new DVS word discoveries to me by email
to don at doncolton.com. The ones I like will be added to the list,
with acknowledgement to you if you allow it.