Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 738

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language

Sponsor’s Message: What’s “old school” mean to you? A straight-razor shave? Cream whipped up with a whisk? You gotta be impressed by a man who stands up and looks you in the eye when he shakes your hand. A sincere “sorry”. White gloves in church. So, we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, Cathy Flynn (see below), as well as all you traditionistas out there a chance to tell us what you value and love about the world we are losing or have already lost, and win some of our authentic ludic loot, to boot. ENTER The Old’s Cool Contest NOW.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

Going Native: Brexit Prompts Linguistic Cleansing
The Web of Language

Breaking a Promise to Afghan Translators
The New York Times

From: Stefan and Kay Bucek (skbucek comcast.net)
Subject: Jambalaya

Perhaps the most famous use of this word comes from the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld, where Newman emerges from the shop with a brown bag, and looking down wide-eyed into it, he excitedly exclaims, “Jambalaya!!” (video, 5 sec.)

Stefan A.D. Bucek, San Jose, California

From: Emanuela Appetiti (eappetiti hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--farraginous

While the main meaning is that of a messy tangle and it certainly implies a mix of random things, it is interesting to note that in languages like Italian (farraginoso) or French (farragineux), this adjective is used to describe something plentiful and messy, confusing, illogical. A speech, an essay, an administration can be farraginous, to mean cumbersome, rumbling. More examples: the plot of a novel or of a movie can be farraginous, if it is not fluid and full of flashbacks, and so the judicial system (with reference to its rapidity, or the lack thereof), or when the solution of a mathematical problem is reached through a process unnecessarily long and counterintuitive.

Emanuela Appetiti, Washington, DC

From: Marc Chelemer (mc2496 att.com)
Subject: Farraginous

What is it about food that inspires so many words that mean, to some extent or another, heterogeneous? Yesterday’s alternative definition of jambalaya was just that. Today’s word means that straightaway. A couple of years back, you had another weeks of food words, three of which -- salmagundi, olla podrida, and gallimaufry -- all meant a hodgepodge, a jumble, a heterogeneous mixture. Even goulash from the week before that one had this as an alternate, and bouillabaisse also had something similar as an alternative definition. Each culture and linguistic tradition has its own word for a mixture; I find it intriguing that the reference always flows through something related to food.

Marc Chelemer, Tenafly, New Jersey

From: Otto Minera (ominera hotmail.com)
Subject: bread and circuses

It is not in Spanish that the term translates as pan y toros. This is true only in Spain. In Mexico, we translated it literally: pan y circo.

Otto Minera, Mexico City. Mexico

From: Alfred Hayter (via online comments)
Subject: ragout

In the South African press world (at least), a ragout (rag-out?) refers to a pictorial reference torn out (or made to appear to have been torn out) from a previous publication to accompany a report or story -- a visual reminder or cross-reference to a previous article, which may include a page, picture, headline, or even text.

Alfred Hayter, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Tim Kemp (tim ephehm.com)
Subject: kool-aid

Jim Jones didn’t use Kool-Aid. It was Flavor-Aid, a Kool-Aid knock-off. (Wiki)

Tim Kemp, Fayetteville, Georgia

A large number of readers echoed similar comments. The above Wiki page for Flavor-Aid and the Wiki page for Kool-Aid both indicate that the Jonestown footage showed that they had both products. It’s not known whether they actually used one or the other or both. We’ve revised our webpage to reflect that: “... by drinking Kool-Aid and/or Flavor-Aid laced with cyanide.”
-Anu Garg

Email of the Week: Milk a dollar out of every dime, before it’s too late - SHOP OLD’S COOL NOW.

From: Cathy Flynn (rncmf aol.com)
Subject: kool-aid

Years ago, I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. This young man certainly had a knack for convincing me to do crazy things I never thought I’d do (like flipping giant truck tires). That is, until the day he cajoled, “C’mon, drink the kool-aid!” I stopped, put my hands on my hips, and responded, “You do realize that everyone who drank the kool-aid DIED, don’t you? That’s no way to convince me!” He had no idea what I was talking about. So after a brief history lesson, it was back to exercise. Yes, I did drink that kool-aid, and no, it didn’t kill me!

