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Richard Walker

The Last Word

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An old puzzle asks about the Anagram Dictionary; if we took all the words in the dictionary and in each word sorted its letters alphabetically, then took all the alphabetised words and in turn sorted them alphabetically - what would then be the last word? Of course we want proper words, so ‘Z’ on its own for example doesn’t count.

So ‘cat’ would become ‘act’ and be listed under the ‘a’s, ‘mouse’ would become ‘emosu’ and come under the ‘e’s and so on. When we try to think what would come last under such a scheme words like ’onyx’ naturally come to mind. But that will be listed under ‘o’. A better attempt is ‘yurt’ (a Mongolian tent) which will be under ‘r’. Then there’s ‘tutu’ (a ballet skirt), listed under ‘t’ and for a long time I thought this couldn’t be improved on.

But it turns out there is ‘xu’, a Vietnamese currency unit, which would be listed under ‘u’. So is this the last word?

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