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AWADmail Issue 744

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

Sponsor’s Message: Hey, Traditionistas - does “Old’s Cool” sum up your philosophy of life: old school with a little wry, served neat? Where courage, integrity, authenticity, and excellence matter? Same here. So, we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, David Steiner (see below), as well as all everyone who thinks that the way things were is sometimes better than the way things are 10% off our retro-wicked ludic loot. Jezz use coupon code “SHOPYESTERDAY”.

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

I Fell in Love with a Frenchman -- but Didn’t Speak the Language
The Guardian

Google Says Its New AI-Powered Translation Tool Scores Nearly Identically to Human Translators

What It Was Like to Produce the Clinton/Trump Debate in Español
Public Radio International

Linguistic Analysis of the Last Presidential Debate
Language Log

From: Ossie Bullock (osmundbullock aol.com)
Subject: henchman

For many of us educated in England in the late 1950s/early 60s, the names of Hengist and Horsa loom large in memory -- though till checking Wiki five minutes ago I’d forgotten why.

Found in various Anglo-Saxon texts, they are warrior figures from early mediaeval Germano-British history -- now recognised, however, as being at best semi-mythological. Thanks to AWAD I discover that if you produced a movie about them (well, they’ve done Beowulf, so why not?), you could title it “Two Men Called Horse”.

Ossie Bullock, London, UK

From: Ellie Weld (ellieweld gn.apc.org)
Subject: henchman

Henchman: has anyone read 1066 and All That? A masterful comic history of England, where Hengist is cited as “an early English king with his wife (or horse?) Horsa.”

Ellie Weld, Twickenham, UK

From: Trista Selous (trista.selous btinternet.com)
Subject: henchman

For a while in the previous decade the word “hench” was used by teenagers at our daughter’s school in South London to describe someone who was big and solid -- presumably the qualities of a henchman. “Hench” has stuck in our family, although I think it has sadly otherwise gone out of style.

Trista Selous, London, UK

From: Lukasz Daciuk (lukasz.daciuk gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--poodle-faker

So it looks like The Good Soldier Švejk was a poodle faker, but he was not a poodle-faker.

“And so they’ve killed our Ferdinand,” said the charwoman to Mr Švejk, who had left military service years before, after having been finally certified by an army medical board as an imbecile, and now lived by selling dogs -- ugly, mongrel monstrosities whose pedigrees he forged.

Łukasz Daciuk, Athlone, Ireland

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

From: David Steiner (davidesteiner gmail.com)
Subject: harebrained

This was a favorite word and phrase for those of us involved in the Vietnam War. We applied it to all the harebrained schemes promised to win the war, e.g. making rain on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, McNamara’s Fence, and many, many more. They were all accompanied by briefers who enthusiastically promised that this or that project was a winner that turned out to be dreamed up by noncombatants working in broom closets at the Pentagon. Harebrained indeed. We laughed, but it really wasn’t funny.

David Steiner, Thornton, Colorado

Illustration: Alex McCrae
duck soup
Illustration: Alex McCrae

From: Alex McCrae (mccrae7474 roadrunner.com)
Subject: poodle-faker and duck soup

Folks who viewed the film Amadeus may recall arts patron Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II opining that the young Mozart’s compositions-in-progress were overwrought with ... “too many notes”. Echoing our “poodle-faker” USAGE example, classical music “gossipers” of the day apparently argued that Hungarian maestro, Franz Liszt, like the great Mozart, had added far too many (extraneous) notes to his self-penned works merely in hopes of his captivating the hearts and favor of the choicest high-society, well-heeled grand-dames of his age... the quintessential poodle-faker.

Those zany Marx brothers, in their classic madcap movie Duck Soup and I daresay, most of their other “slap-schtick-infused” filmic feature romps, made it all look so easy-peasy... like veritable duck soup. Yet most aficionados and serious students of classic comedy would likely concur that conveying humor on screen or on the standup comedy stage requires well-honed, practiced material and impeccable comedic timing. These wacky Marx sibs clearly had the comedic chops and the unique familial “chemistry” to make the difficult challenge of making audiences LOL appear like it was mere second nature to them.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Dave Campbell (museumofdave gmail.com)
Subject: duck soup

The brilliant satire Duck Soup is generally considered one of the two greatest comedies by the Marx Brothers. When asked for an explanation of the title, Groucho suggested that you “take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you’ll duck soup for the rest of your life.”

Dave Campbell, Chico, California

From: Conrad Planas (cplanas bellsouth.net)
Subject: duck soup

Alfred H. Holt in Phrase and Word Origins says, “And once you have the remains of a duck dinner, it is certainly easy to cram them into a pan, pour some water over them, and light the gas.”