Cathy Flynn, Brooklyn, New York

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Kool-Aid

Founding father of the movement called New Journalism, Tom Wolfe, published his seminal work The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in 1968. In it he describes his bus trip with Ken Kesey’s band of Merry Pranksters and talks about his conversations with them about “dropping acid”, scientifically known as taking LSD. Apparently, the drink of Kool-Aid was used to disguise the flavour of the lysergic acid in the mixture.

The Pranksters became promoters of Timothy Leary’s slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out”, with the pleasing cadence of the end particles in the above phrase. This is a long way from Wolfe’s other works, such as The Right Stuff or even The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Nicholas Wagg (wagg cbn.net.id)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kool-aid

I have a word for you that does not appear in any dictionary that I’m aware of. It might amuse you. It’s certainly very useful: Claytons. The current GOP presidential candidate could be described as a Clayton’s candidate. The candidate you have when you don’t have a candidate!

Nicholas Wagg, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--immolate

Perhaps the most familiar use of the word -- at least, for some of us -- is Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene in Wagner’s opera Die Götterdämmerung. (video, 3 min.)

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 gmail.com)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words

The anagram to the right is composed of all the letters in the five words below, plus this heading:
1. jambalaya
2. farraginous
3. kool-aid
4. ragout
5. immolate
1. a jumble of good ingredients
2. same as above (a familiar theme?)
3. a sweet drink; oh, a poor cult’s plight -- all had it!
4. a hot stew, goulash
5. to martyr, light on fire

The text in the right box is an anagram of the text in the left.

Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

Say journalists, “We don’t know why ya
keep serving up weird jambalaya.”
The man answers, “Look,
you guys are all crooks-
and believe me, I’ll disqualify ya!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Trump email to Cruz: “Just imagine us
Combined as a team -- how farraginous!
Become one of my peeps;
Join my short-list of Veeps.
I’m acetic and you’re oleaginous.”
-Oliver Butterfield, Kelowna, Canada (oliver49 shaw.ca)

Said the toady in tones oleaginous,
though you use me in matters farraginous,
I’ll be faithful and true,
Sir, to no one but you
and I’ll stick like a thing mucilagenous.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The artist, whose work is farraginous,
Prefers to remain autonomous.
His art hangs on walls
In the greatest of halls,
But is signed by the name Anonymous.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

“By voters I won’t be a fool made!”
The apricot-hair-colored mule brayed.
“With brown folks and women,
My prospects are dimmin,’
They’d better start drinking the kool-aid!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

If you’re in a cult, I’m afraid,
By charismatic leader swayed,
I am warning you,
Whatever you do,
Please, please, don’t drink the kool-aid!
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

When fixing my famous ragout,
Both poultry and meat I eschew.
The question is whether
It tastes more like leather
Or a strict vegetarian’s shoe.
-Adam Perl, Ithaca, New York (adam pastimes.com)

Same guy -- finds another large mouse in his stew.
Complains to the waiter again. (Wouldn’t you?)
Says the waiter, “Don’t shout;
You ordered ‘ragout’.
Here een Frahnce, say eet proper -- or tant pis pour vous.”
-Oliver Butterfield, Kelowna, Canada (oliver49 shaw.ca)

“If nuclear weapons proliferate,”
Says Trump, “the whole Earth we may immolate.
But look at the bright side,
Less carbon dioxide,
And Mexicans surely won’t immigrate.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Donald always takes the bait.
Slings and arrows he cannot abide or abate.
His response is to fire back with double the cannon fire
And he thinks this tactic makes him rise higher.
And still we wait for him to self-immolate.
-Christopher Lumpkin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (calmichigan gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Food for thought (for naught?)

“Does this jambalaya taste of real strawberries? I don’t think it’s Smucker’s®.”

The grossly obese man didn’t apologize farraginous off the bench.

In times of disaster, The Red Cross offers sweet n’ kool-aid.

The National Enquirer is a ragout wouldn’t want in your home.

As for the widow’s husband, the funeral parlor gave immolate morning cremation.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma


We made a record of misattributed A THOUGHT FOR TODAY this week. Here are the quotations with correct attributions:

A good storyteller is the conscience-keeper of a nation. -Sunjoy Shekhar, writer and editor (b. Aug 12 1969)

If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams -- the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. -Robert Southey, poet (1774-1843)

I’d prefer to die on my feet than to live on my knees. -Charb (pen name of Stéphane Charbonnier), caricaturist and journalist (21 Aug 1967-2015)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2023 Wordsmith