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AWADmail Issue 777A 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)
From: Ray Dobson (raydob gmail.com)
I remember these. My Mother had one in the 1930s and 40s. The detachable handle allowed it to be put on a coal stove for heating. We children were never allowed to touch it in case we got burnt.
Ray Dobson, Christchurch, New Zealand
From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon muldoongetz.com)
In the first book of Robert Caro’s wonderful biography of Lyndon Johnson The Path to Power, he devotes a chapter on sadirons, emblematic of the hardships of rural American life in the early 20th century.
Gary Muldoon, Rochester, New York
From: Cleve Callison (callistc gmail.com)
Subject: “Sadiron” -- is “sad” obsolete?
For today’s word sadiron, the meaning of “sad” as “heavy, solid” is termed obsolete. Not so in the part of the South I grew up in (upstate South Carolina). My mother was a good cook and prided herself on her light and fluffy pound cakes. But I preferred the ones she called sad, the term for ones which had fallen during the baking. I loved the sad ones and would jump up and down in front of the oven to try to make them fall. Dense, and so delicious!
Cleve Callison, Wilmington, North Carolina
From: Burt Humburg (humburg.burt gmail.com)
When describing anatomical relationships, terms like left/right, anterior/posterior, deep/superficial, etc. are necessary. So how does one compare the relationship between the cecum and the sigmoid, which can be so floppy as to be unpredictable in their location in the abdomen? Simple! Provide directional or relationship guidance without ever leaving the gut: use adoral or aboral.
Burt Humburg, Mason City, Iowa
From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Beware of false friends. The German word Lust is not synonymous with the English lust. Vid. the title of the famous Franz Lehar operetta of 1905, Die lustige Witwe, in which the adjective lustige does not denote a lusty widow, but one who is merry. Hence the English title The Merry Widow. The name of Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride is based on a similar misconception, the direct translation of the adjective from the Czech or German being sold, not bartered. The alliteration must have certainly helped the impresarios in promoting such a peculiar story.
Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada
From: Hannah Kruse (c-kruse t-online.de)
I immediately drew a line to our German word (we borrowed it, as so many “cultivated” words, from the French) -- it is Lustschloss or, in its often used diminutive, Lustschlösschen.
Here are some photos of such Lustschlösschen (today often used as museums or hotels).
Hannah Kruse, Gera, Germany
From: Susan Saunders (susansaunders2008 btinternet.com)
Bodkin is a word which has always been part of my vocabulary in sense 2: born in the 40s I learned from my mother how to rethread pyjama cord and knicker elastic back into garment waistbands using a blunt needle with a very large eye. I realised recently at a haberdashery counter that the word had fallen out of use when I asked the young counter-assistant for a bodkin and had to explain what I meant. They didn’t have any. (I wanted it to help my grandchildren to make woolly balls.)
Susan Saunders, Teddington, UK
From: Kathy Borst (kborst mcn.org)
As an older seamstress, I know what a bodkin is. When I went looking for a new one in a large fabric and crafts store a couple years ago, they had to find the person working there who was about my age to figure out what I was talking about. I thought perhaps my brain had scrambled the word or something. But no, it was just another great old tool falling into disuse and obscurity in a modern world where people don’t do things for themselves.
Kathy Borst, Yorkville, California
From: Grahame Young (gyoung francisburt.com.au)
I still have a lawyers bodkin, a small wooden knob at one end and a sharp point with a large eye at the other. In the past they were used to bind legal and other official papers, usually with green satin tape. The lawyer's file was bound with pink cotton tape as were files of public servants, no doubt the origin of “red tape”.
They can be used for many things other than their official use and are still available at some stationers.
Grahame Young, Wembley, Australia
From: Patty Parsons Andersen (andpatti gmail.com)
How about Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1? When I visited my old Professor uncle once, he quoted this line
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?
and he wondered aloud about the word’s meaning. I mentioned that I used my own bodkin for sewing and explained what it looked like. He was taken aback! How could I, a mere youngster, know anything about that? Funny.
Patty Parsons Andersen, Avon, Illinois
From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
I am sure that many of your readers will see bodkin and think of the bare
bodkin in Hamlet’s soliloquy. I know I did. It made me want to look up
to confirm my knowledge of
that word, too (visiting fardels
along the way). I laughed out loud when I googled quietus -- it seems there
is an over-the-counter preparation with that brand name, an ad for which
popped up immediately. It promises to help with tinnitus.
Joel Mabus, Kalamazoo, Michigan
From: David Santangelo (dcsantangelo2005 comcast.net)
Today’s word reminded me of a stencil I saw of “to sleep, perchance to dream” above a bed. Given that in the complete passage Hamlet contemplates suicide, I am fairly certain those who put it up did not realize what he intended to do with his “bare bodkin”. Just goes to show how important context truly is!
David Santangelo, Indianapolis, Indiana
From: Audrey Shabbas (audreyshabbas gmail.com)
Also the arrow point -- the bodkin point -- of the Welsh archers... who won the Battle of Agincourt over the French. Just taught Henry V again last week in my Shakespeare class!
