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Sep 5, 2021
This week’s theme
Words with unusual pronunciations

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AWADmail Issue 1001

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

More Than 80 Cultures Still Speak in Whistles

The First-Ever Dictionary of South Africa’s Kaaps Language Has Launched -- Why It Matters
The Conversation

From: Michael Poole (michael puuru.co.nz)
Subject: Blackguard

It’s not only blackguard that defies the concept of phonetic spelling. The same applies to a large number of English placenames, the source of much amusement when foreigners and other non-locals try to pronounce them. As a pronunciation guide for the uninitiated, I devised the ten-pint rule: take on board ten Imperial (i.e., 20 fl oz) pints (= nearly 6 litres) of best English bitter (beer), and then try to say the name. You’re probably going to produce a reasonable approximation of the local pronunciation!

Michael Poole, Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand

From: Claude Galinsky (cmgalinsky gmail.com)
Subject: Blackguard

Among historians of the Fender electric guitars, a Blackguard refers to a Fender Broadcaster, “Nocaster” or Telecaster built before 1954, when Fender switched from using black pickguards to white pickguards. They’re legendary to the point of mythology and highly prized by collectors, with sale prices upwards of $10,000.

Claude Galinsky, Westford, Massachusetts

From: Francis Williamson williamson sapo.pt)
Subject: W as a vowel in Welsh (Re: cwm)

When I was a naïve 18-year-old arriving to study at the University of North Wales, Bangor (in 1964), there was a bus route from Bangor to Amlwch on Anglesey. My English-accustomed brain saw the sign Amlwch on the front of the bus as Almwich. It was several months before a native Welsh speaker apprised me of my error.

I also later learned that the nearby Wylfa power station is not pronounced willfer, but rather more like woolvah.

Francis Williamson (PhD, Wales), Algarve, Portugal

From: Peter O’Carroll (pocarroll ocarroll.com)
Subject: cwm

Ha ha: “Zym in...” That’s hilarious, Anw!

Peter O’Carroll, Lake Charles, Louisiana

From: Vera Bondy (message vera-bondy.eu)
Subject: cwm

Greetings from a low and flat land without any cwms.

The Dutch word for a bowl is kom. Same pronunciation.

Vera Bondy, Amsterdam, Netherlands

From: Christopher MacRae (christophermacrae wanadoo.fr)
Subject: Cwm and cirque

As an 84-year-old ex-mountaineer, I love today’s choice. But cirques are not always caused by glaciers. The dramatic cirques in La Réunion, for instance, are caused by volcanoes, not glaciers. You are quite right about cwms though, since there were more glaciers than volcanoes in Wales recently! (Not a political statement...)

Christopher MacRae, Mormoiron, France

From: Jean-Luc Popot (jean-luc.popot ibpc.fr)
Subject: on the formation of cwms

A small comment about the formation of the Cirque de Navacelles (a beautiful site indeed). As many such cwms (e.g., that at Pont d’Arc, on the rim of which the Chauvet cave lies), it was not carved by a glacier, but by a river. It is what is called an incised meander, a place where the river cut a shortcut through its bank, flowing directly from meander n - 1 to meander n + 1, leaving meander n to dry up.

Jean-Luc Popot, Paris, France

From: Mary Boy (mary.miller.boy googlemail.com)
Subject: Cwm

My mental trick for remembering how to pronounce cwm is the letter w itself, which is double u. I picture the word as cuum and then know its pronunciation.

Mary Boy, Falkensee, Germany

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy The Official Old’s Cool Education II -- A fantastic gift.”

From: Lucas Brown (lucascbrown gmail.com)
Subject: Cwm

Today’s word was a new one for me, but it enlightened me to yet another clever wordplay by the great author, Terry Pratchett. One of the famous locations in his Discworld is Koom Valley. I had just thought it was a name and never realized it basically meant Valley valley. Very typical Pratchett humor now that I am in on the joke, I think.

Lucas Brown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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

“Cwm Rhondda” (pronounced more or less “koom hron-tha”, and meaning “Rhondda Valley”, an area in south Wales) is a well-known hymn tune in Britain and the US.

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

From: Jonathan Sims (profitpie aol.com)
Subject: Cwm

There are very few Celtic words adopted by the English language. Certainly when compared with the opposite: Welsh-speaking TV programs are dotted with frequent anglicisms.

