only the two: hungry and angry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am told that there is a third common English word ending in -gry, apart from angry and hungry: what is it? Printer Friendly Version
You are told wrong! There isn't one!
This `riddle' has been circulating in email for years now, in various forms of words, and had appeared in print media before that. Dictionary and reference departments the world over have been plagued by questions about it. It seems to have originated as a trick question, but the wording has become so garbled in subsequent transmission that it is hard to tell what was originally intended. The most probable answer is that, in the original wording, the question was phrased something like this:
Think of words ending in -gry. `Angry' and `hungry' are two of them. What is the third word in the English language? You use it every day, and if you were listening carefully, I've just told you what it is.
The answer, of course, is `language' (the third word in `the English language').
There are several other English words ending in -gry which are listed in the complete Oxford English Dictionary, but none of them could be described as common. They include the trivial oddities un-angry and a-hungry, and
aggry: aggry beads, according to various 19th-century writers, are coloured glass beads found buried in the ground in parts of Africa.
begry: a 15th-century spelling of beggary.
conyngry: a 17th-century spelling of the obsolete word conynger, meaning `rabbit warren', which survives in old English field names such as `Conery' and `Coneygar'.
gry: the name for a hundredth of an inch in a long-forgotten decimal system of measurement devised by the philosopher John Locke (and presumably pronounced to rhyme with `cry').
higry-pigry: an 18th-century rendition of the drug hiera picra.
iggry: an old army slang word meaning `hurry up', borrowed from Arabic.
meagry: a rare obsolete word meaning `meagre-looking'.
menagry: an 18th-century spelling of menagerie.
nangry: a rare 17th-century spelling of angry.
podagry: a 17th-century spelling of podagra, a medical term for gout.
puggry: a 19th-century spelling of the Hindi word pagri (in English usually puggaree or puggree), referring either to a turban or to a piece of cloth worn around a sun-helmet.
skugry: 16th-century spelling of the dialect word scuggery meaning `secrecy' (the faint echo of `skulduggery' is quite accidental!).
How many words end in -gry?
by Glenn Kersten, December 1999
Just when we rejoice that a dagger has finally been driven through its heart, a verbal vampire pops out of its casket when new library staff hear it for the first time. I’m speaking, of course, about the infamous -gry question. How the question is worded does make a difference (more about that later), but here is the usual formulation:
There are three words in the English language that end with the suffix -gry. Two of them are angry and hungry. What is the third?
This is possibly the single most popular question to be asked at SLS Reference Service over the years, and the interest is by no means confined to our region. The STUMPERS-L discussion group on the Internet has recorded the same query from reference librarians all over the country, again and again—and again. We've discussed it several times before (most recently in Points of Reference, February 1995 and May 1996 issues), but we now have new information about this bad penny.
Why waste time writing an essay about a trivia question like this? Because the question is a recurring one for which many reference librarians have duplicated their efforts—often in the wrong direction. It's time to pound the final nails into the coffin.
Taken at face value, the -gry question can be researched like any other. The most widely quoted source for words with the suffix -gry is the Oxford English Dictionary (second edition), which lists six words in addition to angry and hungry: aggry, a glass bead found buried in the soil of Ghana; anhungry, a word used by Shakespeare to mean "not hungry"; meagry, of meager appearance; podagry, gout in the feet; puggry, an alternate spelling for puggree, a light scarf worn around a hat or helmet to protect one's head from the sun; and gry itself, a word meaning variously "the grunt of a pig," "the dirt under a fingernail," "the veriest trifle," or "to rage, roar." Some of these unusual words from the OED may also be found in dictionaries of American English; in particular, Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language and Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary.
Thanks to new technology we can expand the list of words so painstakingly developed from paper sources above. In "The Exchange" column in the Winter 1994 issue of RQ (p. 144), Charles Anderson reports that the new Oxford English Dictionary on CD-ROM permits left-hand truncation, which allows one to search for suffixes and word fragments. Using this feature, several additional words were found: a-hungry, begry, conyngry, higry-pigry, iggry, land-hungry, leather-hungry, man-hungry, mawgry, nangry, skugry, unangry, and yerd-hungry. (It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine the definitions of these unusual words—Ed.) If we use the OED on CD-ROM as our authority, and include angry and hungry, the total number of such words increases to 21.
