A Long Word--With a Curious Property

Dec 25, 2006

RAY: I had to help out Kenneth Letz who sent in the kernel of this puzzler. In fact, I helped out so much, he won't even recognize it.

In the good old USA we still use something called the "British" system of measurement, i.e., the mile, the gallon, the bushel, the inch, the rod, while practically the entire rest of the world has embraced the elegant simplicity of the metric system.

As you would expect American car manufacturers used the British system until globalization infiltrated the marketplace and forced them to adopt the metric system. Well, nowadays every American manufacturer uses the metric system almost exclusively. So that practically every fastener--you know nuts and bolts and whatnot--is measured in millimeters and even torque specifications are now given in Newton-meters and not foot-pounds.

I travel quite a bit and I spend a lot of time in Bucharest, Romania, where they most likely have never heard of the British system of measurement. While being chauffeured around town one day and sitting in in traffic, I noticed something interesting. I noticed that every car from the lowly Dacia, where none of the body parts quite fit, to the high-end Mercedes, is using the British system of measurement. That's right, there's something on all of these cars, that is not metric. What is it?

I'm going to give you a hint. Your Toyota or your Volvo or any car that you drive in the United States might have the same part that's not metric; that is, it's using the British system of measurement.
RAY: This wasn't so easy to solve necessarily. I came up with five nine-letter words: Splitting, stringier, restarted, and strapping.

TOM: Umm. And all simple words.

RAY: And then somebody emailed us an answer that said restarting could work, and restarting could become restating, estating, stating, sating, sting, sing, sin, in and I.

TOM: Sure.

RAY: So we thought that that ten-letter word was the winner, I mean the nine, I thought the nine was the winner, then we got these emails from all the Scrabble nuts out there --

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: We got this 11-letter word. I never would have come up with this word on my own, and some of them are very archaic words. The word is complecting, C-O-M-P-L-E-C-T-I-N-G.

TOM: That's a word?

RAY: Well, it means joining by weaving. So I'm complecting a garment. I'm a complecting the sleeve onto my jacket. It's not commonly used, and it becomes completing, competing, compting which I guess is a word.

TOM: Ahh.

RAY: So these are all legitimate Scrabble words, and then it goes on, compting, comping, coping, oping, which I did hear of before, ping, pig, pi, and I. We're accepting it and to that end we have determined that we have a winner.

TOM: We do. The winner is Thomas Barr from Harvey Mudd College out in California somewhere. And for having his answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Thomas is going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at Cartalk.com, with which he can get a pair of our Dipstick Coffee Mugs. These are yellow ceramic mugs that appear from the outside to be one third filled with oil.

RAY: And you know where we got the idea for that mug, don't you?

TOM: Yeah. The holiday party when we filled the decaf decanter with Castrol 20W50.

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