Geek Trivia: What unlikely entertainer owned the original version of Gmail?

There's a great deal of history and interest tied up in gmail.com -- which is interesting, considering Google's webmail service is the second free online email provider to reside at that domain.

This week's quibble comes from the Sept. 30, 2011 edition of Geek Trivia, which asked what English town is infamous for its role in testing early profanity filters?

Member AnsuGisalas felt compelled to enumerate all the possible classes of word-confusion out there:

Bank and bank and bank are homonyms.

If they are spelled differently, but spoken the same, they are heterographic homophones.

There, they're and their are heterographic homophones.

If they are written the same, but pronounced differently, they are heterophonic homographs.

Desert and desert are heterophonic homographs

There lots of confusion, which is likely intentional, since this is really just a standard three-bit (triple binary) variation: Meaning match 1 or 0, Spelling match 1 or 0, Pronounciation match 1 or 0 (I'll call this set MSP)

M1S1P1 = these are instances of the same lexeme (same meaning, sound and writing)

M1S0P1 = these are words with one meaning, and one pronounciation, but different writings - word sets like "thru/through" and "color/colour".

M1S1P0 = similarly, these are words with one meaning, one spelling but different pronunciations, this obviously is usually a case of dialectal differences, like the famous song by the Gershwins "Let's call the whole thing off".

M0S1P1 = these are Homographic Homophones (which are called homonyms - so far so good)

M0S0P1 = these are Heterographic Homophones (which are called heterographs - slightly confusing)

M0S1P0 = these are heterophonic homographs (which are very confusingly called heteronyms or less confusingly, heterophones)

M1S0P0 = these are words which are not spelled the same, nor spoken the same, but mean the same... in other words they are synonyms.

M0S0P0 = this set of values describes the relationship between the vast majority (I believe it's warranted this time, Santeewelding) of lexemes; they don't mean the same, they're not spelled the same, and they're not pronounced the same, either. Since these are heterophonic heterographs, this is what makes me think the above naming conventions seem to be intentionally confusing.

I'll endeavor to be equally thorough in my future etymological inquisitions. Thanks for the clarification, and keep those quibbles coming!


Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...


I'll be Mr. Obvious and say the quibble is hiding behind the word "version". In the intra-title zone, you can replace "version" with "domain name". Elsewhere with (± similar) "name", trademark", or "domain name". That quibbleable material is too easily found, so maybe it's misdirection. What about the use of some form of "etymological" in the previous quibble and its antecedent article? Now I just feel pedantic, and not quibbly at all. Nothing debatable of note here. Maybe Waldo really is well hidden. :) Cool history of gmail. Still like Ansu's orthography-plus* chart, too. _ * Whatever you'd actually call this, I have no idea.


Next week when I venture to London's Silicon Roundabout (aka Tech City) I'll be wearing my G&R necktie: My usual protest about Google 'pinching' the GMail name. During the early 1990s, I had an account on the GMAIL X.400 messaging service provided by the Anglo-Norwegian company Gallagher & Robertson AS. (G&R) We had several useful products from G&R.


Ah. Gallagher & Robertson. Of course! I thought you were referring to the rock band Guns 'n Roses. "What? There's a Guns 'n Roses necktie?"

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