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Oct 31, 2021
This week’s theme
Words coined after fairy tales and folktales

This week’s words
Tom Thumb
Chicken Licken
open sesame

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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There’s a word for it

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AWADmail Issue 1009

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

Sponsor’s Message: “Yes it is!” This teen on a bicycle skids right in front of me on lower Thames, a rascally twinkle in his eye. He looks down at my OLD’S COOL t-shirt, snickers, and then looks back up at me dead in the eye. He shakes his headful of fusilli curls, contemptuously. “No it isn’t.” Fits traditionalistas to a tee. A fantastic gift! Shop Now.

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

Solved: The Mystery of “The Grapes of Wrath” Manuscript
The Guardian

Behind a Top Female Name in Spanish Crime Fiction: Three Men
The New York Times

The Brain Guesses What Word Comes Ne-
Scientific American

Something Fun:
This Word Does Not Exist.com

From: Bruce W Bailey (brucewbailey gmail.com)
Subject: breadcrumb

If their parents were unable to feed them, how did Hansel and Gretel have enough bread to scatter along the trail? This question was posed to me by my 3-year-old daughter at the time, Gretel!

Bruce Bailey, Cupertino, California

From: Gretchen Patti (GLTPatti gmail.com)
Subject: Breadcrumbs

If you know the WHOLE story, you know that the breadcrumbs didn’t work! Hansel originally left a trail of white pebbles, and they worked fine; but the next time he couldn’t get pebbles, so he tried crumbs. The birds ate the crumbs! That’s how Hansel and Gretel ended up at the witch’s house. (With my name, of course I know the story well -- and I even have a brother named Hans!)

Gretchen Patti, Naperville, Illinois

From: Kathy Borst (kborst mcn.org)
Subject: Hansel and Gretel

Cautionary Tales did a very entertaining podcast on Hansel and Gretel last week.

Kathy Borst, Yorkville, California

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy OLD’S COOL -- Look 10 lbs younger.

From: Dan Crawford (crawfordd3741 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--breadcrumb

Working events at a library, I was frequently a breadcrumb, and would be told my assignment was breadcrumbing again. I either stood by the elevators to remind people on which floor they’d find the next part of the program, or I stood at the top of the stairs to point out which direction they needed to go from there. (Breadcrumbing duties also invariably involved pointing the direction to the nearest restrooms.)

Dan Crawford, Chicago, Illinois

From: Gretchen E. Hardy (gretchen.hardy2034 gmail.com)
Subject: Sally Breadcrumb

We call our GPS voice Sally Breadcrumb. She always helps us find our way home.

Gretchen E. Hardy, Auburn, Pennsylvania

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

In Engelbert Humperdinck’s 19th-century opera Hansel and Gretel (a perennial Christmas favourite based on the Brother Grimms’ fairytale), as the pair is being lured toward the cottage of the Witch, the clever boy Hansel throws breadcrumbs on the ground to find their way out of the forest, just in case. (video, 1 hr 47 min.)

This performance features, in the role of Gretel, the recently deceased soprano Edita Gruberova.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Todd Derr (todd.derr gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--breadcrumb

The word breadcrumb always makes me think of this record (6 min.), which is inexplicably 30 years old now.

Todd Derr, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

From: Anuja Churi (anuja.churi1 gmail.com)
Subject: breadcrumbing

The slang breadcrumbing means to keep a romantic interest confused yet interested by pacing your texting.

Anuja Churi, Mumbai, India

From: Nima Laud (nimalaud gmail.com)
Subject: Quotation by Macaulay

I was disappointed to see the quotation attributed to Thomas Macaulay in today’s A.Word.A.Day (Oct 25). For most Indians, his dismissive and sneering attitude towards Indian culture, language, and literature is hurtful. His overall attitude towards India was not respectful though it was a common trait among the British at the time. He once wrote, “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.”

