The original meaning of this word is the science or study of words, from the Greek logos + the familiar suffix -ology (the study of), itself also derived from the Greek logos.

Logology is sometimes conceived of as a search for god/gods/religion. For example, Kenneth Burke tried to elucidate the divine roots of human motivations and orientations by studying theological words. More recently one Sergeant Adolf C. Barr of the United States Army (Retired), who claims to be the Research Director of the Institute For Logology Studies in Durham, North Carolina, has argued that "the apparent disorderliness of the universe conceals a rational pattern" which can be understood through the study of numbers and words. Utilizing numerology and logology, Barr has apparently discovered how to "solve all problems in all fields or your problems on cures and all other things that God have created". (Barr has rather poor English for a person so obsessed with words.) Barr works at:

"converting the numbers of a word into their numbers equivalents, adding them up and putting them into nine groups (intellectual and elementary) and then substituting another word which adds to the same in the group that is complete or adding on another word till it become complete ,and using the switch turns on this power automatically, in the same way that pressing the light switch turns on the lights."

More prosaically, logology is used to refer to games using words. This new meaning was apparently put forward by Dmitri Borgmann in his 1965 book in Language on Vacation; he used the word to mean wordplay or recreational linguistics. Richard Lederer, who introduced this word to me in his role as guest host of A.Word.A.Day this week, is something of a logologist himself, and he is enamoured of the word logology for a number of rather obscure reasons which recall to mind, but are rather more elegantly put, than the obsessions of Barr:

  • Logology encompasses two five-letter palindromes - logol and golog.
  • The word as a whole alternates between consonant and vowel.
  • In lower case, its odd letters alternate between rising above the writing line (the two l's) and dropping below that line (the two g's).
  • By assigning a value of 1 to the letter a, 2 to b, and so on up to 26 for z, the word logology averages 13.5, the midpoint of the alphabet.

I take all this to mean that logology attracts those quirky characters interested in the mystery of words.

Barr's odd introduction to his work can be found reproduced many places on the internet, including www.4lottous.com/Institute.htm

stavr0 informs me that the Scrabble score for logology would be 13, which I think we both agree is eerie.

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