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Jan 27, 2019
This week’s theme
Well-traveled words

This week’s words

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Relative usage over time

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Words that have many unrelated meanings

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AWADmail Issue 865

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language Sponsor’s Message: Fuh-ree-zing? Stir crazy? Cabin fever? One Up! is way wicked smarter than Scrabble and way better than Bananagrams. No board. No complicated rules. 20 or so fast and sweaty cutthroat minutes. Rinse (off your IQ), and repeat. Congrats to Email of the Week winner, Denis Toll (see below), as well as all AWADers -- wise your family time up right now >

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

Speaking Black Dialect in Courtrooms Can Have Striking Consequences
The New York Times

Can a Translation Be a Masterpiece, Too?
The New York Review of Books

Trump’s Typos Reveal His Lack of Fitness for the Presidency
The Atlantic

From: Jamie Diamandopoulos (jdiamandopoulos yahoo.com)
Subject: Thank you! (Re: aubade)

Wow! Your A.Word.A.Day for Monday, 1/21/2019, is a four-way pleasure:

1. Your description of the development of sarkara into sugar -- from Sanskrit, through Persian, Arabic, Italian, Latin, French, and finally to English.

2. The suggestion that we travel, mix, and sweeten our lives.

3. The lovely word aubade and its equally lovely meaning -- morning song, poem, or music.

4. The thought for today -- that walking is an ambulation of mind.

All I can do in return is to offer, belatedly, a made-up word, which I plan to adopt:

A friend tells about hearing whistling and singing in a nearby room. He found a janitor sweeping the floor and asked the janitor what makes him so happy. The janitor smiled and said, “I don’t never keep nobody or nothin’ in my despisory.”

Jamie Diamandopoulos, Houston, Texas

From: Barbara Chmielewska (b.chmielewska uw.edu.pl)
Subject: Sarkara

And sarkara became as follows in Slavic languages:

1) cukier - in Polish
2) cukr - in Czech
3) caхap (sahar) - in Russian

Barbara Chmielewska, Warsaw, Poland

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

Aubade is the title of a poem by the celebrated English poet Philip Larkin. It contains his pessimistic musings around dawn, following a sleepless night, offering “a stark and harrowing vision of human mortality.”

As dawn breaks, however, and light slowly returns to the unpleasant view of the English port city of Hull, the poet acquiesces in the inevitable fate of man, leaving the reader with a sense that life is worth living as long as the postman delivers the mail and the doctor completes his round of house calls.

Compare this to Shakespeare’s more upbeat aubade “Hark! hark! the lark at heaven’s gate sings” from the play Cymbeline, to feel the difference in the sensibility between the two poets. The latter poem, incidentally, was set to music by Schubert, one of the more than six hundred songs he composed.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: Aubade

Implicit in the definition of the word “aubade” is joy or contentment, a jocund song, perhaps a lover singing the wonders of his inamorata lying beside him. John Donne in his aubade hectors the sun, calling it a “busy old fool” for disturbing him and his lover. Say the word “aubade” and it connotes delight, even a soupcon of lasciviousness, but, in general, we think of aubades as being, to use a cant word, uplifting, the doings of happy lovers in bed.

Oddly enough, then, it’s incongruous that perhaps the most famous aubade of the twentieth century is sometimes referred to as the darkest and most pessimistic poem of modern poetry. I am referring to Philip Larkin’s poem “Aubade”.

Czeslaw Milosz, who admits the greatness of the poem, says, however, that “the poem leaves me not only dissatisfied but indignant.” He goes on to say that in the poem a person “is reduced to nothing, to a bundle of perceptions, or even less, to an interchangeable statistical unit. But poetry by its very essence has always been on the side of life.” Larkin, on the other hand, refuses to admit any kind of “mystification” that might “mask the fact of the body’s dissolution and the mind’s disappearance after death”. Larkin bluntly asserts that all the anodynes and sweet emollients humans have imbibed -- religion, courage, philosophy, drink, the routines of work and leisure -- are placebos.”

In his essay “Joy or Night” (comprised by his book, a collection of his essays, The Redress of Poetry), Seamus Heaney compares Larkin’s “Aubade” with Yeats’s “Joy or Night”. Heaney thinks that Larkin’s poem “For all its heartbreaking truth and beauties reneges on what Yeats called the ‘spiritual intellect’s great work’.” Heaney states that “in order for human beings to bring about the most radiant conditions for themselves to inhabit, it is essential that the vision of reality which poetry offers should be transformative, more than just a printout out of the given circumstances of its time and place.” In short, Heaney accuses Larkin of being “a defeatist”. “Courage” says Heaney is of “some good.” Heaney, if I sense his tone correctly, strenuously objects to Larkin’s line, “Death is no different whined at than withstood.”