Conrad Planas, Davie, Florida

From: Sam Long (gunputty comcast.net)
Subject: skylark

Hail to thee, blithe spirit! I was once wandering about by myself at the White Horse at Uffington, England (a figure of a horse cut into the chalk downland there), and I heard a loud and ceaseless twittering. I looked up and saw a skylark flying a hundred or so feet above me, singing its heart out....and all of a sudden I understood all those references in English poetry to skylarks.

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

From: Kay Shapero (kay kayshapero.net)
Subject: skylark

Modern-day tall ship aficionados still use the term -- my kid was one of a lucky group who got to go for a cruise on the Swift of Ipswich and told of being occasionally allowed to go skylarking in the rigging.

Kay Shapero, Los Angeles, California

From: Gary Moore (gary_c_moore yahoo.ca)
Subject: skylark

Some years ago I was a cadet at the Royal Military College of Canada. To us a “skylark” was a prank that we would pull ... the whole point was to do something audacious but not harmful and get away with it. If the freshmen cadets were not pulling these they would be not so subtly castigated for a lack of spirit! Such pranks included rowing out at night to the roads (the nautical type) outside Victoria, BC, harbour and painting the college initials on the side of an anchored ship. One memorable one was luring the watchman who controlled the PA system away from his post and then playing wakey-wakey (reveille) over the system getting all cadets up and moving at 3 am. Such fun!

Gary Moore, Calgary, Canada

From: Ray Schlabach (crdutchman gmail.com)
Subject: skylark

I live in Costa Rica. The interest rates have been much higher on the colon than on the dollar. So people have been bringing in dollars and changing them for around 9% interest. They call this skylarking since the rate is high. Years ago when I was a church treasurer I used to collect 33% interest at the bank.

Raymond Schlabach, Heredia, Costa Rica

From: Joan Perrin (perrinjoan aol.com)
Subject: Duck soup and words coined from animals

My favorite Marx Brothers film is the political satire Duck Soup. This week’s theme, words coined from animals, is quite apropos to the plot. A conniving poodle-faker, Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho), romances a wealthy widow, Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), who appoints him President of the small country of Freedonia. The ruthless ambassador of the neighboring Sylvania wishes to annex Freedonia and sends his harebrained henchmen, Chicolini (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo), to spy on Firefly. When the countries go to war, they become turncoats and help to fight for Freedonia. The four Marx Brothers (Zeppo is in this movie) also engage in a montage of skylark battle scenes, resulting in a victory as easy as duck soup.

Joan Perrin Port Jefferson Station, New York

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

I must take exception to your blanket condemnation of zoos. While I agree that some zoos are dreadful (my wife and I still recall our visit to the Leipzig zoo, just months after the fall of the Berlin Wall when eastern Germany was still in the dying throes of totalitarianism, as one of the saddest days of our trip), the majority of our zoo experiences have shown animals in as natural an environment as possible. The gorilla exhibit at the Bronx Zoo in New York showcases a large tribe of these primates, living happily in their environment, certainly happy enough to reproduce and raise young. The San Diego Zoo has almost certainly saved the Przewalski’s Horse from extinction.

Marc Chelemer, Tenafly, New Jersey

From: Glenn Vanstrum (glennvanstrum gmail.com)
Subject: Animals/zoo

I agree 100% with you re zoos. I live in San Diego, home of perhaps the world’s largest zoo. All the neurotic caged behaviors you describe are visible there. Yes, zoos may have a role in preserving endangered species. But the animals would never vote (if they could) to be imprisoned there. National parks and game reserves are the way to go.

Glenn Vanstrum, San Diego, California

From: Anna Baggallay (abaggallay gmail.com)
Subject: This week’s theme

Your introduction to today’s word and this week’s theme was very moving, and the quotation from Eliot completed the idea.

I worked for WWF in the late 1960s and knew its founding father, Sir Peter Scott. He conceded that zoos had been necessary in the 19th century because, if one had never seen a tiger, one could not empathise with it -- but television and the video changed all that forever, as we could now all see the beautiful creatures we were concerned about in their natural habitat -- so zoos became a complete anachronism in the mid-20th century. They have since tried to justify their existence by “breeding and preserving endangered species”, but if there is no space for them to be wild in (as the Father of Conservation, Aldo Leopold, said in the 1940s), what is the point of that anyway?? It is only for us humans -- it does not justify the imprisonment of our fellow-creatures for our profit or entertainment, however “natural” their confining surroundings may be.

