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Word Nerd

picture of Dr. Seuss

Theodor Geisel, born on March 2, 1904, would have celebrated his 105th birthday today, had he not died in 1987. He is better known by a title and his middle name – Dr. Seuss. Children and adults alike love his books for their fun use of words, rhyme, and rhythm.

Our children had several Dr. Seuss books that they loved especially – The Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks, and Green Eggs and Ham. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them aloud to the children, but Fox in Socks was quite a challenging tongue twister!

picture of Nerd

Dr. Seuss combined words to make new words that were known only in his books. I'll have to ask Dave over at The History Bluff to verify this, but it is believed that Dr. Seuss coined the word "nerd" that has taken on a life of its own. I've read that the first documented use of the word was a character named Nerd (seen in the picture on the right) in the story If I Ran the Zoo in 1950 ... just in time for my birth the following year. Phew! I don't know if I could have been a nerd in high school otherwise! 😯

Now that I've moved on to become a computer geek, I have to admit that I'm still a word nerd. As a language teacher, I love words. I marvel at Dr. Seuss's ability to put words together in such fun patterns.

My word play is definitely more in punning rather than in rhyming. In honor of Theodor Seuss Geisel's birthday, I'm posting some fun puns.

Abacus: a calculator used by early geeks.

Baker: A person who works for money because he kneads the dough

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.

The butcher backed up into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

picture of the cat in the hat

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.

The thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

Adam's rib: the original bone of contention.

Air pollution is a mist-demeanor.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.

A thief fell and broke his leg in wet cement. He became a hardened criminal.

A gross ignoramus: 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus.

Thieves who steal corn from a garden could be charged with stalking.

We'll never run out of math teachers because they always multiply.

The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a number on it.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

The dead batteries were given out free of charge.

If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory.

A calendar's days are numbered.

The dentist and the manicurist fought tooth and nail.

Dow Jones Averages: Roamin' numerals


Here's the link to the official Dr. Seuss website.

Our daughter Megan and several other young mothers went together with their toddlers to see the Cat in the Hat at Pottery Barn Kids. Megan wasn't sure how Drew would react, but instead of being afraid, he was intrigued. All he wanted to do was to get a hold of the Cat in the Hat's red necktie. Here's a picture from that visit.

picture of Megan, Drew and the cat in the hat

Do you or your family members enjoy Dr. Seuss books? If so, what's your favorite?


"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss

=^..^= =^..^=

A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

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37 Comments on “Word Nerd”

  1. #1 Chris
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Hey Rob, in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday I built a LEGO sculpture of Green Eggs and Ham.

  2. #2 Rob
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 9:30 am

    @Chris – Pretty cool! Thanks for sharing. I have to ask if the ham is green all the way to the “bone”….

  3. #3 Dave
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Hi, Rob. I’ve taken quite the unintentional comment hiatus – I have quite a few posts to look through later this evening.

    You are correct that ‘nerd’ started with Dr. Seuss in the 50s. When you think about it, it looks like a word Dr. Seuss would come up with! By the 60s the word had spread throughout the US and even to Scotland. The show Happy Days used it heavily, guaranteeing that it wouldn’t only be popular with those who grew up in the 60’s.

    Some etymologists do think that the word nerd came from the 1940’s word ‘nert,’ which means ‘stupid/crazy person.’

    There you have it!

  4. #4 Michael
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Green Eggs and Ham is my favorite probably. Supposedly there’s a pretty funny SNL skit where Jesse Jackson reads that story. I also like Oh the Places You’ll Go. Friends of mine actually gave it to me for college graduation. I thought it was a silly gift until I read the book.

    Also, Dave at the History Bluff could also check this fact. I heard that Seuss was asked to use a very limited vocabulary in all his books. The idea was that the publishers wanted the books to be teachings tools for little readers. That might be why he coined words or combined words to make new ones. Once I heard that fact, I understood better why he wrote the way that he did.

  5. #5 Rob
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 10:21 am

    @Dave – I knew I could count on you to unearth that bit of history for us. Thanks for your research! I have to ask you – are you not an aficionado of Happy Days?

    @Michael – I hadn’t heard about JJ reading Green Eggs and Ham on SNL. You can’t believe how many decades it’s been since I’ve seen that show! As to the limited vocabulary, I believe you are right on target with that, from what I saw as I did a bit of research for this blog post. We’ll have to wait for the final word on that from Dave….

