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AWADmail Issue 501A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Hundreds of readers, from all continents (except Antarctica), sent one or more entries in the wellerism contest. They were clever, funny, and inventive. A variety of topics were reflected in those entries: the Wall Street scandal, presidential elections, literature, history, and more.
It was hard to select the winners from such a rich field. The top three winners, in no particular order, are:
"Would you put it on one side for me?" he said when the man at the Airfix shop told him they had a model Italian cruise ship in stock.
"Health is wealth," said the doctor as he totaled his earnings.
"Darling, I've missed you!" she said as she fired the gun a second time.
Many sent these classic wellerisms but the contest had invited original entries:
Read on for honorable mentions among the wellerisms received (and there are more on our website).
"What's Plan B?" said the Susan G Komen exec as she watched their donations plummet.
"Practice makes perfect," said Ron Paul as he lost another primary.
"There are no people in America who cannot make ends meet if they want to work," said Gingrich to Callista as he struggled to button his coat.
A wellerism in the form of a limerick:
BASED ON A TRUE STORY
This morning my mother and I went to a bris (Jewish circumcision ceremony for a newborn boy, performed by a mohel). We and a small army of friends arrived many hours before to help the hostess (the grandmother) frantically get ready for the 100 or so guests and the festive meal that followed. As we were leaving, my 90-year-old mother said to me: "Boy, they really pulled that one off." So...
"Freeze! Police!" the police officer said to the glacier stealer.
"Darling I've missed you!" she said as she put the Mercedes into reverse. (news)
"The race is not to the Swift," said Anu as he announced the Wellerism contest.
"Excuse me, may I have a word?" asked the man in the street when he caught sight of Anu Garg.
"Well," he said, when he finished digging the deep hole. (It's a wellerism)
"It scared the Dickens out of me," gasped Scrooge after saw the ghost of Jacob Marley.
Read more of readers' wellerisms on our website.
From: Frank Griffin (ftg roadrunner.com)
Several of my favorite wellerisms came from the Leslie Charteris Saint novels of the 1930s, all involving the phrase "as the actress said to the bishop".
They all involved double entrendres, and the third component (situation) was usually implied, e.g. "Well, it won't be long now, as the actress said to the bishop."
Apparently, this usage goes back to Edwardian times, but my first exposure was to Simon Templar's inventive use of the phrase.
Frank Griffin, Windham, Maine
From: Robert Edwin Martin (doctorbobby bellsouth.net)
I suppose one relative of the wellerism would be the Tom Swifty, named for the famous Tom Swift books about an 18-year-old inventor by a group collectively known as Victor Appleton. The Appleton writers had a characteristic way of reporting exactly how Tom and other characters said things. The Tom Swifty uses this form in a humorous way.
The "pure" Tom Swifty follows the pattern: a statement, a synonym for "said", and an adverb ending in "-ly" that echoes the content of the statement.
Sometimes the verb says it all:
Sometimes the result is like a wellerism:
Robert Edwin Martin, Valdosta, Georgia
From: Perry Saunders (xsoundx hotmail.com)
This word instantly reminded me of the fagin in Robocop 2. A little league team, led by their fagin coach, robs an electronics store.
Perry Saunders, Austin, Texas
From: Hardy J Pottinger (hardyp3 yahoo.com)
We had a fagin in our neighborhood last year. There had been a rash of break-ins into storage sheds with the theft of a number of tool boxes, lawn mowers, golf carts, bicycles, and the like. Turns out one of the older residents was hiring local kids to steal stuff and storing it in a trailer which he would periodically haul to San Antonio to fence. Thanks for the reminder about a good name for him!
Hardy Pottinger, Rolla, Missouri
From: Ken Fischer (ken46 ntelos.net)
Ken Fischer, Afton, Virginia
From: Linda Kerby (kerby blitz-it.net)
When I was in nursing school (very long ago, but not in Dickens's time) the worst criticism that could be leveled at you was, "You look like Sairy Gamp." This meant that you somehow failed the dress code, with one or more infractions in white dress, white cap, white stockings, white shoes, and of course white lingerie. Or, if you were really wanting to be expelled, wearing makeup, nail polish, or jewelry.
Linda Kerby, Leawood, Kansas
From: Susan Gawarecki (llamaladysg yahoo.com)
In weaving, a gamp is a collection of weaving patterns used as a test of color and/or texture mixes between warp and weft. See examples here.
Susan Gawarecki, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
From: Marcia Egger (megger legal-aid.org)
In my childhood (1950s-60s NYC), the word gamp referred to a jumper or pinafore under which you wore a blouse or sweater.
Marcia Egger, New York, New York
A number of readers wrote about this. It's a different word: guimpe (pronounced as gimp or gamp), from French guimpe (wimple), similar to other words with this sound correspondence: Guillaume/William, guard/ward, guerre/war, guarantee/warranty, and so on.
From: Gregory B. Gregory (gregorgb sbcglobal.net)
Of Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens wrapped up the description of Scrooge's conversion with "... it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."
I venture to assert that that is NEVER said of him.
Dickens was no more prescient than Abraham Lincoln, with his "The world will little note, nor long remember..."
Gregory B. Gregory, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
My favorite incarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge is Walt Disney's Scrooge McDuck. As kids, it was a thrill for each to buy a comic and then share them on the front lawn or on our living room floor. I made sure I bought the latest Uncle Scrooge issue as my contribution.
Like his Dickens character namesake, Scrooge McDuck was introduced in a Christmas story -- in a Donald Duck comic in 1947 -- and he was full of "Bah, Humbug" toward the holiday. His own self-titled comic book was introduced in 1953 and is still being published today! Evidently, the Disney artists can continue to tease laughs out of their character's immense wealth, even with the current spotlight on the privileged 1%.
Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California
From: Sidney S Letter (sidneysletter comcast.net)
In my student days, a grind was someone unduly attentive to his (Columbia College at Columbia University was all-male then) studies. I know because I, an ex-GI who was really interested in getting all that I could from my classes, was often identified as such.
Sidney S Letter, Lebanon, New Hampshire
From: Monroe Clewis (mtc265 yahoo.com)
Odd, isn't it, that Gradgrind's fact-obsessed student Bitzer has not made it into the roll call of eponymous words, especially considering his famous definition of a horse:
"'Bitzer,' said Thomas Gradgrind. 'Your definition of a horse.'
'Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.' Thus (and much more) Bitzer." Hard Times, Ch. 2, "Murdering the Innocents"
Why not "Bitzerian" (adj) for a prosaic, fact-oriented person bereft of imagination who cannot see the forest (gestalt) for the trees (facts)?
Monroe Thomas Clewis, Kunming, China
From: Kelly Gombert (kelly.d.gombert philips.com)
Today's xkcd features a super hero Etymology Man to explain tidal waves. The definition is not so important (IMO) as just the premise of a superhero named "Etymology Man". I thought of Anu immediately :)
Kelly Gombert, Highland Heights, Ohio
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra." -Lewis Carroll, mathematician and writer (1832-1898)