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Sep 15, 2019
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There’s an antonym for it

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AWADmail Issue 898

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

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

A Rare Universal Pattern in Human Languages
The Atlantic

How to Build a “Perfect” Language
The Conversation

From: Elizabeth Block (elizabethblock netzero.net)
Subject: There’s an antonym for it

New Yorker cartoon, years ago: Drawn in white on a black background, a prof in front of his class, telling them that somewhere in the universe is something called “matter”.

Elizabeth Block, Toronto, Canada

From: Michael Cottrell (mikelaine.cottrell btopenworld.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--eustress

Sorry, Anu, but EU stress is not the opposite of stress in the UK at the moment. Looking forward to the rest of the week’s words.

Mike Cottrell, Church Stretton, formerly part of the UNITED Kingdom

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

Perhaps dangerous to use, being very similar to estrus. Can a female be in estrus and eustress at the same time?

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

From: Paul G Ross (paul.g.ross.gszh statefarm.com)
Subject: nullibiety

So do I have this correct?

ubiquity: state of being everywhere
ubiety: state of being in just one place
nullibiety: state of being nowhere

Fascinating, seems something Schrödinger’s cat would use.

Paul G Ross, Pembroke Pines, Florida

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

In the most recent legislative session, the State of Washington passed a law legalizing human composting and the dissolving of a corpse with chemicals as alternatives to burial or cremation. While neither method involves excarnation, this did immediately spring to mind. My first encounter with this word came in a college biology class. In the lab, the professor had a complete human skeleton, as well as skeletons of various animals for study. One student asked how they removed the flesh so cleanly from the skeleton, whereupon the professor showed us a film of excarnation using beetles. My unfortunate lab partner fainted dead away.

Chip Taylor

From: Bob Richmond (rsrichmond gmail.com)
Subject: excarnation

Dermestid beetles (Dermestes maculatus) have long been used by museums to deflesh (excarnate) skeletons. They sometimes maintain colonies of them. The beetles can do a lot of damage to the rest of a museum’s collection, so they have to be carefully confined.

The Parsi around Mumbai have long exposed bodies in Towers of Silence to be excarnated by vultures. Vultures have become nearly extinct there because, when they eat the bodies of cattle that have been treated with diclofenac (an NSAID commonly used to extend the working lives of elderly cattle), the drug destroys their kidneys. No work-around has been very satisfactory.

Bob Richmond, Maryville, Tennessee

Email of the Week brought to you by One Up! -- Play mind games on the cheap NOW >

From: Banna Rubinow (bannarubinow gmail.com)
Subject: Dysphemism

In 1960, on or about my eleventh birthday, my family was traveling somewhere in the car. As usual, we were playing word games. During a break my smart-ass, uh, beloved brother, then 17, said, “I bet $5 that no one here knows the antonym of euphemism.” Various words were offered up: dyseuphemism, antieuphemism. “No,” announced my brother smugly. I (the youngest sibling) thought, “Maybe you need to subtract the prefix and add a negative substitute,” so I asked, tentatively, “Dysphemism?” My brother was furious, but my parents and sister were wildly congratulatory. “You didn’t know it, you guessed it,” proclaimed my brother. “So I don’t have to pay up!” He was roundly booed by the rest of the family. “Oh, all right,” he humphed, and proceeded to write out an IOU, payable on my 21st birthday, ten years hence. I saved the IOU. He paid up -- with a $5 bill encased in Lucite. Although he subscribes to AWAD, I couldn’t resist forwarding him today’s entry. His reply: “Hearty congratulations on sustaining a nyaah-nyaah for MORE THAN SIXTY YEARS!” As perhaps you can tell, I absolutely adore my brother.

Banna Rubinow, Oswego, New York

From: Stephen L. Kirkpatrick (stevekirkp comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dysphemism

IQ45 is a dysphemism for POTUS 45.

Steve Kirkpatrick, Olympia, Washington

From: Ellen Vandergrift (evandergrift gmail.com)
Subject: Very impressed!

This week was so interesting -- thinking about the words themselves and their antonyms, but also the example quotations and the thoughts for the days. I was particularly struck by the usage example for dysphemism -- what powerful writing with brilliant use of both dysphemism in the quotation and euphemism in the title! The thought of the day was gravy!

Thank you for continuing to ignite my mind week in and week out.

Ellen Vandergrift, Ottawa, Canada

From: Gabrielle Gueron (gabrielle.gueron gmail.com)
Subject: Moral certainty

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on “I am not too sure.” -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (12 Sep 1880-1956)

Your Thought for Today brought to mind two very different people who shared the mistrust of certainty. The first one is Tzvetan Todorov, (1939-2017) and here are two of his most memorable quotations:

“We should not be simply fighting evil in the name of good, but struggling against the certainties of people who claim always to know where good and evil are to be found.”

