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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Since playing Scrabble online and becoming familiar with the 100 or so two-letter words, I thought it would be fun to research some of their meanings. Here are a few of the more interesting finds.

Ai, pronounced ah-ee, is a two-letter word for a three-toed sloth, according to The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Third Edition.

Karoly Lorentey of Budapest, Hungary, "lorentey" on Flickr, shared this picture, "Linne's two-toed sloth," which was taken March 26, 2011 in Terezvaro, Budapest, according to the site. Lorentey wrote in the caption, "The Harpy Eagle likes to hunt these guys by snatching them from tree branches and flying them to its nest."

Sloths are slow-moving mammals with long, hook-like claws by which they hang upside down from tree branches, according to The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language, Third Edition. They eat leaves, buds and fruits, and live in Central and South America.

Sloths have a few teeth, as members of the Edentata order of mammals. Jacalyn Giacalone, who has a doctorate in Biology, discusses them in her article about sloths.

Ai refers to the three-toed sloth, not to be confused with unau, the two-toed sloth. Also, not to be confused with another two-letter word worth celebrating – op.

Op is a style of abstract art, according to The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Third Edition.

Op art, an abbreviation of Optical art, is a type of abstract art that exploits certain optical phenomena to cause a work to seem to vibrate, pulsate, or flicker, according to The Oxford Dictionary of Art.

This photo by Augusto Cesar Costa, "accosta" on Flickr, has a caption, "ceci ausi nes't pas une lampe," which as near as I can tell translates to, "This also is not a lamp." Well said.

Time magazine published a story in 1964 about the rise of Op art, “Op Art: Pictures That Attack The Eye.”

“Much op art is removed from the artist’s subjective discovery. It is the result of a mechanical muse, and the artist becomes a computer programmer churning out visual experiences,” the article reads.

Here’s what the story looked like in the magazine. And here’s a link to some of op artist Victor Vasarely’s work, for good measure, of course.

Ka is the spiritual self of a human being in Egyptian religion, according to The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Third Edition.

Britannica Online notes the exact significance of the ka remains a matter of controversy. Written in hieroglyph with uplifted arms, the ka seemed to originally been designated the protecting, divine spirit of a person.

The ka symbolizes the reception of life powers by each person from the gods, April McDevitt wrote on her Web site, Ancient Egypt: the Mythology.

When the ka acted, all was well both spiritually and materially, McDevitt wrote. The ka could also be seen as a guide, or conscience, for each person, urging kindness, quietude, honor and compassion.

The ka could survive after the death of the body in a picture or statue of a person, according to Britannica Online.

Ka, conscience, is one of three principal aspects of the soul. Ba, soul, and akh, effectiveness, are the other two.

Other two-letter notables:

Aa is rough, cindery lava.

Oe is a Forean wind.

Al is an East Indian tree.

Od is a hypothetical force of natural power.

Ki, or qi, is a vital, life-sustaining energy force.

Xu is a Vietnamese monetary unit.

Copyright 2011

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