If a Web site that sends people a daily e-mail containing an English word, its etymology, pronunciation and example of usage can boast over half a million followers in over 200 countries, can there be any greater testimony to the power of words? Anu Garg, an American of Indian origin, is the founder of www.wordsmith.org , a Web site dedicated to words. The New York Times referred to his daily A Word a Day e-mails as 'the most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace'. Reader's Digest called it 'one of the most intelligent and pleasantly addictive free services available on the Web'. Mr Garg began developing his Web site in 1994 when doing his master's degree in computer science in Ohio. A software engineer, he had never aspired to be a writer but loved words and wanted to share his passion with others. He traces his fascination with words to his father, a government official in Uttar Pradesh, India. 'I remember every time we moved, which was once a year or so, we had to pack all his books and then unpack them once we reached our new home.' At first, he sent his e-mails to friends in college. 'It spread by word of mouth,' he says. 'Soon I had subscribers from other departments, other colleges and then other countries.' By the end of the first year, he had over 5,000 subscribers. Now he has over half a million addicts. 'I had no idea it would be so popular. It's an illustration of how words touch all of us, no matter what profession we are in,' he says. Wordsmith.org includes a dictionary, thesaurus and anagram and acronym finders. Mr Garg groups words into weekly themes and topics can range from those associated with teeth, those with weird pronunciations, words borrowed from many languages, those that have reversed their meanings or ones to drop into conversation with a therapist. The site hosts chat sessions with John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (Mr Garg's favourite dictionary), Barbara Walraff, senior editor of Atlantic Monthly, and Richard Lederer, author of The Miracle of Language. It takes Mr Garg considerable time and effort to choose the quotations that illustrate a word's use because he likes meaty, meaningful quotes. 'I look for quotations that give the meaning but also give something more - a story, food for thought, a funny anecdote. So it can take many hours of searching the full-text databases of newspapers, magazines, and books.' Improving people's vocabularies, he says, makes for a better world. 'I have a dream where society will replace guns with dictionaries.' On the state of his own vocabulary, Mr Garg describes it as above-average but adds the rider, 'Remember that 80 per cent of people claim that they're above-average drivers'. Is it possible that by cramming words endlessly into one's vocabulary, one might become inarticulate? 'No, I consider adding more words to one's vocabulary akin to an artist adding new colours to their palette. You don't have to use all the shades in a single painting but it helps to have just the right one when you need it.' In November, Mr Garg left his job at AT&T and now works full time on wordsmith.org from his home in Seattle. The move was prompted by the success of the book A Word a Day, published in October. It became the No 1 book on Amazon.com. Mr Garg says that despite the long list of words and etymologies he had collected over the years, it took him two years of hard slog to complete the book. He has helpers, including Todd Derr, a computer scientist in Pittsburgh who maintains the server that sends out a half million e-mails in three hours and keeps the Web site running 24 hours a day. The copy editor is Eric Shackle, a retired journalist in Australia who shares Mr Garg's passion for anagrams. Despite their wordy collaboration, these men have only virtual knowledge of each other. They have never even said hello over the phone. Apart from riding his unicycle and juggling, Mr Garg's hobbies are collecting quotations and reading the dictionary. His favourite quotation is: 'If your ship hasn't come in, swim out to it'. Among his favourite words are eponyms, words derived from the names of people. 'These words have such history,' he says. 'Every time you 'boycott' something or eat a 'sandwich' or wear a 'cardigan,' you invoke the person who gave us that word.' The words he hates are the favoured terms of many writers - jargon, cliches and words that just fill space rather than convey useful information. 'Off the top of my head, I'd mention incentivise, paradigm, mission-critical.' For more affronts to the language, he suggests listening in on a meeting of any corporation.