Kangaroo words. Turns out they’re a thing. I discovered them relatively recently, and only because they’re an added fun fact in my daily puzzle page app.
But now I dig deeper I discover there’s a whole website devoted to them (https://kangaroowords.com*).
So, what is a kangaroo word? Is it one that jumps about on the page? Is it Australian slang? Is it one that keeps a baby joey in its pouch?
No, no and sort of.
Yeah, sort of.
According to the website, a kangaroo word is one that ‘contains letters of another word, in order, with the same or similar meaning’.
So it sort of contains a baby joey word in the pouch of the bigger word.
That’s literally why they’re called kangaroo words.
p R O m e n A D e
You can see the word ‘road’ picked out as capitals in the synonymous word, promenade.
Another good one is C o n T A I N e r, which, erm, contains two synonyms, ‘can’ and ‘tin’.
That’s known as a ‘twin kangaroo word’, for obvious reasons.
A ‘grand kangaroo word’ is one that has two joey words but one within the other, so even the baby joey has a pouch containing another baby joey.
e x P U R G a t E, which incorporates ‘P U R g E’, which contains ‘pure’.
I’m not going to lie, I love this little wordy gimmick. It was clearly an accidental development but very much suits my penchant for linguistic schtick.
Whoever noticed this particular coincidence** and named it also saw fit to note the ‘anti-kangaroo word’, which is not, as you might think, just two words sitting next to one another, but a word containing a joey word that is its antonym, such as
A n i M o s I T Y.
Animosity here holds the word ‘amity’, a word very much opposite in meaning.
And now you know about them, I’m sure you’ll be going through all the words – yes, ALL OF THEM – with a fine-toothed comb looking for little baby joey words.
*If you do visit this website, you will find it is a veritable rabbit hole of interesting etymological information.
** Ben O'Dell, in an article for The American Magazine in the 1950s, later reprinted in Reader's Digest. Sadly, though I scoured the internet for about 15 minutes, I couldn’t find out anything more about Mr O’Dell.