Please be more culturally sensitive when quoting persons who have shown a lack of respect or sensitivity towards other countries and peoples.

Nima Laud, Campbell, California

From: Daren Krause (dnaxke yahoo.com)
Subject: Macaulay quotation

The cults of personality, aided by mass social media ignorance, is ushering a return to those halcyon days of golden greatness. If there were just a time ...

And the more I learn about the past, the recent past, and the present, the more I understand that these forces have always been a dominant undercurrent in American society. Trump ripped off Reagan and Reagan built off of Nixon. Just to highlight some of the more tragic eras in recent American history.

We need not understand the plight of the original nations of these lands nor need understand the people forced into labor on these lands. American greatness is simply a call for American Whiteness. Obviously. And yet there is always the sanctimonious need to play fair. The old “both sides” bullshit. Critical race theory, perhaps? The right and Right narrative of America is a tale of white excellence. Of course, “excellence” in this context holds little Aristotelian virtue. It’s merely a euphemism for shameless, murderous, and rapacious conquest.

Now please excuse me. I am going to wrap myself in the flag, tie a yellow ribbon around a rotting oak tree and play Lee Greenwood. Then I’ll play some Boss circa 1984, but I’ll only listen to the seemingly triumphant (yet ironic) chorus and ignore the despondent lyrics of the verses.

Do I sound morose? Embittered? About both the present and the past? Oh nooo! what’s Macaulay have to say about it? Furthermore, have we checked out Macaulay sufficiently? I’d bet he was at least a misogynist, homophobe, and imperialist. Can we count on his words to be applied out of context and inserted as a lesson for 2021?

Daren Krause, Cocoa Beach, Florida

From: Marc Chelemer (mc2496 att.com)
Subject: Tom Thumb

Industrial Revolution aficionados will recall that Tom Thumb was the name given to the first steam locomotive built in the United States. It was constructed in 1829. Due to a mechanical failure partway through a supposed competition against a horse-drawn wagon, it lost an 8-mile race sponsored by the B&O Railroad in mid-1830s. I was unable to find information as to why the locomotive’s builders named their machine “Tom Thumb,” though perhaps it was an ironic jape at themselves...calling what they hoped would be a technological breakthrough a name which meant “insignificant.” The creation of a working steam locomotive DID turn out to be hugely influential in the movement of goods throughout the young America and paved the way for developments in railroads that transformed the country.

Marc Chelemer, Tenafly, New Jersey

From: Henry M. Willis (hmw ssdslaw.com) Subject: Tom Thumb

You offer the following definition for Tom Thumb: “An insignificant or unimportant person, especially one who lacks the power or ability in spite of high rank.” But General Tom Thumb, who toured with P.T. Barnum, defied that definition. While his rank may have been fictitious, he was a genuine star of his era who relied on his artistic talent as well as his small stature to draw audiences.

And he could command respect. Nearly 140 years ago, when the General’s tour brought him to San Bernardino, my grandfather snuck into the stable where the General’s carriage was being housed to get a closer look at it. As he was about to climb in it a high-pitched voice challenged him by asking “What are you doing here?” Not having a good answer, my grandfather ran off as fast as he could. The General’s small size didn’t matter, at least not to my grandfather.

Henry Willis, Los Angeles, California

From: Tina Martino (tinam1212 me.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Domdaniel

This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in. -Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (27 Oct 1858-1919)

I enjoy your emails so much, but also want to point out the irony and inappropriateness in today’s Theodore Roosevelt quotation. He was a supporter of white nationalism and eugenics.

Tina Martino, Richmond, Virginia

From: Michael Scheller (michael.scheller gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Chicken Licken

In a slight reuse of the term, many US Army radio operators will replace the term “loud and clear” with “Licken Chicken”.

Michael Scheller, Kempner, Texas

From: Andrew Haynes (andrewhaynes live.co.uk)
Subject: Open sesame

Reminded me of a New Yorker cartoon in which a companion says to Ali Baba, “Try ‘Open underscore sesame.’”

