—Richard Lederer—

[first published in Word Wizard ]

          Being a marsupial, a mother kangaroo carries her young in her pouch. Kangaroo words do the same thing: Within their letters they conceal a smaller version of themselves—a joey, which is what a kangaroo's offspring is called. The joey must be the same part of speech as the mother kangaroo, and its letters must appear in the same order.           The special challenge of kangaroo words is that the joey must be a synonym; it must have the same meaning as the fully-grown word. A plagiarist is a kind of liar. On the job, your supervisor is your superior. I tried to summon as many kangaroo words as I could to hop through this poem:

Ab-Original Words

Hop right up to those kangaroo words,
   Slyly concealing whiz-bangaroo words,
Accurate synonyms, cute and acute,
   Hidden diminutive words, so minute.

Lurking inside of myself you'll find me.
   Just as inside of himself you'll find he.
Feel your mind blossom; feel your mind bloom:
   Inside a catacomb's buried a tomb.

Kangaroo words are precocious and precious,
   Flourishing, lush words that truly refresh us.
We're nourished; they nurse, elevate, and elate us.
   We're so satisfied when their synonyms sate us.

Kangaroo words both astound us and stun.
   They're so darned secure that we're sure to have fun!
With charisma and charm, they're a letter-play wonder.
They dazzle and daze with their treasures, down under.

          Here follows my favorite animal procession. I was inspired by Dr. William Archibald Spooner, who gave us so many wonderful tips of the slung—oops: slips of the tongue. Through his tang tongueled whiz and witdom, the famous Oxford professor has bequeathed our language the word spoonerism, meaning a humorous reversal of consonant or vowel sounds:

Dr. Spooner's Animal Act

Welcome, ladies; welcome gents.
   Here's an act that's so in tents:
An absolute sure-fire parade,
   A positive pure-fire charade—
With animals weak and animals mild,
   Creatures meek and creatures wild,
With animals all in a row.
   We hope that you enjoy the show:

Gallops forth a curried horse,
   Trotting through a hurried course.
Ridden by a loving shepherd
   Trying to tame a shoving leopard.
Don't think I'm a punny phony,
   But next in line's a funny pony.
On its back a leaping wizard,
    Dancing with a weeping lizard.

Watch how that same speeding rider
   Holds aloft a reading spider.
Now you see a butterfly
   Bright and nimbly flutter by,
Followed by a dragonfly,
   As it drains its flagon dry.
Step right up; see this mere bug
   Drain the drink from his beer mug.

Lumbers forth a honey bear,
   Fur as soft as bunny hair.
Gaze upon that churning bear,
   Standing on a burning chair.
Gently patting a mute kitten,
   On each paw a knitted mitten.
Watch as that small, running cat
   Pounces on a cunning rat.

See a clever, heeding rabbit
   Who's acquired a reading habit,
Sitting on his money bags,
   Reading many bunny mags,
Which tickle hard his funny bone,
   As he talks on his bunny phone.
He is such a funny beast,
   Gobbling down his bunny feast.

Gasp in awe as winking seals
   Sit atop three sinking wheels.
Don't vacillate. An ocelot
   Will oscillate a vase a lot.
There's a clever dangling monkey
   And a stubborn, mangling donkey
And—a gift from our Dame Luck—
   There waddles in a large lame duck.

That's Dr. Spooner's circus show.
   With animals all in a row,
(As you can see, we give free reign
   To this metrical refrain.)
Now hops a dilly of a frog
   Followed by a frilly dog.
Hear that hoppy frog advise:
   "Time's fun when you're having flies!"

          Life is a circus where thousands throng but none can stay. The only permanence of the circus is its impermanence. Each time the Greatest Show on Earth leaves a city, it tears itself down and piles itself onto railroad cars. Not so with the Word Circus.
Nothing now to mark the spot
But a littered vacant lot.
Sawdust in a heap, and where
The center ring stood, grass worn bare.

But remains the alphabet,
Ready to leap and pirouette.
May the spangled letters soar
In your head forever more.

          May all your days be circuses.

[ website ]

Richard Lederer is the author of more than 30 books about language and humor, including his best-selling Anguished English series and his current book, Word Wizard. Dr. Lederer's syndicated column, "Looking at Language," appears in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States.

He has been elected International Punster of the Year and been profiled in magazines as diverse as The New Yorker, People, and the National Enquirer. He is language columnist for The Toastmaster, Pages, and the Farmers' Almanac and is Verbivore Emeritus on public radio's "A Way With Words."

content Copyright 2007, Richard Lederer—All Rights Reserved

image (original), "Elephant-headed Man"
[ from Fortunio Liceti's De Monstris (1665) ]

image (edit), Darin C. Bradley