“People who believe themselves to be the incarnation of good have a distorted view of the world.”

The second one is the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, (b. 1926) who wants his students to be aware and mindful of the dangers of being certain.

The First Mindfulness Training: Openness

“Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. We are committed to seeing the Buddhist teachings as guiding means that help us develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for. We understand that fanaticism in its many forms is the result of perceiving things in a dualistic and discriminative manner. We will train ourselves to look at everything with openness and the insight of interbeing in order to transform dogmatism and violence in ourselves and in the world.”

The Second Mindfulness Training: Non-attachment to Views

“Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We are committed to learning and practicing non-attachment to views and being open to others’ experiences and insights in order to benefit from the collective wisdom. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. (...)”.

There is a saying in Venezuela, “tener a Dios agarrado por la chiva”, which roughly translates as “grabbing God by his beard”, and implies the mistaken belief that you, and only you, are right about things. Needless to say, that mindset has been the fertile ground for the proliferation of countless sufferings inflicted on ourselves and our fellow human beings.

Gabrielle Gueron, Caracas, Venezuela

From: Philip Braham (phil braham.net)
Subject: nocebo

Your definition of nocebo as something that “is in reality harmless” is an oxymoron. It is harmful. In reality.

Philip Braham, Brisbane, Australia

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

Like the concepts of entropy and devolution, the nocebo effect has been a common theme in the various indie and alternative rock music genres that have developed over the last 40+ years. I know of two albums titled Nocebo, the most recent being released this past March by a Boston-area shoegaze band named Elizabeth Colour Wheel.

Russell Lott, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

From: David Schatzky (davidschatzky hotmail.com)
Subject: Nocebo

As a teenager in the 1960s I dabbled in hypnosis. When I was a summer camp counsellor I hypnotized a camper and suggested I would touch his finger with the flame of a candle. Instead I touched his finger with mine. Immediately, a blister appeared. That’s a powerful nocebo effect. We were both very surprised!

David Schatzky, Toronto, Canada

From: Robert Burns (robertburns oblaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nocebo

This is clearly an inept, vulgar attempt at a word in English. The word is taken 100% from a 1st-person conjugation of a dead Latin verb and perverted into a grade-school-level attempt at a noun. You have complicity in purveying this garbage.

Robert Burns, Ocean Beach, California

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: excarnation & nullibiety

This somewhat macabre scenario, playing off our word excarnation, was inspired by the ancient Parsi/Zoroastrian excarnation ritual involving carrion-consuming vultures, conflated with the notion held by archaeologists that Stonehenge, with its curious ring of enormous bluestone/dolerite monoliths, could have been a major site of early Druid excarnation and subsequent burial. In my depiction of Stonehenge, two perched vultures on-high, the ultimate in scavenging raptors, are contemplating devouring the enshrouded corpse, below. Hmm... I guess a little Druidic humor goes a long way. Ha!

This fanciful take on our word nullibiety reflects a dual homage, of sorts. For one, incorporating gigantic white NOWHERE LAND letter-flats, echoing the blocky style of the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign. Truth be told, it originally read HOLLYWOODLAND, an unabashed hard-sell real-estate billboard promo. It soon lost the LAND bit, to spell just HOLLYWOOD, for decades now, a grand shout-out to our thriving LA-based entertainment industry. My second homage clearly honors one of the most hauntingly melancholic Beatles tunes, “Nowhere Man”. Here, I’ve configured my version of “Nowhere Man” into a floating question mark, punctuating the notion that this sad, lonely, directionless soul is a kind of mystery man enveloped in an enigma. For me, “Nowhere Land” is a topsy-turvy, surreal world -- hence the upside-down conifers.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words
There’s an antonym for it:
1. eustress
2. nullibiety
3. excarnation
4. dysphemism
5. nocebo
= 1. a nicer intensity
2. nonexistent
3. soul leapt from her body
4. obscenity
5. assume harm
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

The swinger was rosy with eustress,
Contemplating the date with his mistress.
His wife learned the plan
And confronted the man...
The resulting affray was a big mess!
-Willo Oswald, Portland, Oregon (willooswald gmail.com)

Christmas morning. Kid loses his eustress,
complains his new train’s truly useless.
“I look and I look,
but somebody took
the best part, so my choo-choo’s caboose-less!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

There are times eustress leads to distress,
But I shan’t from its meaning digress.
Many thought him once great,
But a brain can deflate;
For the Donald next time will they vote less?
-Joe Budd Stevens, MD, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