  6. #6 Donna
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 10:52 am

    The current favorites at our house are Hop on Pop and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? Oh, and the ABC book is always fun! Our almost-2-year-old has big chunks of these memorized. πŸ™‚

  7. #7 Ellen
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Having 4 young children, we read lots of Dr. Seuss. Our favorite that the children like to act out is “Hop on Pop,” though Daddy disagrees. :o) Our favorite just to read is probably “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket.”

  8. #8 David McGuire
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Great Dr. Seuss quote:

    β€œThe more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

    Also, Dr. Seuss wrote some of his books as not-so-subtle critiques of the totalitarianism that existed in the 1930s and 1940s.

    All in all, Dr. Seuss was an American cultural icon in the later twentieth century.

  9. #9 Lynnette J.
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I love tongue twisters! “Fox in Socks” is one of my favorites. The kids I worked with at the CDC enjoyed his alphabet book and one of my childhood favorites was “Green Eggs and Ham.”

  10. #10 Rob
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    @Donna and Ellen – It was great to have moms of small children chime in on this and to know that Dr. Seuss’s books are still alive and well.

    @David – Thanks for that Dr. Seuss quotation. It’s one that I considered for this blog post, but I chose the other one.

    @Lynnette – Thanks for the news that his books are hits in the CDC.

  11. #11 Shannah
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    My housemate and I read my favorite Dr. Seuss book this morning in honor of his birthday AND our highly unusual but very much enjoyed SNOW DAY! The book, naturally, is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.

  12. #12 Rob
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    @Shannah – Somehow Christmas and snow go together in my mind too…. Must be a language teacher “thing,” huh? πŸ™„

  13. #13 Deb
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    β€œDon’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

    Rob, thanks for identifying this as a Dr. Seuss quote. I’ve used it in scrapbooks before in reference to a wonderful vacation/trip being over, but I never knew who to credit.

  14. #14 Dave
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    @Michael – You’re right, he was given a list of words to draw from. Dr. Seuss was given slightly over 300 words by his publisher, who asked Seuss to reduce the list down to 250. Using only 236 of thpse words, he wrote Cat in the Hat in 1957.

    This all started because of a 1954 LIFE report on illiteracy in the nation – books had apparently become quite boring. I find it interesting the Crockett Craze started not long after the report. The craze was set off by the wildly popular Davy Crockett television series, which was responsible for one of the largest and most successful merchandising efforts in the history of America. …that was what Dr. Seuss was up against.

  15. #15 Rob
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    @Deb – Glad to be of service. πŸ™‚ There are all kinds of quotations that I’ve heard and even use whose source I don’t know.

    @Dave – Thanks for the info. You may be The History Buff before you know it … you’re getting so “buff” on these historical matters. πŸ˜€

  16. #16 Doodie
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    My favorite Dr. Seuss book is a little-known story called “Yertle the Turtle.” It has a great moral to it–if you haven’t read it yet, do! It seems to me that there were three stories in that big, green book. Although I don’t remember the title, there was a story about a vain bird-creature named Gertrude McFuzz. When I teach poetry, I always include some of Seuss!

  17. #17 Rob
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    @Doodie – I’ve heard of “Yertle the Turtle” but don’t recall ever reading it. I’ll have to check that one out. Thanks!

  18. #18 Bet
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    I don’t really recall reading most of the common Dr. Seuss books when I was a child. But the one I do remember is an unusual one because it is written in prose rather than rhyme. It’s called “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.” I’d love to get a copy of it because it’s been a long time since I read it, but for some reason it made a big impression on me!

  19. #19 Rob
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    @Bet – Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that one! If you ever locate it, you’ll have to let me take a look at it. It sounds most unusual for a Dr. Seuss book to be written in prose.

  20. #20 Dave
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    @Rob – Have you read the collection entitled “Dr. Seuss Goes to War”? It’s one of his earlier books – a collection of his earlier political cartoons. Quite interesting to see him dealing with things other than places we will go.

  21. #21 Rob
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    @Dave – I’m starting to see that I’m not nearly as well read when it comes to Dr. Seuss as I could be! I’ve never heard of that one either, but it sounds like one I’d like.

    All these comments have added so much to this post! Thanks to all. Hope many more will be added.

    I’d like to add Google’s picture today in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday:

    picture of Google's name today

  22. #22 Dave
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    @Rob – Do a simple Google Image Search for “Dr. Seuss Goes to War” and you can see many samples of his early work. It’s amazing to see his characters and drawings in a different context.

  23. #23 Wade
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 5:43 am

    My favorite Seuss books are Hop on Pop and Horton Hatches the Egg.

