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Word Gone Missing
Written December 22, 2017


Hello, Mr. Thomas.  My name is Karen Gillan.

Nice to meet you, Karen!  And what is it that do you do?

I'm an actress.  I've appeared in several TV shows and motion pictures.

Have I seen any of them?

My latest film is called Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.


Here's a scene from it.

Which one are you?

The second from the left.

The one wearing half a shirt?  And short shorts?

That's me.  Great outfit for the jungle, isn't it?

Whatever you say.

So what's going on in your life, Mr. Thomas?  Any exciting adventures?

Let me think.  Uh, yes, there was one, a few weeks ago.

Oh, that's wonderful!  I'd love to hear all about it.

Well, you see, I almost had to report a defective dictionary.


I bought it a long while ago.

A "dictionary," you say.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, copyright 1971.

It's an ancient artifact!

Sixteen hundred pages.  Weighs five pounds.

Have you opened this volume recently?  Have you looked inside?

I don't consult it very often these days.  If I'm curious about a word, the Internet can give me its definition and its etymology.  And my computer can even pronounce the word for me.

How very fascinating.

But I was working a puzzle one day.

You were puzzled?

Yes, my assignment required making a nine-letter word by filling in four blank spaces.  Here it is.

A F F A _ A _ _ _

That's simple.  You could use any letters.  For example, Q, H, Y, and Z.



Well, you could, except affaqahyz isn't an actual word.

Oh, I see.  Hmm.  Let me think.

I thought and I thought, and I was stumped.  I decided to cheat.

No!  Cheating?  Not you!

I retrieved that archaic dictionary from my bookcase, and I looked for any words beginning with affa.

And what did you find?

There were only three: affair, affable, and affability.

But that doesn't make sense.  None of those solve the puzzle, do they?

A F F A _ A _ _ _

Affair and affable are too short.  Affability is too long.  And none of them contain that third A.


No word fits all the blanks!  That's horrible!

I was baffled.  I was at a loss.

You're telling me you and your dictionary were unable to solve the mystery.  That's such a tragic disappointment!

There, there, Karen. 

It makes me want to cry!

Don't take it so hard.  Your mascara is starting to run.

(Sniff.)  Sorry.  I hesitate to ask, but were there any other means of cheating available to you?

There was one.

What was that?

I turned to the back of the puzzle book, and I looked up the answer.

No!!!  Not that!

I had no choice.  It had to be done.  It was the only way to save my sanity.

And what did you find?

The answer was affadavit.


Of course!  Affadavit.  The mystery is solved.

But hold on a moment.  That's a perfectly good legal term.  Why had it gone missing from your dictionary?

I was wondering about that myself.

Perhaps affadavits had not yet been invented back in 1971!


This matter requires an investigation.  We must get to the bottom of it.  I shall contact Scotland Yard immediately!

Who do you think ... no, never mind.  I already launched my own investigation.

How did you do that?

I began to compose a complaint to the publisher.

Good for you.

But as soon as I typed the word affadavit, my computer autocorrected it to affidavit.

Let me see.  Yes, my phone does the same thing.  Of course!  It makes perfect sense to spell it that way, with an i.

It does?

Certainly.  Af·fid·avit.  See the Latin root fid in the middle?  That means "trust" or "good faith."  Semper fidelis, you know.

So it was the puzzlemaster who made the mistake in spelling, then!

Yes!  Now is affidavit-with-an-i actually in your big old dictionary?

I looked it up.  It's there.


The book is vindacated.

I believe you mean vindicated.

So I do.





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