Anna Baggallay, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Jane McBride (janemcbride369 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--henchman

Finally! A human being who agrees with me. Zoo advocates argue that zoos are saving many species from extinction. I cannot help anthropomorphizing. I believe that were I told I had two choices -- #1 to live a long life with food and shelter provided, but imprisoned; or #2 to take my chances living in a dangerous world, but free to make my own choices -- I would leap for #2. When I was a child, I was taken to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. There I saw a beautiful, black Jaguar in a 6'x10' cage pacing, pacing, pacing. It haunts me to this day.

Jane McBride, DeKalb, Illinois

From: Deborah Corday (deborahcorday gmail.com)
Subject: 9/26 A.Word.A.Day

I am also fascinated by words and look forward to the daily email. I was very touched by your piece written on 9/26 about animals in zoos. I want to share with you that I, along with a community of individuals in Los Angeles, are opening The Animal Museum on Oct 1, the 1st museum in the world dedicated to animal protection and the preservation of the history of the movement. Our vision is that of a more compassionate society where all living beings have inherent value!

Deborah Corday, Los Angeles, California

From: Robert Johnson (rjohnson66a gmail.com)
Subject: Henchmen

You wrote: “You could see birds caged in tiny spaces, flying around in circles, showing typical neurotic behavior that anyone who is unjustifiably imprisoned for life would show. Bears, three of them, confined in barren concrete and glass enclosures. And much, much more.”

The problem is that here in America we DO treat human beings in this way. The USA incarcerates more people in dehumanizing solitary confinement than any other country on Earth. For extended lengths of time -- sadly for years or decades.

Please read the book Hell is a Very Small Place.

Robert Johnson, Santa Ana, California

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

The anagram to the right is composed of all of the letters in the five words below, and this heading:
1. henchman
2. poodle-faker
3. harebrained
4. duck soup
5. skylark
1. obedient subordinate, the tyrant’s helper (hashtag: #overworked)
2. man seeking female for her pomp and high status
3. addled, foolish
4. cakewalk, no hitch
5. frolic
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. henchman
2. poodle-faker
3. harebrained
4. duck soup
5. skylark
1. flunky (a hood’s perk)
2. rake (keen lad)
3. absurd
4. a cinch, eh?
5. romp

Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand

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

Said the duke to his favorite hench-
man, “Bring wine, I’ve a huge thirst to quench!”
He replied, “Sir, I fear
all that’s left is some beer,
and remember, we’re British, not French.”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The behavior of Trump and his henchmen
In school would soon get them detention.
Rod Serling would say
Of this weird wacky fray,
“You have entered another dimension.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Trial by Jury, a G & S show,
About which some folks among us know,
The Judge, real laugh maker,
The poodle-faker,
As rich man’s daughter’s temp beau.
-Chris Papa, Colts Neck, New Jersey (doxite verizon.net)

“Let me find you a young poodle-faker,”
Said Yente, the village matchmaker.
“For Lazar the butcher,
Is no Ashton Kutcher,
And dear, you’ve got land by the acre.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Sly Guy was a strudel baker,
He used as a poodle-faker
Well-bred lady to woo,
With a pastry or two,
And using his noodle, take her.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Some said that the Wright brothers’ airplane
was a project exceedingly harebrained.
Those folks would eat crow
if they could just know
what advances the brothers’ bold dare’s gained.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Trump’s attraction is still unexplained,
His bigotry’s quite unrestrained.
With a tax rate of zero
He’s nobody’s hero
And his ideas are simply harebrained.
-Adam Perl, Ithaca, New York (adam pastimes.com)

A chick in our exercise group
performs with a warped hula hoop.
Her abs undulate
as her hips oscillate,
and she quips, “Oh, this stuff is duck soup!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When you’re older and things start to droop
A Viagra may help you regroup
And keep on your sweater
With clothes you look better.
A date is no longer duck soup.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

It’s delightful to cut loose and skylark
in the daylight or after it gets dark.
But in lyrical mode
what inspir’d Shelley’s ode
had feathers. And, Shakespeare wrote, “Hark, hark ...”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The lectern where debaters embark
Found Donald a niche to go snark.
He went off on a spree
To bombard Hillary,
His chance to regress and skylark.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: The AWAD arrives animal it over

When will the henchman be here to hang our new door?

Say ‘feces’ to the woman doctor. If you say poodle-faker out.

Frau Brained called her husband harebrained.

Cartoon duck soup and holler when hunters shoot at them and miss.

If a huge thunderstorm comes, the skylark with lightning.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake. -Mahatma Gandhi (2 Oct 1869-1948)

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