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AWADmail Issue 743

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

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

Why Australia is Home to One of the Largest Language Families in the World

Fashion Police and Grammar Police
(And glamor police and grammar police would be the same too, etymologically speaking.)

Mystery Text’s Language-Like Patterns May be an Elaborate Hoax
New Scientist

From: Ed Zuckerman (edzucker mac.com)
Subject: kitsch

One man’s kitsch is another man’s kunst.

Ed Zuckerman, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
Subject: Kitsch

While studying the history of the English language using lectures on CD, I learned about the set of sound relationships known as Grimm’s Law (discovered by the brothers who gave us fairy tales). While researching those sound changes, I stumbled on the word kickshaw.

Weeks later, in an art gallery in our town, the director was looking for a word to put on a sign in front of the jewelry display case and I suggested, with a smile, the term “kickshaw” since one of the definitions was “small objects displayed for their attractiveness”. She confused it with the word “kitsch” and was horrified! Even my teasing assertion that it originated from the French “quelque chose”, which means “something”, was insufficient in changing her over-reaction.

Hope Bucher, Naperville, Illinois

From: Erna Buber-deVilliers (zakerna cyberserv.co.za)
Subject: kitsch

Like many other words that were once coined to be derogatory in describing art movements (e.g. Gothic, Impressionism, and Cubism), the meaning of kitsch has latterly shifted somewhat to (sometimes) denote a recognised art style (sort of) that is loved by serious artists as well as graphic designers and is represented by very expensive coffee-table books and avidly collected by fans with a love for things “so bad that it’s good”. Here’s one link.

Erna Buber-deVilliers, Vereeniging, South Africa

From: Christoph Grein (christ-usch.grein t-online.de)
Subject: Words in use in Germany pretending to be English

There are lots of pseudo-English words in German. An extremely horrible example is Bodybag for some fancy fashion bag.

Christoph Grein, Greifenberg, Germany

Illustration: Alex McCrae
Illustration: Alex McCrae

From: Alex McCrae (mccrae7474 roadrunner.com)
Subject: kitsch

Hmm... some mighty ugly monster ‘mug’ there! Next on the kitsch agenda... a cartoony Gertrude ‘stein’, the perfect drinking vessel for the potent potable, stout, befitting writer/ modern art aficionado Gertrude’s zaftig figure.

Composer Herr Richard Wagner loses his composure, I dare say, trying to sit through a ‘cushionless’ performance of say just one of the four über-dramatic acts that constitute the maestro’s grand opus. The Ring Cycle would understandably put a major strain on one’s derriere.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Nancy Cross (sunthismorning gmail.com)
Subject: Verboten

When I was growing up in Iowa, this was a somewhat favored word of my father’s. Three of his grandparents could trace German ancestry, the fourth was Cornish. Dad would often announce something like “The living room is verboten”, off-limits -- meaning we should make our messes in the TV room or be rowdy outdoors. He might follow it by a joke, such as “It’s for boating”, but we knew he meant strong business when he said the word.

Nancy Cross, Hamtramc, Michigan

From: Henry Willis (hmw ssdslaw.com)
Subject: Verboten

Jean Renoir’s masterpiece Grand Illusion, set in and outside a German prisoner-of-war camp in World War I, constantly reminds us how language both separates and unites us. Toward the end of the movie, Marechal, a French soldier who has found refuge on a German widow’s farm after escaping, remarks how he could never understand what his German guards were telling him, but understands everything the widow says. But that isn’t quite accurate: he always understood what the guards meant when they said “verboten”. It seems we learn words like “no” and “don’t” more readily than “yes”.

Henry Willis, Los Angeles, California

Email of the Week - Back to OLD’S COOL already? Get your authentic on HERE.

From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
Subject: verboten

“... Wagner, in designing the Festspielhaus [festival theater], had wanted exceptionally hard wooden seats to prevent the audience from treating his operas as fun.”

It has been my experience that uncomfortable seating makes for more standing ovations.

Joel Mabus, Kalamazoo, Michigan

From: Christopher Albertyn (chrisalbertyn me.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--verboten

The reason Wagner wanted them with no padding was because the acoustics of the hall required the wooden seats and wooden floors to amplify the sound from the orchestra pit below the stage (first time for this) and from the singers on the stage. He felt cushions would muffle the quality of the sound.

In Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival, by Frederic Spotts, Yale University Press, 1994, at p.3, he writes: “Stepping inside the opera house, Wagner would find the amphitheatrical auditorium exactly as he knew it. The same thirty descending rows of seats are there, though not the original cane and wooden ones. These were sold off to Bayreuth enthusiasts in 1968 and replaced with bentwood seats, still without armrest and, I think, even more unobliging to human shape, despite the exiguous covering of upholstery. The wooden floors remain uncovered, since carpeting would absorb sound and disturb the delicate acoustical balance.”

