Puzzled by the ‘gry’ word?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I was entertained with a question just over a week ago from a longtime friend, Gen Harrell.

Gen and I share many things in common, one being the fact we both come from Woodland, but quite possibly the most unique is that we both love words.

She is far better with the usage of words than I could ever be, and on many evenings she and her husband, Stevie, spend hours working crossword puzzles just for fun.

Nevertheless, Gen prompted the question, &uot;There are three words in the English language that end with ‘gry,’ do you know what they are?&uot;

My first response was hungry, perhaps because I was at the moment, and she quickly added a second word, angry. &uot;Now,&uot; she said, &uot;Do you know what the other word might be because it’s about to drive us crazy trying to figure it out.&uot;

I pondered this question for the rest of the evening, the next day and into the first of last week. Not wanting to give up on this mystery, I decided to do some research.

One of the keys to this stumping question, is that the word – if one exist – is from the current English language.

To begin my research, I started with an obsolete word to see if it gave reason to a newer word having replaced it over the years.

That obsolete word is gry, a word that was used for measurements in twelfths. Again, this word is no longer used in the English language and so I had to add that to the obsolete file for the moment.

After a couple of hours of researching this particular word, it turns out there is no word that has derived from the old word gry, so I was no closer to solving the mystery than when I started.

This led to many other word searches, taking hours upon hours over the course of about a week. Stumped, I turned to the internet to see what I might find there.

It turns out there is no real answer to this third word, not unless you are able to use obsolete words, which we cannot. Simply put, there is no currently used word in the English language, other than the two mentioned above, hungry and angry.

Supposedly, the way the answer was originally asked is for a third word in the current English language that ends in the three letters, in the order of g, r and y.

My next venture was to find out where this question originated and why.

This so called quiz is believe to have been asked on a television show in the mid-1970s and quite possibly was misquoted over time.

It is believed the original question was in fact the same as Gen asked it to me, but perhaps because there seems to have never been an answer given on the quiz show – that anyone recalls – the question was actually a play on words.

So here I go looking into all those possibilities.

This doesn’t read well, but if asked orally, a person might present the question in this fashion: &uot;There are three words in the English language that end in ‘gree.’ One is ‘hungry,’ and one is ‘angry.’ If you listen closely you will agree that I’ve already told you the third one… what is it?&uot;

The answer to this play on words is agree.

Another possible way of presenting this question would be to get someone to concentrate mainly on gry, when in fact the question is asking for an answer that has nothing to do with this.

For example: &uot;Think of words ending in gry. Angry and hungry are two of them. There are only three words in &uot;the English language.&uot; What is the third word?

Obviously, the third word is &uot;language.&uot; The person has the audience thinking of gry, when in fact the real question is the ending of the three-word phrase &uot;the English language.&uot;

There are a couple of more play on words that have since circulated as possible original sources of the question, but it seems everything is a dead end to find either a solution or a true origin.

In some of the research, I stumbled over the likelihood the question started well before the mid-1970s, but no one has yet provided any solid information other than what I bring to your attention today.

So, you may ask, why did I bring this to your attention today? Perhaps, you may be thinking, there is an answer somewhere out there and perhaps it’s well hidden to the most of us.

There are over fifty obsolete words and common names that end in gry. Perhaps when the question originated, one of these words was still thought to be used in the English language – who knows.

It seems this question gets asked about twice every decade and each time it generates some frenzy as people try and solve the mystery.

I’m here to tell you today, there is no answer. The mystery lies more with the origin of the original question and how it was asked. But to the best of this old boy’s capability, there just isn’t an answer.