Log-o-phil-ia Is Addictive

WARNING: Words fill Anu Garg’s dreams, and waking hours too. He shares his favorites on the Web with thousands

In 1994 a computer-sciences graduate student in Ohio named Anu Garg posted this announcement on the Web: "I have created a wordserver which will mail out an English vocabulary word and its definition to the subscribers, every day." The server was called Wordsmith; the service, A Word a Day (AWAD). Within a year, l0,000 word lovers had signed up. Today about 400,000 AWAD addicts in some 200 countries are enjoying what is by any measure one of the most intelligent free services available anywhere. It can be found at www.wordsmith.org.

Like most great ideas, this one is simple. A different word appears on the computer terminal each day along with its definition, its etymology, a quote showing it in use and maybe a few reflections about it. Not just any words, of course — obscure ones, or big ones, or weird ones, or funny ones. In short, words that are interesting, like Garg himself.

Educated in India before enrolling at Case Western Reserve University on a scholarship, he's an inveterate punster, rides a unicycle, juggles and is thinking about taking up tightrope walking. He believes words are much more than instruments of communication. Improving people's vocabularies, he says, makes for a better world. "I have a dream where society will replace guns with dictionaries."

If that ever happens, who would deny Anu Garg his share of the credit?

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