Andrew Haynes, London, UK

From: Sandie Stevens (via website comments)
Subject: open sesame

Loved the cartoon and quotation. I’ve always desired a password response to be: “Close enough. You’re in!”

Sandie Stevens

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Breadcrumb and Tom Thumb

In my illustration depicting the Greek myth of Theseus versus the Minotaur, I have Theseus navigating the labyrinth using goddess Ariadne’s ball of red thread like Hansel & Gretel’s trail of breadcrumbs. Theseus ultimately slays the monster and finds his way out of the maze by following the thread. NOTE: “Lagna” is a popular traditional Greek flatbread often associated with “Clean Monday”, or the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox faith.

Plum Surprised
Here, I’ve added another wrinkle to the narrative of Tom Thumb. Instead of the cliched worm emerging from my fictive Julia’s plum, she’s gobsmacked at tiny Tom’s sudden reveal. Froggy is punning on the word sloe, which is another term for a species of wild plum (Prunus spinosa).

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

This week’s theme: Words coined after fairy tales and folk tales
1. breadcrumb
2. Tom Thumb
3. Domdaniel
4. chicken licken
5. open sesame
= 1. Heck! birds ate silk road map
2. dwarf lad chronicles
3. sin city fun fete -- malt-time
4. her doomed lemon cheese stew ok
5. bank sent me UBA*
     1. breadcrumb
2. Tom Thumb
3. Domdaniel
4. chicken licken
5. open sesame
= 1. clue
2. meek man; incompetence
3. demon
4. absurd bird
5. locksmith? bah!
     Words coined after fairy tales and folktales
1. breadcrumb
2. Tom Thumb
3. Domdaniel
4. chicken licken
5. open sesame
= 1. create fried food
2. cynical moment - Trump’s an enfeebled knucklehead
3. Sodom
4. hen’s alarmist
5. kabbalistic word
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)
*UBA = User Behavior Analytics
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


“If our suspects don’t want to be found,
They’ll be holed up somewhere, gone to ground.
Let them try as they might
To remain out of sight,
They’ve left breadcrumbs to find, I’ll be bound.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

There was something I did not foresee.
A song bird I lured off its tree
With a breadcrumb or two
It sang, and that’s true,
A sweet Mozart aria for me.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

With candy and flowers and song,
he assumed that before very long,
if she followed his breadcrumbs,
the two’d become bed chums.
The chick, though, was wise. He was wrong.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“We’ll follow these breadcrumbs so stale,
And find our way home without fail.”
“Oh, Hansel, my dear,”
Said Gretel, “I fear
That this is an edible trail!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I’m a limerick addict and then some;
Each AWAD word serves as a breadcrumb.
Some readers may scoff
That my rhyming is off,
But have pity; this job makes my head numb.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Though a man of diminished physique,
He possessed a belligerent streak.
This pugnacious Tom Thumb
Though, was kind to his mum,
And stood up for the downtrod and weak.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Says she, “I’ve acquired a new beau.
Before meeting him, though, you should know
that he’s smaller than some,
and folks call him Tom Thumb.
But he’s young, so perhaps he will grow.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

That fellow is short as they come;
Folks tease him and call him Tom Thumb.
But he’s a delight,
So funny and bright --
Their focus on height is quite dumb.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

My friend was a little Tom Thumb,
As short as 14-year-olds come!
But his jokes made us roar
And keep asking for more
And boy, there would always be some!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

A man of short stature, it’s true,
Napoleon called out, “Sacré bleu!”
For France’s Tom Thumb,
In the battle to come,
Was to sadly meet his Waterloo.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

In school the kids thought he was dumb,
And so short that they called him Tom Thumb.
But at math he excelled,
And hard words eas’ly spelled;
Now he’s rich while their lives are humdrum.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