Christopher Albertyn, Toronto, Canada

From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: ubermensch

Ironically, the term was never used to describe the DC comic book hero Superman aka Clark Kent. This is due to the use of the term by Nazi Germany and the wartime effort to avoid anything German sounding or sympathetic. Instead, the term was later used for names of his opponents Ubermensch and Ubermensch II.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: ubermensch

In the original English version of Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, the word ubermensch is translated (by Alexander Tille, 1896) as Beyond-Man. The other linguistic oddity is the use of the archaic past perfect “spake” (for the German past tense sprach), which to my knowledge is nowhere else to be found in today’s English. Of course, it was cemented into modern parlance by the title of Richard Strauss’s eponymous tone poem that continues to be a staple in contemporary concert repertoire.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: José Luis Palacios (jopalal gmail.com)
Subject: clerisy

In high school in Spain we were taught that in the Middle Ages (XII-XIII centuries) there were two types of poetry in that country, “Mester of Clerecía” (Ministry of Clergy, or learned poetry) and “Mester de Juglaría” (Ministry of Minstrels, or popular poetry). It seems as though “clerecía”, very close to “clerisy”, was used in Spanish in early times, directly from the Latin and not via German, as English did, as late as the XIX century.

José Luis Palacios, Albuquerque, New Mexico

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

Clerisy is a word coined by the poet-philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge. According to D.E. White, “‘Clerisy’ is Coleridge’s coinage for a learned class of (more or less) state functionaries responsible for the preservation and dissemination of the national heritage.”

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

From: Britta Kollberg (brkollberg yahoo.de)
Subject: Words from German

What a choice of German “gifts” to the English language. Starting with “verboten” (very German indeed, not only as a word but as a perspective on life and society) and continuing deeper and deeper into Nazi language (ubermensch is what the Nazis loved to call themselves and the “Aryan race”). I guess we (I am German) deserve it. Still, it’s sad to see what specific things stuck with language memory.

Britta Kollberg, Berlin, Germany

From: Tom Hawley (t.hawley comcast.net)
Subject: German / English words

Let me be among the first of probably hundreds to send you this old joke.

An American tourist in Germany with very little German was looking for directions. She happened to sneeze and a nearby police officer said “Gesundheit!” She turned to him and said “Ah, you speak English.”

Tom Hawley, Lansing, Michigan

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

The anagram to the right is made up of all of the letters in the five words below, and the heading:
1. kitsch
2. verboten
3. ubermensch
4. gauleiter
5. clerisy
1. garish or ornate; however, it might be of interest
2. banned
3. the skilled ‘super man’ (myth?)
4. the overbearing official, the thug
5. the well-educated class
The text in the right box is an anagram of the text in the left.

Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina

From: Robert Jordan (alfiesdad ymail.com)
Subject: This week’s words anagrammed

1. kitsch
2. verboten
3. ubermensch
4. gauleiter
5. clerisy
1. corny
2. tabu
3. rescuer, him
4. serving ilk
5. be the select

Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand

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

Said his teacher, “Young Adolph, I see
you’ve been working assiduously,
but your paintings are kitsch;
you’ll never get rich --
a true artist you never will be.”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

To make people think he was rich,
in his yard he put plenty of kitsch:
some nice whirlygigs,
five thingamajigs,
and three statues not wearing a stitch.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“Don’t listen to all that baloney
From those who call me a phony!
Common sense is verboten
When time comes for votin’.”
Say Italians, “He’s your Berlusconi!”
-Steve Cabito, Santa Rosa, California (cabito sonic.net)

One day he was out in his boat ‘n
discovered a mermaid afloatin’.
Oh, she was a looker!
He wanted to hook ‘er,
but fishing was strictly verboten.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The English believe it’s verboten
To show what you’re really emotin’.
The king should look leaden
When wives he’s beheadin’
You too if for Brexit you’re votin’.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Donald, a man most outspoken,
To his constituents is beholden.
A blowhard with flair
To him “c’est la guerre”
Means nothing he does is verboten.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

We wonder whence cometh this stench.
The atmosphere seems to be drenched
with offensive strong essence.
Aha! it’s the presence
of Donald, the great ubermensch.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Jamie Fraser is an ubermensch.
He’s a great Scot, not German or French.
In the “Outlander” books,
He has more than good looks,
And fans like me want to be his wench.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

At CERN, the Large Hadron Collider
Is to protons an awful gauleiter.
It runs them around
Till they smash to the ground
Like the bikes in the film Easy Rider.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Mayor Rob Ford was a divider,
A real dyed in the wool gauleiter.
Used as an excuse,
His substance abuse,
And refused to resign, the bold blighter.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

While she shines like a star in our clerisy,
She’s detested by racists like leprosy.
Elizabeth Warren
For sure isn’t foreign
But possibly might be part Cherokee.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I think it borders on heresy,
When Trump disparages clerisy.
Some supporters he has got,
An uneducated lot,
Back him with complete sincerity.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: It’s Allemagne could want for punning

Who knew you could go to a curio shop to buy kitsch’n items?

Do not launch your dinghy verboten is prohibited.

Batman and Robin were two guys ubermensch’nd in DC Comics.

I picked up my gauleiter City Hall office and she bought lunch.

“That we are all present is clerisy,” said the Nobel committee chair.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

In the common words we use every day, souls of past races, the thoughts and feelings of individual men stand around us, not dead, but frozen into their attitudes like the courtiers in the garden of the Sleeping Beauty. -Owen Barfield, author (1898-1997)

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