This suggests that the original Anglo-Saxon invaders intermingled little with the incumbent Britons, other than eventually driving them to the extremities of Wales, Cornwall, Cumbria (that word cym again), and the Isle of Man.

Jonathan Sims, St Teath, UK

From: Phyllis Charnyllis (charnyllis nyc.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--victual

Oh no-o-o! I’ve been saying VICK-choo-l for over 50 years! I’m so embarrassed!

Phyllis Charney, New York, New York

From: Caroline Leland (carolinehleland gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--victual

Sometimes Southerners actually spell this phonetically, as vittles. I know that’s technically incorrect, but as you’ve said before, language continues to evolve.

Caroline Leland, Tarboro, North Carolina

From: Janis Butler (janisyb gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--victual

Sometime I wish my mother was still around so I could say, “Hey, smartie-pants. Try your phonetic system on that one!” She claimed that my school didn’t teach phonetics properly, not like the way she learned it. I have always been a sub-par speller.

Janis Butler

From: Brenda J. Gannam (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)
Subject: victual

While my lovely lictual wife prepares pancakes on the grictual, I sit here in the mictual of the den, whictualing wood for a fictual instead of dictualing around with tictuals and jots, or other pictualing pursuits.

Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York

From: Amy Huff (a.huff hazelifindlay.org)
Subject: Theme for the week

The theme for this should have been, “Words you have been mispronouncing for YEARS in your head while reading.” My mind was blown by these.

Amy Huff, St Johns, Michigan

From: Janine Harris-Wheatley (janinehw20 gmail.com)
Subject: Words with unexpected pronunciations

I suspect that, like many AWAD subscribers, I spent my childhood with my head in a book, as my relatives would often remark. This gave me a large vocabulary of words that I knew how to spell but not how to pronounce in the common way. True sometimes even into adulthood, such as the aforementioned blackguard and colonel, while I now know after years on a heritage committee that facade is not fakade. Pronunciation of some words is so skewed from the phonetical that I long thought they were two different words. I was in my fifties before it clicked that the “Cotony-aster” hedges I grew up with and the “Cotton Easter” tree I read about are both the Cotoneaster shrub.

Isn’t English fun. The only constant is that no rule is constant.* I am in awe of people who are fluent speakers of English as a second or third or fourth language.

* I say this expecting that someone is going to know one or more rules that have no exceptions, to which I would reply that yes, that rather proves my point. ;)

Janine Harris-Wheatley, Tottenham, Canada

From: Charles Steele (c-steele onu.edu)
Subject: English pronunciation

Voltaire found English pronunciation vexing. Plague has one syllable and ague two, so he wrote “May plague take half the English language and ague the rest.” (Will Durant; The Story of Philosophy)

Charles E. Steele, Jr., Leyte, Philippines

From: Alec Bamford (chanida.alec gmail.com)
Subject: Words with unusual pronunciations?

Or words with unusual spellings?

The premise of this week’s words is that the spelling has priority and the pronunciation should conform to the spelling.

But what if a spurious spelling is the source of the mismatch? The b in debt was introduced by overzealous typesetters who wanted to signpost a supposed relationship to the Latin debitum. Here it is clearly the spelling that is “unusual”.

But it is true that in our rule-bound society, the spelling does have priority. Suppose you have the name Kerr and pronounce it to rhyme with car. Then you want to change the pronunciation so that it rhymes with cur. No problem, you just do it. But suppose you want to keep the pronunciation but change the spelling to Carr. You have now given yourself a major bureaucratic headache changing your voter registration, various licences, etc., etc.

Alec Bamford, Bangkok, Thailand

From: Harriet Winner (harriet.winner gmail.com)
Subject: Epistemic Trespassing

I learned a term this week (epistemic trespassing) which describes the many so-called “experts” who provide opinions on topics unrelated to their areas of “expertise”, despite scientific evidence that refutes their ideas.
There’s an article about it on Springer Link which I’m not sure is for real, as it sounds like it was written by an epistemic trespasser trying to sound intelligent.

As a frustrated health provider, it’s just so satisfying to have a name for those who spew misinformation about health issues (Rand Paul, Alex Berenson, Scott Atlas, Andrew Wakefield many years ago, etc.) which not only makes them look stupid, but also jeopardizes the health of so many people.

