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My sister's husband discovered this, from a 1921 essay by A.A. Milne:

TERALBAY is not a word which one uses much in ordinary life. Rearrange the letters, however, and it becomes such a word. A friend -- no, I can call him a friend no longer -- a person gave me this collection of letters as I was going to bed and challenged me to make a proper word of it. He added that Lord Melbourne -- this, he alleged, is a well-known historical fact -- Lord Melbourne had given this word to Queen Victoria once, and it had kept her awake the whole night. After this, one could not be so disloyal as to solve it at once. For two hours or so, therefore, I merely toyed with it. Whenever I seemed to be getting warm I hurriedly thought of something else. This quixotic loyalty has been the undoing of me; my chances of a solution have slipped by, and I am beginning to fear that they will never return. While this is the case, the only word I can write about is TERALBAY.

My sister glosses:  The answer is not RATEABLY, or BAT-EARLY, which "ought to mean something, but it doesn't." Rudolf Flesch notes that TRAYABLE is not a word, and that, though TEARABLY appears in small type in Webster's Unabridged, "it obviously won't do."

What's the answer? There's no trick -- it's an ordinary English word.

If you've long known the answer, or come upon it in five minutes, or a use a letter-rearrangfing program to run through all the possibilities, don't post.  I haven't given it any thought myself because i am a BUSY MAN with REAPONSIBILITIES and have NO TIME for such pursuits.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 9th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
I got it half way through reading the paragraph...
Dec. 10th, 2012 12:54 pm (UTC)
This came to your sister's husband, I'm guessing, via the excellent Futility Closet website: which is well worth following on a regular and direct basis.
Dec. 10th, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
When your PM gives you an anagram of the word that TERALBAY turns into, maybe he's trying to tell you something? This might be why Victoria Freudianly hadn't a clue what it was.
Dec. 10th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
It took me more than five minutes, but not by much. (I play a lot of Scrabble, which may be an unfair advantage when it comes to solving eight-letter anagrams.)
Dec. 10th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
I gave up and looked for the answer. Definitely a quisling matter.
Dec. 12th, 2012 08:55 pm (UTC)
Dec. 11th, 2012 03:44 am (UTC)
If she solved it easily, I can see why sleep still might come with difficulty.
Dec. 11th, 2012 03:59 pm (UTC)

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Jul. 3rd, 2013 07:45 am (UTC)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )