Words: syzygy, n.

IN A chain of association that estimable journal The Lady is more likely to prompt "embroidery patterns" than "syzygy", but this oddball and perfectly-justifed reply would denote a person of rare intelligence and wit.

It was in The Lady, in 1891, that Lewis Carroll first published a syzygy after it had been rejected by Vanity Fair. The idea came to him 12 years earlier, from the Greek for yoke, which, in this case, are the adjacent letters shared, or made to share, by opposite words, as in dog and cat: dog; endogen; gentry; intricate; cat.

It can get far more complicated, and deserves a place in the OED amid the mathematical, biological, astronomical, prosodical and religious senses, from which Carroll's syzygy is a fortifying diversion.

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