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  LOGOLOG
a weblog of wordplay by Eric Harshbarger

Front Hook: A

It's been a while since I have regularly updated my LOGOLOG website, but today I hope to begin a series of updates (roughly one per day for the next month). They will focus on a topic that non-wordies will undoubtedly find extraordinarily boring, but that I find absolutely fascinating.

I will talk about my favorite "front hooked" words.

In Scrabble parlance, a "front hook" is a letter that may be added to any already valid word on the board to create a new valid word (that is, "hooking" a letter onto a pre-existing word, often to squeeze your latest play onto the game board in an unexpected way). For example, suppose you are in the midst of a game of Scrabble and have the word COTTAGE on your rack. If the word LOVED were already on the board, and the positioning correct, you might be able to "front hook" the G in COTTAGE onto LOVED to spell GLOVED while throwing down all of your letters.

For each letter of the alphabet, I will reveal my favorite front hooks.

This is completely subjective, of course, but throughout the series I will try to explain why I like the particular examples. I don't always have a definite answer myself; sometimes I just think, "oh, that hook's kinda cool". But, hopefully, I'll be able to describe what that coolness (to me) is all about.

If readers have differing opinions, they are welcome to chime in in the comments below (but, ideally, give your own examples only for the letter currently being discussed in that particular LOGOLOG entry).

Anyway, to kick things off, let me begin at the beginning: the letter A.

A is for Asteroid

ASTEROID is a great example because of what it isn't. It isn't simply an example of an original word with an A tacked onto the front to negate the original meaning. Words like "amoral" or "asymmetric" have that property, the "A-" prefix simply creates new words that meaning "without ___" ("without morals", "without symmetry").

The word "asteroid", though, is nothing like that. Tacking an A onto "steroid" creates a completely unrelated word, and this is a quality of many of my favorite front hooks. Taking one word and adding a letter onto the front can often generate surprising results.

Here, both words, STEROID and ASTEROID, are both common enough, everyone knows what they mean; but I'd bet many people never realized that the one is simply the other with an A added to the front. It's just coincidence that the root of "asteroid" (from the Greek "aster-", meaning "star") happens to match up so closely to the "ster-" beginning "steroid" (that "ster-" is the same chemical based letters combination that appears in cholesterol).

It's also nice that the example is a fairly lengthy word. Front hooks on short words (5 letter of less) are usually pretty boring. But I'll save that discussion for a later entry.

That's enough for today.

-- Eric

[19 August 2014]
   
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