No, Larkin’s aubade has little in common with Richard Wilbur’s delightful aubade in which he and his wife, late in the morning, enjoy “ruddy pears” and wine in bed. It possesses none of Donne’s wit in demanding the sun refuse to rise or, if it must, let it circle the two lovers who have become to each other the entire world. It has none of the ebullience and sheer exhilaration of Shakespeare’s larks rising to heaven’s gates. If Larkin’s poem reminds me of anything, it reminds me of Macbeth’s funereal words about life being “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.” Larkin would deny a person’s life of having even any “sound and fury”.

Again, and perhaps I am striving against the wind, I find it noteworthy that perhaps the best aubade of modern poetry (it was published in December, 1977) has not one drop of sweetness or hope within its despairing lines. You’ll find no luscious pears or purple wine in Larkin’s poem, no sweet kisses, no vows that love will last forever, no melodious birds outside welcoming the rising sun.

Each Wordsmith reader can decide for himself or herself the worth or merit of Larkin’s poem. I admit that the poem terrifies me. I find myself in the baffling and bewildering quandary of agreeing with both Larkin and Heaney. I am smothered in ambivalence, even as the rising sun falls on the river birch tree standing outside my study window.

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

From: Russell Lott (russellwlott comcast.net)
Subject: Re: aubade

Aubade comes “from Latin albus (white). Ultimately from the Indo-European root albho- (white), which is also the source of ... album, albumen ...” So to call The Beatles’ eponymously-titled ninth studio album the White Album is an ironic redundancy. I imagine John Lennon would’ve loved that.

Russell Lott, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

From: Chip Taylor (via website comments)
Subject: postiche

If a fake hair piece is made out of real hair, is it a real fake hair piece?

Chip Taylor

Email of the Week brought to you by WISE UP! -- Playing games just got serious >

From: Denis Toll (denis.toll outlook.com)
Subject: postiche

Going back as far as 1825, Russian leaders have been alternately bald and hairy. Since Obama had a full head of hair maybe the Donald wants to conceal his Russian sympathies by not appearing to adhere to this pattern.

Denis Toll, Aberdeen, Scotland

From: Francis Schell (fjbschell gmail.com)
Subject: Kurbash

In my native Hungary, there are neither hippos nor rhinos, but there is a korbacs, a long leather whip, usually cracked on the backs of recalcitrant oxen. The word probably arrived with the Ottoman Turkish occupation, 1541-1699.

Francis J. Bosco Schell, Falls Village, Connecticut

From: Ana Ross (via website comments)
Subject: kurbash

This whip was the favorite of the mercenaries who King Leopold of Belgium hired to administer his fiefdom in the Congo. King Leopold was one of the few people in history who could arguably be called more evil than Hitler. Leopold committed genocide in the Congo, killing at least 10 million natives strictly for the money. His rule in the Congo was perhaps the cruelest ever devised for exploiting fellow human beings. The whip used could kill a man after 20 lashes.

A clerk who understood what was happening before anyone else did was able to ultimately bring down the king. His name was E.D. Morel and he was a genuine hero.

Ana Ross, Honolulu, Hawaii

From: Brenna MacCrimmon (brennamacc gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kurbash

Your A.Word.A.Day is something I never regret seeing in my inbox. Thanks for all you do to keep our brains and hearts engaged.

A small pedantic point (or perhaps pointlessness): the Turkish version of today’s word is spelled with an undotted ‘i’ kırbaç

Brenna MacCrimmon, Toronto, Canada

Thanks for taking the time to alert us about this. The dotted and dotless ‘i’s are easy to get mixed up. Fixed now.
-Anu Garg

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Postiche and safari

For decades, well before he’d assumed the most rarified office in the land, celeb-watchers have had an abiding fascination with Trump’s unique coif... a sweeping golden swath of hair uncannily reminiscent of the curious flip of a male wood duck’s crest, in the back, i.e., a ducktail, and towards the front, akin to a chunk of flattened roadkill. Hmm... a wig (postiche), or not a wig? That’s the 64,000-dollar question. In this scenario, I’ve captured the moment golfer Trump is attacked by a swooping great-horned owl that’s apparently mistaken his bad combover for fresh roadkill. As the owl proceeds to wing off, he must be aware of his miscalculation in that sharp bird brain of his. Hmm... fake or real? Only Trump’s hairdresser knows for sure. Ha!

First Lady Melania Trump received considerable flak for sporting traditional “white man’s” safari garb, down to the most offensive item... a white pith helmet, on her 2018 trip to Kenya. Several critics took umbrage with her donning the dated safari helmet while out in the wilds of the Kenyan savannah, arguing that the distinctive domed hardhat symbolized a now very distant era of European colonialism, when native Africans were largely viewed as less than human... essentially beasts of burden, mere servile chattels. For me, on this one, I give her the benefit of the doubt, suspecting Melania was attempting to merely make a personal fashion statement, rather than intentionally trying to upset the locals by stirring up reminiscences of Africa’s ignoble, exploited colonial past. Here, I’ve had a bit of fun, presenting Melania confronting a curious hyena, who appears to bear an uncanny resemblance to her hubby, Donald. Set back in the middle-ground we find purported avid big-game hunter Donald Trump Jr.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words


