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We like the word trampoline--it's only one letter different from palindrome-and palindromes are long-established as being of great interest to logologists. That makes palindrome a substitute-letter transposal of trampoline--remove a letter (the T in this case), replace it with another letter (the D), and rearrange the new set of letters to form a new word. For years, we had thought that trampoline had just a single transposal, the word intemporal. This word appears in W2, W3 and the OED, all of which define it as 'timeless'. The word is sufficiently rare for it not to be listed in current desktop dictionaries such as the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Chambers Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Neither does it appear in the bibles of allowable Scrabble words--Collins Scrabble Words, theOfficial Tournament and Club Word List, and the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

However, while searching for some other word, now forgotten, in Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Dictionary of the English Language (our edition is dated 1945), we stumbled on the word lamprotine. We immediately realised this was an anagram of trampoline, an even rarer anagram than intemporal. It turns out that lamprotine is also listed in an earlier edition of Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of the English Language (our edition is dated 1895). The actual entry in both of our Funk & Wagnall's is lamprotin(es. This means that the word has two spellings, one with the final letter e, and one without the e. The superscript s indicates the lamprotin spelling is approved by the long defunct Simplified Spelling Board (the Simplified Spelling Board existed during the years 1906-1920). Surprisingly, lamprotine isn't listed in any of W2, W3 and the OED.

So, what doeslamprotine mean?Funk & Wagnall's doesn't give a definition forlamprotine, although it does mark it as both a noun and an adjective. The dictionary lists the word following the two entries Lamprotinae and Lamprotes. The former is defined as "noun plural, ornithology; a subfamily of tanagroid birds having the bill straight, stout, and hooked, and the feet with strong claws", while the latter is simply marked "noun (t.g.)", meaning "type genus". From these, we deduce that lamprotine is a type of tanagroid bird, or tanager. For an up-to-date definition of tanager, we turned to the online Unabridged Merriam-Webster which defines it thus: "any of numerous American passerine birds (family Thraupidae) having brightly colored males, being mainly unmusical, and chiefly inhabiting woodlands."

We checked the Wikipedia entry for tanager, and it tells us that there are numerous genera (ie plural of genus) of tanagers, and lists many of them, but none of the genus names is remotely similar to Lamprotinoe, Lamprotes or lamprotine. What's going on?

We decided to Google the term lamprotine. We got just four hits, all of them referring to an entry in "A Dictionary of Simplified Spelling, based on the publications of the United States Bureau of Education and the rules of the American Philological Association and the Simplified Spelling Board", which appears to be a 1915 publication. The entries in this dictionary are compiled from simplified spellings in Funk & Wagnall's dictionaries. Each simplified spelling is shown with its corresponding unsimplified spelling. Thus, lamprotin is an entry, with its unsimplified spelling alongside, lamprotine. So we appear to be back full circle to Funk & Wagnall's? Why does lamprotine only seem to exist in the 1895 and 1945 Funk & Wagnall's? Why is there no independent definition or description of lamprotine? Why nothing else on the internet?

We wondered if Googling the related terms Lamprotinae and Lamprotes would provide any leads for lamprotine. First off, we were surprised to find that, in addition to being a genus of tanagers, Lamprotes is a genus of moths (according to Wikipedia). We found Lamprotinae listed in the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica in the article on tanagers, as well as in several books on the taxonomy of bird names. However, none of these turned up the elusive lamprotine. We suspect that the subfamily name Lamprotinae and the genus name Lamprotes have both been overtaken by newer ornithological names, but we are still surprised that it's difficult to confirm that through Google searches. As a result, that's probably why our new transposal lamprotine has faded away to near invisibility.

If any Word Ways readers can shed any light on lamprotine and why it seems to have disappeared from view, on the internet, at least, do please get in touch.

It's interesting to note that dictionaries do include quite a few other words beginning lampro-. According to the OED, the combining formlampro- means "bright, shining". Between them, the OED, W2, W3, the online Unabridged Merriam-Webster, Funk & Wagnall's, and the Century Dictionary offer these words beginning with lampro-Lamprocolius lampron Lamprophane lamprophanite lamprophoner lamprophonia lamprophony lamprophyllite lamprophyre lamprophyric lampropid Lampropidae lampropoid Lamprops Lampropsidae Lamprosoma Lamprotes Lamprotinae Lamprotornis Lamprotornithinae lamprotype

And just to show that the unabridged dictionaries don't contain all the words, here are another five lampro- words from An Illustrated Medical Dictionary (Foster, 1892): lamprocarpous lamprophyllus lampropus lamprospermous lamprotometer

Darryl Francis

Brampton, Cumbria, England
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Author:Francis, Darryl
Publication:Word Ways
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 1, 2019
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