Word of the Day: Amphigory

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(n.); a nonsense verse; specifically, a poem designed to look and sound good, but which has no meaning upon closer reading; from the French amphigouri.

“Just imagine a typeface that could inspire empathy inherently based on the softness of a letter’s apex or by increasing or decreasing negative space in characters.”

–Liz Stinson, “Can Typography Help Us Empathize with Others?”

Like a reflection in water that disintegrates at the drop of a stone, beautiful words can be a mask overtop murky shallows—most avid readers have experienced the disappointment that comes with finishing a book that, no matter how superficially pleasing, falls flat in terms of profundity. And yet there are still those who celebrate the pure aesthetic value of language. Sound poets such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and B.P. Nichol explored the idea of foregrounding the phonetics of human speech above semantic meaning. Some, such as graphic designers Sam Barclay and Dan Britton, argue that the shape of letters themselves can have a profound emotional impact on the reader, even to induce empathy. Check out Liz Stinson’s fascinating article in Wired for the full scoop on Barclay’s and Britton’s typographical experiments.


Sara Menuck is currently pursuing BA in English & Professional Writing at York University, Toronto, without being very professional at all. Having interned with a variety of small press publications, she currently works as a prose reader for The Winter Tangerine Review, a department editorial assistant, and, in her free time, a teacher of music to very small, adorable children. More from this author →