Two weeks ago we asked for a chain of words leading from Major to Blair, at each step changing, omitting, or adding one letter, or making an anagram. The absolutely shortest list came from John Mann, with an odd selection : Major, manor, mano (a millstone or large shark), mand (Spenserian for "manned" or a Hindi word for raggee), maid, laid, lair, Blair. Without recourse to the full OED, the shortest, sent in by many, seems: Major, manor, Roman, roan, loan, loin, lain, lair, Blair. But should we permit "Roman"? The shortest with common, non-capitalized words, seems to be: Major, manor, miner, mine, fine, fin, fir, fair, lair, Blair (or variations). Prizes to: John Mann, EE Skeet, Audrey Mann.
Our butcher is a curious fellow. He uses letters instead of numbers when marking the prices on meat. I asked him once how he remembered which letters stood for which digits. "That's simple," he replied, "GOOSE plus GOOSE equals TURKEY." Then he added: "Don't forget the PORK."
"You mean," I replied, "don't forget that PORK can't begin with a zero, I suppose?"
"Neither can GOOSE or TURKEY," he said.
So what is the value of PORK? Entries to: Pastimes, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Chambers Dictionary prizes will be awarded to the first three correct answers opened on 27 December.