Harriet Winner, Potomac, Maryland

Les Nymphs aux Naturelles
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Sidhe and cwm

The feminine-tinged pronunciation of the word sidhe inspired this pastoral tableau of a trio of blue-winged fairies, who’ve just discovered that there’s more than one way to identify themselves. Sprites would work, too.

Valley POVs
How green was my valley*... cwm... glen.... cirque? I must admit, initially encountering our word “cwm” flummoxed me. It screamed out... “My kingdom for a vowel!” But now, knowing its linguistic root (Welsh) and definition clarified things. Welsh orthography uses 29 letters based on Latin script and their “w” works as a vowel.
*How Green Was My Valley is a novel by Richard Llewllyn, published in 1939, set in South Wales’s coal country, during the Queen Victorian era.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Words with unusual pronunciations
1. blackguard
2. cwm
3. victual
4. gunwale
5. sidhe
= 1. knucklehead
2. hill basin, wide rut
3. chow, gnawing cue: hummus, wurst
4. nautical stave
5. woods sprite
     This week’s theme: Words with unusual pronunciations
1. blackguard
2. cwm
3. victual
4. gunwale
5. sidhe
= Wow! We Kiwis must congratulate Anu!
1. it’s crud, scum, devil
2. the gulch, wadi
3. nourish
4. plank
5. banshee
     This week’s theme: Words with unusual pronunciations
1. blackguard
2. cwm
3. victual
4. gunwale
5. sidhe
= 1. cad, skud
2. basal
3. ligged lunch? Wow!
4. rim view
5. wee stack, hurst
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


You’re distracted. Can’t fault you for that.
On the other hand, starting your chat
With, “My dear, you look haggard.”
Reveals you’re a blackguard.
You’ll be telling me next I look fat.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

He was walking around looking haggard.
Didn’t get his vaccine. He was laggard.
And now it’s too late.
He’s been on a date
With Miss Covid, nineteen, yet a blackguard.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

New dude at the bar was dead set
on outdrinking the little coquette.
Both she and the blackguard
soon stumbled and staggered,
but neither has yet won the bet.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When onto the stage he first swaggered,
We booed and we hissed at the blackguard!
His mustache he’d twirl;
He’d threaten the girl --
Alas for that poor dear so haggard!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The new student strutted and swaggered.
By his foul mouth, the teacher was staggered.
She said to the youth,
“You’re very uncouth.
You must leave this classroom, you blackguard!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“You’re a bastard, a creep, and a blackguard!”
The two in the midst of a shag heard.
For Donald had failed
To detect he was trailed
When to Stormy’s hotel room he’d swaggered.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

There’s a lovely deep tarn in our cwm
Where young lovers can swim -- sans costume.
Long hot summers are best
For a frolic undressed --
Then come Spring, there’s a new baby boom.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

“Let’s hike up the mountain today.
My friends just returned, and they say
that even the cwm
is fully abloom,”
she declares. “We can pick a bouquet.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

He looked out from his hospital room,
Feeling full of despair and deep gloom,
Until a mountain range
Allowed his mood to change,
As a rainbow appeared in the cwm.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Most lovers of Scrabble assume
The lack of a vowel signals doom.
But I’m here to say
Don’t fret, it’s okay --
You’ll manage to play thanks to cwm.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“It’s like Poe sealed us up in a tomb!”
Said the hikers down deep in a cwm.
“While it’s true we see stars,
Our cell phones have no bars;
There’s no email, no Google, no Zoom!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A hotdog’s my favorite victual.
That makes me feel guilty, a little.
I have it with beer.
That should make it clear,
Why frequently I have to piddle.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

It seems, at our grandparents’ house,
that a role is assigned to each spouse.
She fixes the victuals
while he sits and whittles.
There’s nary a grumble or grouse.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The victuals the army supplied
Some soldiers would simply deride.
“This mystery meat
Is too weird to eat --
What was it before it was dried?”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

We came home, my brothers and I,
A bagful of candy to try --
Said our grandma, “What, Skittles?
Them ain’t no fit victuals”
And yum! There was great home-baked pie!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

She said to her youngest, so little,
Come to breakfast, you need a victual.
So, she made what he’d beg,
Sausage, toast, scrambled egg,
And some pancakes fresh from the griddle.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said O.J., “I sure love acquittals;
They perk up my craving for victuals.”
Agreed Donald, “Red meat
Post-impeachment’s my treat,
Then it’s back to more virus transmittals.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