The Ann Landers booklet Nuggets and Doozies (1991) reprints a column discussing the question. She contacted George Scheetz, director of the Sioux City (Iowa) Public Library, who sent a list of 48 (that's right - 48!) words that end in -gry. Upon examination, though, his list was found to have many place names (e.g., Wigry, a lake in Poland), dialectical spelling variants (e.g., hongry) and obsolete Old English words like meat-hungry and fire-angry. When boiled down, his list offered nothing more than those listed above.
How legitimate are these alternative -gry words? Every one of the words listed above (with the exception of angry and hungry) is considered to be rare, obsolete, or an unusual spelling variant. David Guralnik, editor of Webster's New World Dictionary, states flatly that there are no other "native English words" ending with -gry except for angry and hungry.
Guralnik, by the way, was quoted by William Safire in his 1982 book What's the Good Word? Safire wrote two entertaining pages about the grief caused by searching for -gry words and sums up the question as well as anyone could: "It's a hoax, designed to provoke hours of useless brainracking."
In fact, the -gry question is not so much a riddle as a practical joke. One enterprising reference librarian found an eight-page pamphlet (no copyright date, but from the appearance probably printed in the 1940s) entitled Things to Think About. The booklet was filled with riddles, including the following:
There are three words in the English language that end with -gry. Two of these are angry and hungry. The third word is a very common word, and you use it often. If you have read what I have told you, you will see that I have given you the third word. What is the third word? Think very carefully.
Three! The question has nothing to do with angry, hungry, or any of the many other obscure words that end in -gry, it is a simple question asking you what the third word in the sentence is. As you take tests, remember this.
This may be close to the original form of the riddle, but it has become so muddled over the years that there are several versions, some that offer a twist on the practical joke aspect and others that have completely lost the original joke. Here is another version:
Two words that end in -gry are angry and hungry. There are three words in the English language. What is the third word? It's a common word that everyone knows.
This time the prankster is actually asking us to ignore the first sentence entirely, and concentrate on the phrase "the English language." The third word of that phrase, of course, is the word language. (The groan you hear may be your own.)
One more twist on the basic theme should be mentioned, because it has appeared in the popular Parade Magazine, the Sunday newspaper supplement; consequently, many people have become familiar with it:
There are at least three words in the English language that end in G or Y. One of them is hungry and another one is angry. There is a third word, a short one which you probably say every day. If you are listening carefully to everything I say, you just heard me say it three times. What is it?
When the listener gives up, you explain: "You assumed I said 'G-R-Y,' but in fact I said 'G or Y,' and the word is say." This version was suggested by Charles Wiedemann of Hackettstown, NJ, and published in Marilyn Vos Savant's column in the March 9, 1997, issue of Parade Magazine).
Fortunately, the popularity of the -gry puzzle has lessened since the boom era of 1995-1996, but SLS Reference Service still receives the question from time to time. Since the same question was a fad in 1978 (see our articles in the November and December 1978 issues of Points of Reference), it looks as though reference librarians should prepare for a 17-year cycle. Hmmm, remind you of anything? The next plague should hit reference desks in the year 2012.
There are now several Web pages that show wandering librarians the path to the Holy Gry-l. The most extensive was created by Lois Fundis, a reference librarian from West Virginia. She offers still more gry-st for the mill, including additional versions of the question, quotations from various authorities, and links to other Internet resources.
You can reach this excellent Web page through the Unofficial Stumpers-L Web site (which itself is worth bookmarking for the useful reference question archives). The -gry question is posted with such disturbing regularity here that some members of Stumpers-L announce, "It’s time for my oil change!"
Go to: Unofficial Stumpers-L
Click on the button marked "Reference Collection."
Click on the link marked "More about the '-gry' riddle."
For those who want further help with the "serious" interpretation of -gry, here is a Web page of words that end with that suffix. The list was compiled by members of the Usenet group rec.puzzles:
Solution to the Language/English/Spelling/Gry Problem http://einstein.et.tudelft.nl/~arlet/puzzles/sol.cgi/languag...
Good gry-f, indeed!
Glenn Kersten is a Research Librarian at the Suburban Library System Reference Service.
GRRRRR . . . I mean -gry.
A question frequently asked of reference librarians, word mavens, etc., is
"There are three words in the English language that
end in -gry. One is hungry and one is angry;
what is the third?"
Here is a picture of a reference librarian who has heard this question one time too many:
(Not really. Click on the painting to find out more about the artist.)
