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Words that Looks Like What They Refer to

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Dan from Elmira, New York, wonders if there’s such a thing as “structural” onomatopoeia, where the visual appearance or architecture of a written word suggests the meaning of the word. For example, he says, the word level is a palindrome — a word spelled the same way backwards and forwards — and even has a fulcrum in the middle in the form of the letter V. Similarly, when spelled with lower-case letters, the word bed looks something like a bed, the word llama looks a bit like a long-necked animal, and if you squint, even the word dog resembles a little pup curled up. Some people have proposed the term logological for these instances, after the more established term autological, which denotes words with meanings reflected in their form, such as polysyllabic, a multisyllabic word that means “having many syllables.” The word terse is autological, because it’s a short word that means “succinct.” Sibiliant which describes something having a hissing sound, is sibilant itself. This is part of a complete episode.

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