With stiff upper lip most Britannic,
Huffed the captain of SS Titanic
“Waves up our gunwales?
They could reach to our funnels
And there’d still be scant reason to panic.”
-Duncan Howarth, Maidstone, UK (duncanhowarth aol.com)

“We’re agreed, a Caribbean cruise
Is the best of all cures for the blues?
Good! I’ll charter the yacht
The biggest they’ve got
Which you’ll fill to the gunwales with booze.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

When he was young, sailing the blue sea,
He’d lean over the gunwale daily.
The smell of the ocean
To him was pure heaven.
A true sailor, he was meant to be.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The crew bored, becalmed in a lull,
liked the view over the gunwale --
A teeming nude beach
was within their reach!
They sang as they began to scull.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

“These big waves and that cloud like a funnel,”
Said the sailors, “our poor ship will pummel.
That guy who’s aboard
Must have pissed off the Lord.”
So they threw Jonah over the gunwale.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Everyone who has dealings with sidhe
Has one point on which all can agree.
They’re invariably seen
When you have some poteen.
It’s their fondness for whiskey, you see.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Supposing I happened to see
a mound of the type called a sidhe.
Superstitiously wary
of any bad fairy
within, I would just let it be!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

He showed us the homes of the sidhe.
“These mounds are where fairies must be!”
Our guide from Killarney
I thought full of blarney --
They just looked like hillocks to me.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“All these kids losing teeth,” sighed the sidhe;
“I’m so busy I can’t even pee.
And my cash flow? So down
I’ll be pawning my crown
Before long if they keep up this spree.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


To help the woman stop chattering incessantly even in her sleep, the dentist made her a blackguard.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“You lost your last blackguard. The game is over.”
-Ray Pasinski, Downers Grove, Illinois (rayomic yahoo.com)

For racial equality, the all-white basketball team signed a blackguard.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Sitting around the campfire near the mountain basin, the Boy Scouts started singing Cwm-bayah.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

The student went off to college in a remote mountain valley where she graduated cwm laude.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When asked by his doctor, the German musician said he was “vit as a victual”.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said the German chancellor after the most recent US election, “Sank goodness zat half-victual soon be out of office.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When asked what pistol he preferred, the sharpshooter replied, “Any ol’ gunwale do.”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“A gunwale only kill you if someone pulls the trigger,” argued the NRA lobbyist.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A librarian wanted to forbid all fairy tales. They called her a ban sidhe.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The perplexed fairy asked the grammar teacher, “Am I a he or a sidhe?”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Sighed the judge in Oberon and Titania’s custody battle, “It’s a case of ‘he said, sidhe said’.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Ed Asner
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Ed Asner; Newsom v. Elder

I felt recently deceased actor and activist Ed Asner deserved a little AWAD love and appreciation. In a long and successful career he garnered seven Emmy Awards. He was much beloved by his legion of fans, who fondly remember him for his role as the gruff but lovable media exec Lou Grant, in the ‘70s on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and then his reprising the same role, but in the more serious dramatic eponymous series. Here, in my Hollywood star-anchored illustration, I’ve repurposed my caricature of Ed that I’d given him back in 1982 when a handful of us Hanna-Barbera cartoonists had the delight to meet and commune with him at his office in Universal City. At that time we were embroiled in a protracted six-month Cartoonist Union strike. Ed had spoken up for us striking animation folks and even joined us on the picket line. We wanted to show him how much we appreciated his being in solidarity with us.

Newsom v. Elder
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, with his dashing GQ-esque looks and proven track record (from mayor of San Francisco to California attorney general), confidently swashbuckled his way into the governor’s office three years ago. In this month’s recall election his closest rival appears to be the ever-Trumper conservative talk-radio host, Larry Elder. Here, I’ve harkened back to Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for the attorney general post, where he repeatedly parroted “I don’t recall”, in response to the Senate committee members’ probing queries.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Plenty of kind, decent, caring people have no religious beliefs, and they act out of the goodness of their hearts. Conversely, plenty of people who profess to be religious, even those who worship regularly, show no particular interest in the world beyond themselves. -John Danforth, priest, ambassador, senator (b. 5 Sep 1936)

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