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Nov 28, 2021
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Toponyms from England

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AWADmail Issue 1013

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

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The Gift of Words

This holiday season, why not make a gift of words? Here are a few suggestions:

“A delightful, quirky collection.”
-The New York Times

A Word A Day: A Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English Another Word A Day: An All-new Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English
Find them in a bookstore in your country

“The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass email in cyberspace.”
-The New York Times

A.Word.A.Day | A.Word.A.Day Premium

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

The Algorithm That Could Take Us Inside Shakespeare’s Mind
The New York Times

The Downside of English’s Dominance
The Wall Street Journal

From: Sarah Ingram (sarah.ingram wvt.nhs.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Piltdowner

What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?
-George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans), novelist (22 Nov 1819-1880)

Your Thought for Today reminded me of the much less charitable Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

Sarah Ingram, Hereford, UK

From: Christine Caroppo (cc-other bell.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Devonshire

I found the definition of Devonshire very interesting. In anthropology, there is a similar term, swidden, or swidden agriculture. Its origin and rebirth as a modern word is pretty cool.

Christine Caroppo, Toronto, Canada

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy The Official Old’s Cool Education III -- “A fantastic gift.”
From: Alan W. Ritch (aritch berkeley.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Devonshire

Devonshired? Though I grew up in Warwickshire, the happiest memories of my childhood come from holidays in Devon, the county from which my maternal grandparents migrated and to which my parents retired. Nobody in my family, many of whom are amateur regional historians, has heard of this toponym. Many of us are aware of the theory that Devonshire’s grandest park, Dartmoor, owes its wuthering treeless heights to neolithic clearing by stone-ax hewing and swidden, but this does not account for the relatively modern adoption of the place to describe an ancient process.

On a more personal note, I called my only son Devon as a tribute to the place, long before its euphonious consonants made it a popular name for both boys and girls. Henceforth, when my son has a haircut, he will be Devonshired!

Alan Ritch, Santa Cruz, California

"Ecology of Fire-Dependent Ecosystems"
From: Devan McGranahan (devan.mcgranahan gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Devonshire

Today’s word adds richness to how I understand my namesake and how it relates to my vocation. I am a wildland fire scientist, with special interest in the ecological interaction between fire and herbivory. My career focuses on integrating prescribed burning into sustainable grazing management.

The grazing element of my name has long been clear: After learning they would have a boy, my Dad declared I would be called Devan, after the first bull he bought upon taking over the family farm, a South Devon bull named Big Guy (he took a liberty with the final vowel for visual consistency with our surname). Today I’ve learned the fire element.

Devan McGranahan, Providence, Rhode Island

From: Sally Lapiduss (googl aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Devonshire

In the 1930s, in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, the Devonshire sandwich was born. Still a popular local favorite. It’s a hot, open-faced turkey on toast with bacon, tomato, and a cheesy sauce. Perfect for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Sally Lapiduss, Los Angeles, California

From: Srivatsa Natarajan (natarajan.srivatsa gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kersey

Perhaps not just fustian but Jersey too: “Jersey, in the Channel Islands, was famous for its knitting trade in medieval times, and because of that original fame, the name jersey is still applied to many forms of knitted fabric, which transferred to the garments made from the fabric.” (Wikipedia)

Srivatsa Natarajan, Noida, India

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

Sorry, but this clearly fails as a localized jargon if not obsolete. I am involved with numerous people from the UK and cannot recall Kersey as a place name nor kersey as anything. I’ll issue you a citation.

Robert Burns, Ocean Beach, California

A replica of the Halifax Gibbet on its original site
Photo: Paul Glazzard / Wikimedia
From: Robin Helweg-Larsen (robinhelweglarsen gmail.com)
Subject: Gibbet

Gibbet refers to public execution by hanging or beheading, and also to the continued display of the corpse by hanging. The unusual Halifax Gibbet was indeed an early form of guillotine, but was only called a gibbet because the executions were public.

Robin Helweg-Larsen, Governor’s Harbour, Bahamas

From: Elaine (elaine.ellis.thomas gmail.com)
Subject: John Taylor quotation

I live in Hoboken, NJ, which was the principal embarkation point for troops going to Europe in WWI. To encourage the troops, Gen. Pershing is reported to have said as the first troops left in 1917, “By Christmas, you’ll be in heaven, hell, or Hoboken.”

So the Taylor quotation, “From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, Good Lord, deliver us!” made me wonder if Pershing was that well read?

Elaine Thomas, Hoboken, New Jersey

Halifax Explosion blast cloud restored.jpg
Photo: Wikimedia
From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Halifax

In Canada, the name Halifax is synonymous with disaster. This port city in Nova Scotia witnessed the biggest explosion in history until the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1917, a French and a Norwegian ship, carrying explosives, collided in Halifax harbour, with the result that more than half of the city was destroyed, resulting in the instant death of two thousand people.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Ariannah Armstrong (shumiknit gmail.com)
Subject: Halifax

My husband and I live in Halifax, Canada, and really got a chuckle out of today’s word. People who live here are called Haligonians.

