In 1903, novelist, film director, and anti-communist Robert Hughes published ​The Musical Encyclopedia​, a broad survey of the pronunciation and definition of terms from classical music. Throughout editions printed between 1903 and 1954, the encyclopedia’s ultimate term is “Zzxjoanw.”

Purportedly a Maori word, zzxjoanw means, according to the 1903 edition, alternately a “drum,” “fife,” or “conclusion.” In any case, zzxjoanw conjures a sound, even if a receding sound…

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