“Though my husband may be a Tom Thumb,”
Said Nancy, “Ed, don’t make Ron glum.”
Answered Meese, “Jellybeans
To that end are our means;
While we run things, he has a calm tum.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“’Just a theatre of fun,’ did you say?
The first step towards moral decay!
With its girls statuesque,
And its risqué burlesque,
This domdaniel puts sex on display.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Domdaniel. An interesting word.
One that most of us have never heard.
Also, a place I know
I never want to go.
In heaven I’ll be free as a bird.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

“Singing cats? What a horrid Domdaniel!
I bought tickets to this?” said the spaniel.
“It’s making me ill;
Mr. Webber, your swill
Isn’t fit entertainment postprandial.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

At the first sign of trouble your role
Is to help keep things under control.
Chicken licken will flap
And spread panic, so clap
Him in irons and stow in a hole.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Cassandra, a true Chicken Licken,
With panic one day became stricken.
With the Greeks at the gate,
She foresaw a grim fate.
She urged emigration to quicken.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

She warns, “Don’t eat this, or you’ll sicken!
Nor that, or your waistline will thicken!”
The guy’s skin and bone.
“Just leave me alone,”
he retorts, “You’re a real Chicken Licken!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The old woman was nasty and stricken,
with an affect that quickly could sicken.
She would preach words of doom,
Filling all with such gloom:
An alarming and feared Chicken Licken.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

My friend a true chicken licken,
leaves his near ones scared and stricken.
With a negative outlook,
he finds ruin in every nook;
Their world stands still as his words kick in.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Something that makes my pulse quicken,
And causes my health to be stricken,
Is to find in a room
A purveyor of doom,
The proverbial Chicken Licken.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Believe me, I’m no Chicken Licken;
If I lose, the stock market will sicken,”
Said Donald. The Dow
Has since risen and how,
But his falsehoods and plotting still thicken.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said Donald, “To win is my destiny,
Using tweets as a ‘uge open sesame.
The crimes I’ll commit
Al Capone would befit,
Then as POTUS, I’ll grant myself clemency.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Parent of numerous criminals, the infamous Ma Barker breadcrumbs.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The racing crowd was disappointed when the highly favored thorough-breadcrumb’led before the finish line.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

In a rye twist of fate, the young loavers got married and breadcrumbs.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Did Tom Thumb a ride to the store?
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Tom thumb-ed the files but found nothing. Now what?
-Ray Pasinski, Downers Grove, Illinois (rayomic yahoo.com)

Said John Adams to Ben Franklin, “Wow, Tom Thumb-ed his nose but good at the British in the Declaration he wrote for us.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“By surviving a night in the lion’s den unharmed, you’ve earned your free-domdaniel,” said King Darius.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

An Italian man demanded entry to his neighbor’s house. “Says-a-who?” asked the neighbor. “Open sesame!” answered the man.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

The farmer said, “The hens misbehaved; they need a Chicken Licken.”
-Ray Pasinski, Downers Grove, Illinois (rayomic yahoo.com)

The promoter called his cockfight a Chicken Licken.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Your pups will love our Chicken Licken lollipops, made with real hen flavor!” ran the ad on Fox News.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Open sesame!” He shouted at the impenetrable jar of seeds.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I can never open sesame oil jars,” sighed the Chinese restaurant chef.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Manchin/Sinema Paso Doble
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: The Manchin/Sinema Paso Doble

Moderate Dem senators Manchin (West Virginia) and Sinema (Arizona), both having relied heavily on the largess of corporations to fund their campaigns, are the major impediment to passing a comprehensive infrastructure bill. Sinema adamantly rejects taxing the wealthiest Americans and Manchin is beholden to the powerful coal lobby in his state, so he isn’t gung-ho on any legislation targeted at stemming global warming. The Republicans would be proud of this duo for doing their dirty work for them.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Poetry should please by a fine excess and not by singularity. It should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance. -John Keats, poet (31 Oct 1795-1821)

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