Frequently asked questions: What was the most valuable course you had in school? (Typing, in the eighth grade.) How do you write so much? (I type fast.) How many letters do you get from WORLD subscribers: (Lots.) Do you read them? (Yes.) Do you respond to them? (Yes; may miss a few.) Have any changed what you do or what you write? (Yes, and therein hangs a tale.)
Since 1987 I've written numerous articles about the creation-evolution debate and even co-authored a book about it. When two articles of mine last December leaned toward an old-earth creationist position, one reader complained that I wasn't taking seriously the young-earth creationists. She was right. I had previously declined an invitation from a group led by young-earth creationists for a week-long, discussion-filled, July raft trip through the Grand Canyon. (Who has the time?) Now it seemed that fairness required me to go.
I'm typing this column on the plane returning me to Manhattan at the end of a physically and intellectually stimulating week that I would never have experienced but for the reader's letter; I'll write about the experience next month. There is a tiny problem, though. Because one moment was too stimulating physically, I'm wearing a splint on the middle finger of my left hand. All you touch-typers know that this second most valuable finger (the finger wearing a wedding ring is #1) controls the important C, D, and E keys-and I can't use it.
However, I can read email, and here comes another letter from a subscriber, Linda Libert, who has a tutoring company. Three years ago she sent me a list of 100 random vocabulary words she wanted her students to know. I had fun writing a column using all 100 in alphabetical order (WORLD, July 28, 2007). Linda still uses it with her students: She tells them to "create an 'Olasky-style' paragraph with the 8-10 words assigned each week."
Well. I'm honored, and now she's asking me to write something using "50 common SAT words," but I have this war injury, see, my splinted middle finger. Can't quikly typ thos important C's, D's, and E's.
And yet, we like to serve our readers, and it is summertime: I can rev up the political and cultural analysis next month. So, let's ponder: What would that vocabulary list look like without those three letters? Surely a missing 12 percent of the 26 letters of our alphabet wouldn't make a list look so iffrnt, would it?
See for yourself. On this page sits the list, with C's, D's, and E's omitted. Six of the words (marked by asterisks) are unaffected. Others are easy to discern: Austrity and Grgarious merely need the insertion of a single "e." But what about these 10 wordlets: Ani, Bas, Sponnt, Trimtal, Ntri, Xtriat, Intriat, Miat, Prunt, and Rfut? Can you figure them out? Hint: All of the words are in the alphabetical order they would inhabit with C's, D's, and E's intact.
There's no shame in peeking at the original list, which is printed the classic puzzle way: bottom of the page, upside down, small type. You may be thinking, doesn't your humbl WORL itor-in-chif have better things to do than to cogitate about such subscriber requests? Well, often the press of business dictates a response of only one word: "Thanks." But since we are thankful for our subscribers, sometimes . . .