They said, “He needs eustress to peak,”
and promoted him thrice in a streak.
Thus the owner’s son Leo,
became CEO,
his performance though still is quite weak.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Adrenaline’s flowing -- and how!
So eustress I’m feeling right now.
My stage fright is bad,
The worst that I’ve had --
But crowds I am certain I’ll wow.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

When events of the day bring a new stress,
Perhaps it is time for some eustress.
Bungee jump, motocross,
Talking back to the boss
Or some cutthroat time-driven speed-through chess.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The High Holidays bring on a true stress,
That I like to refer to as Jew Stress.
When my brisket is made,
Then my nerves are less frayed,
And I find nothing, but calm eustress.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I’m in love with a girl, and it’s you, Tess,”
Angel Clare told the milkmaid with eustress.
“But I’ve read this whole book,
And I feel like a schnook;
‘Twould be best of your past that I knew less.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The nun who was loved for her piety
Showed uncharacteristic anxiety.
“I’m hungover,” she said
Hanging down her sweet head,
Praying: “God, let me find nullibiety!”
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

As it so often is in society,
People act with an air of propriety.
If they stray from the norm,
And refuse to conform,
The results could be grim nullibiety.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

When customer service I call,
I can’t get a person at all.
And such nullibiety
Yields much anxiety --
I want to climb up a wall.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Now Trump has gained much notoriety
For acting with lack of propriety.
There are those like me
Who do think that he
Should go down in complete nullibiety.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Bill, “To achieve notoriety
Is better than dull nullibiety.
Seems the former I chose
With one squirt from my hose
On a dress, although done, I thought, privately.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I just love the idea: excarnation,
To describe an at-death separation
Of the body and soul.
Does the soul remain whole?
While the body goes pffft! at cessation??
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Her doctor concludes consultation.
“According to my calculation,
a tummy tuck, dear,
won’t achieve much, I fear.
What you need is extreme excarnation.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When lions in Africa capture their prey,
And gnaw on those bones in their very own way,
They build up their muscle
With many a tussle:
Excarnation of a kind, I would say.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

The vulture was facing starvation,
But then got this great invitation:
“I think I have spied
A beast that has died --
Please join me in an excarnation.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Excarnation or not, I am one
Who has no fear of death when I’m done.
‘Til that time is here
Each day is quite dear,
So I spend it just having some fun.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The philosopher’s wise proclamation
Says that death is a kind of vacation.
A mysterious ride
To the far other side,
Without baggage, just pure excarnation.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

On her birthday, thoughts of excarnation
put a damper on Sally’s elation,
but her spirits sure rose
when she heard them propose,
“Let’s give Sally a standing ovation!”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

When the soul undergoes excarnation,
It’s supposed to be cause for elation.
But the Reaper I’d foil
To stay in this coil;
Without it, there’s no copulation.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

If the accent were not on the DYS
I think I could work well with this!
But to say DYSphemism?
My brain’s in a schism;
It makes me boo-hoo and then hiss!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

His ongoing rants are quite senseless;
They’re leaving his colleagues defenseless.
They watch their man waddle
Through nonsense and twaddle;
Dysphemism pours forth, relentless.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

“My talent for crowd hypnotism,”
Says Trump, “Eggheads call ‘dysphemism’.
Disagree with my views
And I holler, ‘Fake News!’
It’s the way I’ll achieve despotism.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“This doesn’t taste right, seems to me!”
cries the lady. “You’ve poisoned my tea!”
Although you and I know
‘twas just a nocebo,
she’s gone now, unfortunately.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Food is a nocebo to her.
Being thin is what she’d prefer.
Anorexic for sure,
How long she’ll endure
Is not very, we all concur.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

If poison is what you expect,
Nocebos can have an effect.
Though it’s all in your head,
You may still wind up dead --
No toxins will testing detect.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Boss from hell was all bluster and ego.
Made us pray for the day him we’d see go.
Pin-stuck dolls on his chair
sent bad boss outta there.
Superstition responds to nocebo.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

While you think that it’s just a nocebo,
You’ll regret scarfing down that burrito.
Though they taste like Valhalla,
Last night at the gala
I couldn’t zip up my tuxedo.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: There ain’t-a-nym bad enough for these

I eustress see rainbows in my dreams. Spying a hilltop cafe she said, “Let’s go up that nullibiety or coffee.”

When my boutonniere wilted I was left with an excarnation.

The giant said, “Dis ‘fee, fie, foh’ sounds good today but dysphemism loud enough.”

We hoped Mr. Jackson would play but we nocebo.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Understand this, I mean to arrive at the truth. The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it. -Agatha Christie, author (15 Sep 1890-1976)

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