  24. #24 Rob
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 5:52 am

    @Dave – Wow! Those cartoons are great. It’s interesting that he signed them either Dr. Seuss or just Dr. S. He was drawing on the name recognition in trying to help the war effort.

    @Wade – I’ve read Horton Hatches the Egg, but I’ll have to check out Hop on Pop since several commenters have mentioned it.

  25. #25 Emily
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Our family also loved “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins” (and its sequel “Bartholomew and the Oobleck”). My absolute favorite growing up was “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose.” I was fond of reciting the fun alliterative line “moose-moss to munch.” πŸ™‚ Dr. Seuss was always a good read!

  26. #26 Rob
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    @Emily – Yikes! A sequel to a book I hadn’t heard of! I think I’ve heard of Thidwick, though, but haven’t read it. Thanks for adding to this thread.

  27. #27 Jessica
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    My little brother had quite the Dr. Seuss collection as a kid (though, to be completely honest, I think it was just as much my dad’s passion as his!) For my dad’s birthday two years ago I bought him You’re Only Old Once!: A Book for Obsolete Children. I don’t know how much he appreciated it. πŸ™‚

  28. #28 Marilyn Donnell
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    When I gave birth to baby #3 oh so many years ago – they wanted me to have a mantra – something to concentrate on in the natural birthing process. On the day all the verses I thought I would remember left me but I could recite all of Dr Seuss’s ABC’s. It came in quite handy! Now I’m reading the same book to my baby’s four children.

  29. #29 Rob
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    @Jessica – I’ll bet your dad appreciated the book, even though it might have come across as tasteless humor about his age. πŸ˜€

    @Marilyn – That’s a great story! And those intervening years probably flew by faster than you would have ever imagined, didn’t they?

  30. #30 Marie
    on Mar 4th, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I luv Dr. Seuss. As a writer, I find him most inspiring. You would not believe where he got some of the ideas for his books. His very first book, “And to Think that I saw it on Mulberry Street,” came from the rhythm he heard on a steamboat that was taking him across the Atlantic! He was pretty unusual. My favorite Seuss book…do I have to choose a favorite? Well, it would have to be “The Lorax,” despite its ecological agenda. I remember watching it (yes, watching) when I was little and I loved hearing the narrator talk about “where the grickle grass grows” and the “trufula trees” used to be. Only Seuss could have come up with something like “grickle grass” and “trufula trees.” Now, I have fun listening to the Seussical Broadway CD. My whole family has fun listening, actually. The words are still enchanting after all these years, and put to music they are even more fun!

  31. #31 Rob
    on Mar 5th, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    @Marie – Thanks for your comments. I’ve not read “The Lorax” and need to check it out. It sounds as if you could be called Seuss-Marie. πŸ™‚

  32. #32 JP
    on Mar 5th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    I had a friend who worked at a major PC manufacturing company give a talk to a group of their sales executives on how to close a deal. The classic text on it? Green Eggs and Ham.

  33. #33 Rob
    on Mar 5th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    @JP – That’s a riot … but not at all surprising. Great lessons in some of those “children’s books.” Thanks for the comment.

  34. #34 Vikki
    on Mar 5th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    At Universal Studios in Orlando, FL one of the parks is Islands of Adventure where you’ll find Seuss Landing. The whole thing is a life size Dr. Seuss city – kooky trees, lolly-pops, crooked buildings, etc. It was probably one of the “funnest” places we visited! One of the rides is a winding trip where you ride a couch through the pages of The Cat in the Hat.

  35. #35 Rob
    on Mar 5th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    @Vikki – Seuss Landing sounds like it would be great fun. We’ll have to put that on our “wish list” of places to go. πŸ™‚

  36. #36 Robin
    on Mar 6th, 2009 at 9:18 am

    I caught this entry a week late! I’m so sad because I am a huge Dr. Seuss fan. When my daughters were little (they are both adults now) we went to the library every week and came home with a bag FULL of books. (Gotta love especially the summer reading programs that libraries do!) We have read every, and I mean EVERY Dr. Seuss book many, many times. They just get better with every read. Although we enjoyed the short rhyming ones (Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham) our very favorites ones were the stories: The King’s Stilts, Bartholemew Cubbins, The Sneetches, If I Ran the Zoo/Circus.) How empty our bag would have been without Dr. Seuss!

  37. #37 Rob
    on Mar 6th, 2009 at 9:23 am

    @Robin – I’m glad you helped instill a love for books and reading into Megan and Melissa. I’m sure they’ll share same of those favorites with your grandchildren … some day. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading them to those grandkids. πŸ˜€