One Syllable Word Project

A project generating written word, spoken word and visual artifacts inspired by pages of a curious spiral bound text cataloguing one syllable words from 1969. One Syllable Words by Henry Moser, Director of Speech and Learning Clinic, Ohio State University consists of 224 pages of nearly 14,000 one-syllable words. The words are arranged and categorized in charts. Viewing a page is like reading a map, or deciphering a code. It encourages free association, sparking memories or spinning new connections.

“His search for new words was a hobby”.

I frequent my local book dump; a final clearing house for written material before it is sent to become pulp. I was lucky to find this curious spiral bound text consisting of 224 pages of nearly 14,000 one-syllable words. The work is informed by a previous, seminal collection of 9,123 words that was compiled in 1938 to serve the needs of the Air Force for basic words to use in radiotelephone communications. This found volume updates and expands upon the original by including words used in everyday speech not found in dictionaries as well as words from a more technical lexicon.

The words are arranged and categorized in charts alphabetically as well as grouped by the sound formed at the beginning or ending of each word. Although most likely used by a speech clinician the pages currently exist as a piece of “outsider” art. Viewing a page is like reading a map, or deciphering a code. It encourages free association, sparking memories or spinning a new connection.

Henry Moser states in the introduction:

“Any attempt to discuss uses of this word compilation would be presumptuous. Different uses will be found by researchers with different interests.”


This document is a rich resource. I propose to extend its life by growing a wider, appreciative audience in this original artifact. In the future a site-specific installation displaying the original pages from this 40 year old text that charts and catalogues one-syllable words becomes a catalyst for additional projects. I have collated copies inviting your usage.