1. aubade
2. prosopography
3. kurbash
4. postiche
5. safari
1. chorus
2. group-based bio
3. a strap
4. fakery
5. Aha, hippos!
     Well-traveled words
1. aubade
2. prosopography
3. kurbash
4. postiche
5. safari
1. laud; sparrow’s vocals
2. broad shared biography
3. whip
4. toupee; false
5. trek
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

When Larkin woke up in the night,
His fear of death causing such fright,
His poem, Aubade,
Made things seem not so sad,
But he still wouldn’t turn out the light.
-John Hudson, Halifax, Canada (jdehudson gmail.com)

A lifelong desire of the famous bard
was to compose a sweet aubade.
But he would wake up late,
time for his luncheon date;
the muse’d flee when he forked the salad.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

If it’s fish you would lure, such as cod,
cast your net while you sing an aubade.
But if a dame you would woo,
or a marquise or two,
you’d best take your advice from de Sade.
-Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)

“The sound of my bombs is an aubade,”
Over breakfast says Bashar al-Assad.
“When there’s no good ‘kaboom’
To be heard raining doom,
There’s a playlist I use on my iPod.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Faith’s Facebook autobiography
is the opposite of prosopography.
Allergy prone
and sublimely alone,
she sniffs at literal photography.
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

Let’s study a group that likes POTUS.
Yes, he’s bogus and no doubt the slowest.
Prosopography? Amend it.
Bend it a slight bit.
No more POTUS; I’d much prefer FLOTUS.
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

The study of groups, prosopography,
And cameras led us to photography.
Though Trump’s thoughts are few,
He combined the two,
And his passion is now group pornography.
-John Willcocks, Indianapolis, Indiana (johnwillcocks comcast.net)

Matthew Brady was fond of photography;
To Lincoln, he said, “I won’t charge a fee.”
“That’s quite a fair shake,”
Answered Abe, “Now go make
Through your pictures a war prosopography.”
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (janicepower25 gmail.com)

When giving someone a stern lash,
I’d say your tongue is a kurbash.
It hurts just the same
Playing at that game.
Please attempt not being so rash.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Donald Trump, with his affect so brash,
Makes decisions both shocking and rash.
With his pen poised to sign
On the black-dotted line,
Spirits break from his daily kurbash.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Oh for the days of films like “Rawhide”,
Which portrayed a true cross-country ride.
The Trail Boss made a coaxing cry,
The kurbash, unfurling would fly,
And the heaving herd surged like a tide!
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

Said Zorro, while wielding his kurbash,
“I think I’d look good in a mustache.
Without it, there’s danger
My twin, the Lone Ranger,
Could make of our girlfriends a mishmash.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

It is almost too easy to dump
On the postiche of dear Mr. Trump.
Will our poets opine
On its fake golden shine
Or admit it’s a real enough clump?
-Ben Dunham, Marion, Massachusetts (fiddlesr verizon.net)

Now Trump truly is a postiche
Who hobnobs with the nouveau riche.
So proud of the shut down.
No empathy, renown.
For sake of his dumb wall. “Capeesh?”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

I have the best words, he said
With his postiche askew on his head
It’s hard to admire
A serial liar
When he spews fabrications instead.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

“In Paris we make ze real quiche,”
Said the Michelin chef, “No postiche!
In New York zey are balmy,
Zey’ll put in pastrami;
In Oregon, often hashish!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Preparing to go on safari,
he’s packing his bag now. So far, he
has placed in the case
a container of mace
and an atlas for tracking his quarry.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

My iPad takes me to places
Where I see lots of new faces;
Press “Safari” and go
Far away for a mo:
No litter, no footprint, no traces!
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

A child who went on safari
Enjoyed the great Kalahari.
She wanted to pet
The lion they met,
But Mom said, “No, dear, I’m sorry.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

To the fish store to find calamari
Is as far as I’ll go on safari.
For nature we bungle,
So let’s tell the jungle
We’ll leave it alone and we’re sorry.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Well-trampled words

I can’t portray any of the letters in YMCA because I have an aubade.

“Those Pog boys are bad,” said the D.A. “and I will prosopography breaks the law.”

When a wooden sidewalk catches fire it leaves lots of kurbash.

Martin Luther wigged out and felt compelled to postiche of his 95 theses.

Stanley’s search for Dr. Livingstone took him safari feared becoming lost.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: James Ertner (jde31459 gmail.com)
Subject: travelin’ words

“Aubade! My poor bones are aching this morning!”

After the non-amateur (i.e., a professional) was caught reading obscene material, he was charged with prosopography.

“You dirty dog! Why don’t you wretched kurbash your head against the wall!”

You can’t mail a letter without putting a postiche stamp on it.

“How are you enjoying your trip in the African jungle?” “Safari so good.”

Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina

A fellow of mediocre talent will remain a mediocrity, whether he travels or not; but one of superior talent (which without impiety I cannot deny that I possess) will go to seed if he always remains in the same place. -Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer and musician (27 Jan 1756-1791)

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