He sends out a simple email every day, A.Word.A.Day, containing a word, its definition and etymology, and an example of its current contextual usage; this to more than a quarter million subscribers in about 170 countries. And he has been doing it since 1994.
The New York Times calls his mails “arguably the most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace.” The Wall Street Journal compares him to Tom Sawyer, who has managed to alter others’ views about fence painting, and points to the numbers who happily join painting his wall with words.
Add the fact that this is an immigrant whose first language is not English, a man who has had no “English connection” till high school. Anu Garg is a man with a mission. This Seattle-settled Master in Computer Science, hailing from Uttar Pradesh, went out west two decades ago like any other techie. But eventually the love of words took over and he left corporate life to work full-time on spreading the joy of words. Wordsmith.org was born of this love, with a mission to spread the magic of words and completes 19 years of service to the “wordaholics” this month.>
AG: I have a master’s in computer science. I worked in several corporations for many years. I enjoyed it, but eventually the love of words overpowered and I left corporate life to work full-time on spreading the joy of words.
AG: Stuti is the voice behind words. She records words in her mellifluous voice so that people can listen to accurate pronunciation of words.
SB: How many subscribers do you have for a word a day rt now? How many countries are they from?
AG: The daily newsletter A.Word.A.Day is the most popular. Besides that we have The Internet Anagram Server that can be used to generate anagrams of a word or phrase. The Wordserver offers dictionary, thesaurus, acronym, and anagram services by email. There’s also an anagram animation engine, forum to discuss words and languages, and a few
I organize words into themes. One week I might feature eponyms, words that are derived from people’s names (for example, shrapnel, after a British army officer). Another time I might feature words borrowed from a language, such as Sanskrit (e.g. nirvana). Possibilities are endless.
AG: In March this year we’ll complete our 19 years.
AG: I speak on topics related to words and languages in various venues. I also appear in radio and TV programs to discuss issues related to language. I’ve written articles and columns for various magazines.
SB: Any honours that have come to you through the alphabet? Tell us more on that aspect
AG: Well, words are something that everyone can relate to. Our subscribers include people from all walks of life, from accountants to zookeepers. In general, these are people who share a joy of words. Words are like air, we can’t see them, but they are just as essential.
SB: Any expansion/diversification plans?
AG: There are so many words in the English language that it would take several lifetimes to cover them all though. So many words, so little time. I hope to continue to write about words, talk about them, publish books, articles, and so on for a long time.
SB: Your books? the reception to it on Amazon is said to be fantastic… tell us about it and how it happened.
SB: What else would you like to tell us?
AG: Some people believe they don’t care for words beyond what they already know. They think everyday words are good enough. They are afraid if they use an unusual word in their conversation or writing, others may not understand them. I think it’s a catch-22. People don’t want to use an unusual word because it may be unknown to others, and it’s unknown
because people don’t use it.
The way I see it, words are like colors on a palette. You don’t have to use all those colors in a painting, but it helps to be able to find just the right shade when you need it. Words work the same way. The right words helps us to portray our thoughts and ideas just as we have
them in our mind. We don’t want to use an unusual word just for the sake of using it,
but if it fits, why not use it?
An edited version of this interview appeared in a feature form on the Sunday magazine of The Hindu dated 23 March, 2013.