Actually, many words end in -gry, including gry itself, although all but angry and hungry are rare, foreign, obscure or obsolete.The most common "answers" are aggry, a burial bead from Ghana, puggry, a scarf worn around the neck in India to protect the head from the sun, and anhungry, an obsolete form of hungry that was used once in one of Shakespeare's less-popular plays (Coriolanus, Act I, Scene I, line 209); this association with the Bard is enough to earn it a place in Merriam-Webster's Third New International (unabridged) Dictionary of the English Language.
"But that can't be the answer," you groan. No. It's not. There is no answer.
The puzzle is WRONG. "It's a fraud, it's a fake," says Will Shortz, who is the puzzle editor of the New York Times and the host of a puzzle segment on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition (NPR, 11/10/96). The actual truth is that
NO other common English word ends in -gry! It's a trick question -- and the trick, at least in some versions, has been lost. Word-puzzle fans and reference librarians have been trying for years to track the question's history to find the original answer. But to do that we need to know what the original question was. And there are several different versions in circulation purporting to be the original.
A very early version, found in an old book by a member of the Stumpers list, goes like this:
"There are three words in the English language that end with 'gry'. Two of these are angry and hungry. The third word is a very common word, and you use it often. If you have read what I have told you, you will see that I have given you the third word. What is the third word? Think very carefully."
The next page of the book gave this answer:
"Three, the question has nothing to do with angry, hungry, or any of the many other obscure words that end in 'gry', it is a simple question asking you what the third word in the sentence is. As you take tests, remember this."
The full text of the e-mail containing this version is quoted at the bottom of this page.
As asked on the Bob Grant radio show (New York City) in 1975, which many experts believe to be the earliest documented version, it went:
"There are only 3 words in the English language, all adjectives, which end in -gry. Two are angry and hungry; the third word describes the state of the world today. What is it?"
(Several sources say this was "taken from an old book", which leaves open the question of whether it was from the same book referred to in the e-mail above, or whether there were already multiple forms of the puzzle going around.)
According to Ross Eckler of Word Ways magazine, while there are "nearly one hundred" words ending in -gry, none of them are common. But only one of them (besides angry and hungry) is an adjective, and that is meagry, a word found in the Oxford English Dictionary which means "meager." So meagry would seem to answer the question, at least in this form.
Yet another version that many believe is the original, "right" form of the question, goes thus:
"Two words that end in -gry are 'angry' and 'hungry'. There are three
words in the English language. What is the third word? It's a common word
that everyone knows."
In this case, the answer is the third word in the phrase "the English language", i.e. "language"! The part about "angry and hungry" turns out to be a red herring. (from COPYEDITING-L list and the rec.puzzles Usenet newsgroup's FAQ) People who don't know the trick to this puzzle, by changing the wording when they pass the question along, have mangled the question until there is no real answer! Most people now seem to accept this as the "real" answer.
A similar suggestion (from Charles Wiedemann of Hackettstown, NJ, printed in Marilyn Vos Savant's column in Parade magazine March 9, 1997) is that the original form was
"There are at least three words in the English language that end in G or Y.
One of them is "hungry" and another one is "angry". There is a third word, a
short one which you probably say every day. If you are listening carefully to
everything I say, you just heard me say it three times. What is it?"
When the listener gives up, you explain: "You assumed I said "G-R-Y", but in fact I said "G or Y", and the word is "say". Because so many people read Parade as part of their Sunday newspaper, this version is gaining ground.
The other word ending in -gry by Dave Friedman at http://www.fun2play.com/gry/ has still more links and yet another solution ("What is the third word" is not a question but the answer, he suggests)! Useless Knowledge (an apt summary of this whole thing!) quotes the form of the puzzle that would give this answer as follows:
There are two words that end with "gry".
Angry is one and hungry is another.
What is the third word.
Everyone uses it every day and
Everyone knows what it means.
If you have been listening,
I have already told you what the word is.
Notice that the third line "sounds" like a question when read.
In this version, what is the answer to the puzzle! (At least, I guess, when he's not playing second base.)
Still another variation which appeared on Stumpers is worded as follows:
There are three words in the English language that end in gry. The first ONE is hungry, the second is angry, and the third everyONE uses everyday. If you have read this carefully I have given a clue.
Worded this way, with such emphasis on "one", one could make the case that one possible answer is "one", in other words, the "third ONE".
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