Ariannah Armstrong, Halifax, Canada

Bertrand Russell leads anti-nuclear march in London, Feb 1961.jpg
Bertrand Russell and wife Edith Russell
Photo: Tony French / Wikimedia
From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Aldermaston

The protest movement provoked by the nuclear development facility in the UK attracted many famous (particularly intellectual) personalities, among them the philosopher and polymath Bertrand Russell, who at the age of close to 90 was at the head of the march held in London on Feb 18, 1961.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Alan W. Ritch (aritch berkeley.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Aldermaston

In the middle of Holy Week 1962, I took a westbound bus to Aldermaston. There, next to a daunting chain-link fence, topped with razor wire, I found myself among thousands of people of all ages, holding up banners demanding that the bomb be banned. They all solemnly joined in a song that everybody except me seemed to know. I soon added my voice since its repetitive words and simple tune were reminiscent of hymns in the Anglican liturgy. “We shall overcome some day!” sounded aspirational in this setting at that time.

After sixty years of Cold War and endless conflict and injustice, the anthem remains aspirational, further than ever from being realized. After a three day march among that throng, I was arrested in Trafalgar Square and spent an unforgettable night in a jail cell shared with two brilliant film and stage directors, one of whom, Lindsay Anderson, had made a documentary on Aldermaston a couple of years before. The pleasurable punishment definitely fitted the crime of peaceful protest.

Alan Ritch, Santa Cruz, California

From: Graham Hill (grhmirage gmail.com)
Subject: Toponyms from England

You asked for UK readers to give their experience of this week’s words. I can honestly say that I have never heard any of them used in conversation with the meaning you give, although kersey is quite a technical term and not one I’m ever likely to come across. I have certainly heard Piltdown Man used as a nickname for someone, but I have never heard the term Piltdowner at all.

I know a number of people who took part in the Aldermaston marches of the 50s and 60s and I don’t really think Aldermaston has any connotations wider than the place and those specific marches. Incidentally, apart from the very first, the original marches were all from Aldermaston to London not the other way round as you state.

Graham Hill, Bradford, UK

From: Michael Joseph (michaeljoseph524 gmail.com)
Subject: This week’s words

I get the feeling that self-satisfied Londoners coined this week’s words, perhaps while gazing out toward the lesser life outside of town. You learn the language of the people who have the money.

Michael Joseph, State College, Pennsylvania

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: piltdowner and kersey

Attending an exhibit of fossil forgeries in Piltdown, Sussex, England, two locals contemplate the skull of Piltdown Man, a fossil that in its day rocked the paleontological world... until it was proven a fake. Curiously, the physiognomy of the gent viewing the faux skull structurally resembles that of Plltdown Man. As to his intelligence, let’s say he doesn’t look like the sharpest knife in the drawer. Just sayin.

Wooing Poetic
Moved by the usage example for our word kersey from Will Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, I was inspired to create this courtship scenario with the love-besotted bard himself putting his romantic sentiments into practice. Red roses work every time!
Froggy’s comment is a play on Avon beauty products enterprise’s motto, “Avon Calling!”, their wares originally sold door-to-door. Will Shakespeare was known as “The Bard of Avon”, his hometown of Stratford being on the River Avon.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Toponyms from England
1. Piltdowner
2. Devonshire
3. kersey
4. Halifax
5. Aldermaston
= 1. ill-mannered
2. open the overgrowth with smoky fire (damn smoke!)
3. self-explanatory
4. Hades
5. dissent
     This week’s theme: Toponyms from England
1. Piltdowner
2. Devonshire
3. kersey
4. Halifax
5. Aldermaston
= Hmm, very exasperating kooky words, now fathomed:
1. Neanderthal
2. Set on fire
3. Simple
4. Hell
5. Dissent
     This week’s theme: Toponyms from England
1. Piltdowner
2. Devonshire
3. kersey
4. Halifax
5. Aldermaston
= 1. oafish rex - he weds
2. steep-dell on fire
3. we nymphs not adorned
4. mammon’s kinky hell
5. re: agitators’ TV
-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.