Audrey Shabbas, Belize
From: James Ramey (jamestramey yahoo.com)
In his 1962 novel Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov plays with the word “bodkin” in a very unusual way, and I believe he plumbed the entry for that word in his 1957 Webster’s Unabridged to put several of its more surprising definitions of the word into play. In 2004 I published an article that goes into some detail about how I think Nabokov used bodkin and its obsolete variant “botkin”. Two definitions I think he deployed that you didn’t mention are:
“a person closely wedged between two other persons.”
“a sharp tool, like an awl, sometimes used for pushing out letters from a body of set type in making corrections.”
My reading of the novel has evolved since that article was published, but my thoughts on Nabokov’s use of that particular word, with its remarkable baggage of peculiar definitions, have remained more or less intact. It is indeed a word that isn’t what it appears to be.
James T. Ramey, PhD, Profesor Investigador Titular, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Cuajimalpa, Mexico City, Mexico
From: Melissa Mudd (melissa.mudd matsuk12.us)
My only exposure to this word was from the animated Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: “Odd Bodkins, gadzooks, look at that old spook of spooks!” referring to Ichabod Crane. Great cartoon. Brilliant, even.
Melissa Mudd, Palmer, Alaska
From: Ron Balut (ronbalut optimum.net)
“Odds bodkins” is a phrase which has stuck inside my head since probably high school English. Thanks to this post and the Internet I googled it.
Ron Balut, Flanders, New Jersey
From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
The word bodkin took me back into the 1960s when The San Francisco Chronicle debuted a comic strip named Odds Bodkins, created by Dan O’Neill. Common wisdom held that it meant “God’s needle” and referred to the pointed barbs of the strip’s creator.
Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California
From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
I broke the world record for lying in bed. Instead of a trophy, I got atrophy.
Dr Richard Stallman, President, Free Software Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts
From: Jim Geiwitz (geiwitz telus.net)
I hope Thursday’s or Friday’s word in the week of “words that aren’t what they appear to be” will be fulsome, my favourite among such words, ever since I watched a Republican hack stand next to Ronald Reagan and shout “I have nothing but fulsome praise for this man.” Right on, brother!
Jim Geiwitz, Victoria, Canada
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
French Post-Impressionist artist Toulouse-Lautrec had a reputation for often finding inspirational subject matter for his engaging paintings, drawings, and poster art in some of the seedier neighborhoods of gay Paris. He would frequent popular local brothels, befriending many a “Madame” and their “working girls”, who were likely flattered to have the Toulouse-Lautrec sketch them in various stages of undress. Oooo-la-la!
So in my illustrated scenario for the word “lust-house” we find a slightly miffed Toulouse-Lautrec leaving what he had assumed from its signage to be a house of ill-repute, when, in point of fact, it’s a totally above-board tavern.My captioning for this trio of signature Alberto Giacometti cast-bronze sculptures is an admittedly rather lame pun on the title of Irving Stone’s highly acclaimed historical novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy, chronicling the life and times of the Italian Renaissance creative genius, Michelangelo.
As a lapsed sculptor, and sculpture aficionado, I’ve often questioned the impetus for Giacometti’s creating these seemingly emaciated, dare I say, atrophied, figurative sculptural works, where he appears to pare down human (and animal) form to its literal bare bones. Perhaps he is trying to express the core essence of flesh-and-blood physical beings in the third dimension?
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
The text in each box is an anagram of the text in other boxes.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Because of their great heaviness
Cries the entrepreneur, “Heavy sadirons
Said Shelley to Keats and Lord Byron,
If you’re losing at poker don’t quarrel
Like an evil society choral
So Mar-a-Lago is really a lust-house.
At a peaceful bucolic lust-house
Poor Hamlet, distressed, racked his brain
“I could end it all with a bare bodkin,”
We’re in a state of cacophony
When intolerance reaches its apogee
From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Shoulda stayed in school; I’m sadiron so little money.
Adoral keep kids from playing in that abandoned shed.
“Leave the door unlocked when you leave, lust house I gonna get in?”
A model’s bodkin make her lots of money.
That hooker is so popular atrophy is $2,500 an hour!
Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
From: Mary Hubbard (hubbard.me gmail.com)
Just wanted to let you know how A.Word.A.Day came to the rescue a few weeks ago.
The River Center, which supports communities in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire with parental support and economic opportunity, was holding their annual fundraiser -- a spelling bee. Seven rounds of words had been chosen along with extra words and championship words just in case the competition got fierce.
It wasn’t long into the event before we realized that the teams were going to exhaust the supply of words. No one had ever seen anything like it. We were headed for an awkward moment with four teams still in contention and no more words.
That is when I thought of A. Word. A. Day and your archive of words with all the necessary pieces - pronunciation, derivation, definition, and usage in a sentence neatly available. I found a laptop and showed the presenter how to scroll and find the great words for our excellent spellers.
We can’t thank you enough for this amazing resource. It literally saved our spelling bee!
Mary Hubbard, New Hampshire
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Be thou the first true merit to befriend, his praise is lost who stays till all commend. -Alexander Pope, poet (21 May 1688-1744)