Words at Play

14 Brilliant Language-Themed Jack-O'-Lanterns

Presenting the entries in the Noah Webster Memorial Pumpkin Carving Contest


"It's Lit[erally]" by Raychelle Burks (@DrRubidium)

The premise was simple: Tweet a photo of a grammar/language/dictionary/Noah Webster-themed jack-o'-lantern to us by 10/31 for a chance to win. We'd share the entries on our Twitter and Instagram feeds, and our editors would award a prize to their favorite entry.

We thought it was a cute idea. We hoped we'd get a few entries. Instead, we got 14 of the funniest, cleverest, and scariest (as in, "it's scary how good these are") jack-o'lanterns we've ever seen. Consider, for example, our first entry from @DrRubidium. It's lit(erally), but it's also lit eerily; most importantly, it's lit.

The entries are so good that we'll be giving out two prizes instead of one: an "Editors' Choice" winner and a "People's Choice." Take a look at our slideshow of entries, then vote for your favorite here.


@MelissaZD described this as "a salute from one organizational system to another." If you're looking for library books about pumpkins, this is the number you need.


@EvilJoeMcVeigh created this amazing jack-o'-lantern. In the dark, it's a celebration of one of the most controversial words in our dictionary. With the lights on, it becomes something different, yet equally amazing.

We're impressed, @EvilJoeMcVeigh. We're impressed.

lets eat kids

From @katemiller232, another pumpkin that makes great use of the medium. With the lights on, this jack-o'-lantern reads "Let's eat, kids"—a perfectly innocuous statement.

Turn the lights out, however, and the comma vanishes:

let's eat kids


noah webster surrounded by ghost letters this is terrifying and brilliant

Noah Webster made many contributions to the English language, including, famously, removing the u from words like colour. @ChromaticSocks pictures him haunted by some of the letters he expunged from American spelling.

scripps bee

We love the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and this Bee-themed jack-o'-lantern is truly incredible. Check out the honeycomb on the sides!


Spoopy is slang for "scary/funny," which pretty much describes this entry by @AlyssaParmenter (and, perhaps, this entire contest).

i thought you said entomology

Etymology is "an explanation of where a word came from; the history of a word." Entomology, as @robin_ec illustrates, is "a branch of science that deals with the study of insects." Don't confuse the two.

oh i thought you said


websters third

@Paintingtigger submitted this jack-o'-lantern with a note declaring Webster's Third New International Dictionary "The Official Dictionary of Halloween," and we're not going to argue with that.

serial pumpkin

People have strong feelings about the serial comma. To understand why, look no further than @carolineha_'s "The Serial Pumpkin: A Serial Comma Horror Story."

i spoke to the killers

"I spoke to the killers, Danny DeVito and Grandma."


There's a rule about who vs. whom, but you can also follow your ear. As @EarthVsSoup's pumpkin demonstrates, this will not keep owls from judging you.


Sometimes you just need a good word. Boo, illustrated here by @Davis_Jen, is that word. Our earliest written uses for it are from the 1500s, where it was spelled "bo" and was used as an interjection that was meant to either surprise or frighten. It looks like the "frighten" sense of the interjection predates the "express disapproval" sense of "boo," but perhaps not by much. Nonetheless, both the verb and the noun "boo" that refer specifically to expressing disapproval (as in, "he booed the home team" and "showered the team with 'boos'") are newer, dating to the 1800s. The origins of "boo" are not well-known, but it's probably imitative in origin: that is, we derived the word by phonetically spelling the common sound that people made when they wanted to surprise or frighten someone.


@Gabbard_hayley carved our image into a pumpkin. Now that jack-o'-lantern will age and wither while we remain young and beautiful forever. Thanks, Hayley.


@ProfessorEmily's entry is simple, beautiful, and accurate. And nouns are great.

Click here (or on the image below) to vote for your favorite! The winner will receive a small prize. Happy Halloween, everybody.


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