However does a Piltdowner guy
Ever really manage to get by?
Speaking very frankly,
There’s no appeal to me.
A well-mannered man catches my eye.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Physiognomy comes into play.
The low brow -- it’s a dead giveaway.
A piltdowner? No doubt.
His behaviour? A lout.”
Evolution was sleepy that day.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

He’s a Piltdowner, fool, and schlemiel.
Can’t believe that the guy is for real.
But it has to be said
He does have instead
A je ne sais quoi sεx appeal.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

“He’s from Pittsburgh,” says she of new mate.
“But despite that, he’s really first-rate.
Not ev’ry mill towner
acts like a Piltdowner.
My guy shows no sign of this trait!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The Piltdowner on board the flight
With crew members started to fight.
When told what to do,
A tantrum he threw --
Behavior that’s not very bright.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

On a date with a hick out-of-towner,
She thought, “What an oaf, a piltdowner!”.
She ended the tryst
Before they had kissed,
And chose to blot out the encounter.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

All manner of hunky Piltdowner
Did the football cheerleader have ‘round her.
“You’re handsome and big,
But it’s brains that I dig,”
She would tell them,* “and nerds are profounder.”
*in my dreams
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Wha -- my garden! It’s been Devonshired.
Now we have a blank canvas -- inspired?
Now, about my design --
“And you thought I’d say ‘Fine’?
You, you, arsonist moron, you’re fired!
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Although it is shocking to learn,
Some farmers will let their lands burn --
They’ll Devonshire fields
To bring greater yields
And thus a good living they’ll earn.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said Dick Cheney, “Iraq we will Devonshire;
Diplomacy? Bombs are our messenger!
My company’s bill
Will be large for each kill;
We’re the number one Pentagon creditor.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I was shallow. (I’ve grown a lot since.)
I thought glamour was all. (Makes me wince.)
Then a sweet, kersey girl
Put my heart in a whirl,
And I’ve never looked back. (I’m her prince.)
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

She went shopping, and what did she buy?
(Hate to gossip, but really can’t lie)
A new dress. It was kersey,
On sale in New Jersey.
What they wear in that state makes me cry.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

“To keep a low profile,” says he,
“I dress inconspicuously
in unadorned jersey
and trousers of kersey,
as simple and plain as can be.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Grandiloquent speech ain’t for me;
Plain-spoken is what I must be.
I live in New Jersey,
Where language is kersey;
Just watch The Sopranos -- you’ll see.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

There might have been problems aplenty
For a wedding in fourteen and twenty
In olde England, they ceased
With the bride’s gown, at least
Kersey cloth wasn’t scarce, there was plenty!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

At the Bada Bing club in New Jersey,
The dancing girls’ outfits are kersey.
In other words, nothing
But silicone stuffing,
For Tony Soprano likes curvy.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

It’s all sorted -- Goodbye, Halifax!
We’re escaping. Security’s lax,
And St. Peter’s a mate,
So, we’ll sneak through the gate.
Once inside, we’ll be safe -- so relax.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

A cruise up to heaven? That’s swell.
And side trips are offered as well?
To Halifax? Wow!
I’ll book that right now.
I’ll be on that trip, sure as hell.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

“Can’t join you for drinks,” laments he
to his buddies. “Unfortunately,
the old battle-ax
would raise Halifax.
You know what a witch she can be!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The scammers who call me each day,
The spammers who email away --
They never relent
And all should be sent
To Halifax without delay!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

We weren’t allowed to swear, no,
And therefore finessed it like so:
“Go to hell” wasn’t us --
“Go to Halifax, Gus!”
(No one’s gone there as far as I know.)
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Said Anu, “Imposing a cattle tax
Could help us avert climate Halifax.
As a vegan I pay
For your loathsome filet,
As cow herds foul the air worse than Cadillacs.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

In Aldermaston they’d protest.
And nuclear fears they expressed.
“Our world we’ll destroy
When bombs we deploy,
A prospect that leaves us distressed.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

For Climate Change they had protested,
And so both of them were arrested.
They had met at a past one,
A yearly Aldermaston.
Now adjoining cells were requested.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I’ll create a great stir Aldermaston
In the British Empire’s last bastion,”
Said Gandhi. “No need
To use force; I’ll succeed
Just by wearin’ a loincloth and fastin’.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The inebriated woman’s drink, she s’Piltdowner dress.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

I’ve got the scratches to show for trying to give my cat meds, but I finally got the piltdowner.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Patel family was thrilled that Slumdog Millionaire put Devonshire footing for a long and successful film career.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The minister was embarrassed when he uttered a kersey swore he would never say.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

When it comes to Trump, any time an election o-kersey claims to have won.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said Ms. Berry’s agent, “My email is down Halifax me a copy of their offer.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Due to supply chain problems, the shipwright was forced to use an Aldermaston a brand new sailing vessel.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Vigilante Justice
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Vigilante Justice

Predictably, Trump was quick to praise murderer Kyle Rittenhouse, while lauding the jury’s “not-guilty-on-all-counts” verdict, and the shooter’s right to use lethal force in self-defence. Sadly, Trump’s endorsement, along with the not-surprising verdict will likely give fuel to gun-toting White nationalists and right-wing provocateurs to pack heat at future civil rights protests and license to use lethal force when allegedly threatened, or provoked. Mercy!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Normal is the average of deviance. -Rita Mae Brown, writer (b. 28 Nov 1944)

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