Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About | Media | Search | Contact  


Home

Today's Word

Yesterday's Word

Archives

FAQ


Aug 14, 2022
This week’s theme
Words coined after animals

This week’s words
cynical
lemming
serpentine
jackrabbit
chevachee

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives
Index

Send a gift that
keeps on giving,
all year long:
A gift subscription of A.Word.A.Day or the gift of books

Next week’s theme
Words that aren’t what they appear to be
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

AWADmail Issue 1050

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

Sponsor’s Message: Try some intellectual distancing this summer instead: The Official Old’s Cool Education is “A Wiseacre’s Delight,” three pocket-sized handbooks that are full of wonderment and glee -- Shakespeare, history, how-tos, sports, recalcitrance and wit. Trivia too: What’s Sleeping Beauty’s real name? Where’s the Sea of Tranquility? How is the cow? A ludic and lovely call to intellectual adventure that’s also a wicked bargain: Sick Smart-Aleck Special ends at midnight. Shop now.



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

Why English Is Changing Faster Than You Can Say E-mail, e-mail, email
The Washington Post
Permalink

All Hooting Aside: Did a Vocal Evolution Give Rise to Language?
The New York Times
Permalink



From: Mike Zim (mikewzim gmail.com)
Subject: An incipient cow cynic?

Whole Foods’ ad about “Animal Welfare Certified” steaks brought to mind this cartoon from The New Yorker.

Mike Zim, Columbus, Ohio



From: Sandra Boeschen (sandra.boeschen gmail.com)
Subject: Humane steaks and troops

I was at an animal farm with my granddaughter and saw someone gazing at the pigs and declaring “I love bacon” (over and over). I reminded him it was proof that the pigs are the more intelligent beings.

Sandra Boeschen, San Rafael, California



From: Patti Koning (koning sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cynical

You might also like: Nonhuman Rights Project.

Patti Koning, Dallas, Texas



From: John H Craw (thecrawh gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cynical

You wrote: “Incongruity in words and action creates violence. Another example is wearing ribbons with the words “Support Our Troops” while dispatching them to die in manufactured wars. Wow! I must be good with words -- today I have managed to alienate two groups of people in one write-up.”

As a veteran (late-1960s), I don’t think that offends veterans. Most of the vets I know who’ve seen war, hate it. Sherman’s comment nails it IMO:

“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

People such as John Bolton, Dick Cheney, GW Bush, ... who avoided personal involvement in war, later supported it.

I don’t know a single combat veteran of my generation who thinks there was anything good/valid/honorable/ ... about any of the post-WWII wars America got involved with. JFK’s pro-Vietnam 1950s speeches in the US Senate are pathetic. Afghanistan was a defense-contracting boondoggle.

I was at a dinner party in 1990 during the Gulf War operations. People were bragging up “American technical capabilities” -- how DoD and the media were reporting the war. I demonstrated w/ dinner plates what pieces of shrapnel do to the human body. If you’re going to go to war, think first about what bullets, bombs, fire, shrapnel, .... do to people before you talk “Freedom ... liberation ... justice ... American values ...”

A US veteran friend likes to say “America: put up a sign, slap on a bumper sticker. Problem solved.”

John Craw, Glenford, Ohio



From: Jeff Driggs (jdriggs aol.com)
Subject: War is a Racket

My sister-in-law, Sue Hiscoe, pointed out the story of Major General Smedley Butler as an example of cynicism. At the time of his death in 1940, Butler was the most decorated US Marine in history. Yet he wrote an anti-war book, War is a Racket, which is still in print today, outlining how business interests generate wars. He stated that the people who decide we should go to war should only be the soldiers who fight and die in them.

Jeff Driggs, Salt Lake City, Utah



From: Harold MacCaughey (harold.maccaughey verizon.net)
Subject: “Support our Troops”

I am a combat veteran who was in service to this country. I understand the illogic all too well of “Support our Troops.”

Harold J. MacCaughey, Winchester, Massachusetts



From: Marc Davidson (flueln hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cynical

My favorite for upsetting everybody was always the bumper sticker: “Nuke the unborn gay baby whales for Jesus!”

Marc Davidson, Ormond, Florida



From: LR Berger (writeonlr aol.com)
Subject: good sweltering morning with words from NH!

I thought given this morning’s first thoughts on your page, you might appreciate this poem of mine about the exploitation of words. About a president and poet negotiating over which words each would claim.

LR Berger, Contoocook, New Hampshire



From: Nicole Blau (nlblau hotmail.com)
Subject: Alien-nation

Thank you for sharing with us your love of words and the wonderful lessons in other matters you smuggle through. Thank you for your gentle soul and wonderful humanity and loving wisdom.

Nicole Blau, New York, New York



From: Leslie Cohen (lzenacohen gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cynical

Well, to me the slogan “pro-life” is cynical -- whose life? Certainly not the mother’s, but isn’t she a person too? and “life” only before the baby is born -- what about its life afterward, as we see that the most “pro-life” states in the US have the least benefits for children and families in the country.

Leslie Cohen, Cambridge, Massachusetts



From: Vivienne Trenner (trennerv gmail.com)
Subject: Incongruity of words and action

I do a double-take when I see ads for a ‘free will service’ such as that offered by Cancer Research UK, among others!

Vivienne Trenner, London UK



From: Dianne Friedman (dianne.ellen yahoo.com)
Subject: Cynical

A couple of cynically named laws I am reminded of with today’s word:

Right to work act: a law designed to discourage the growth or use of unions to help protect working people.
Defense of marriage act: a law specifically designed to deny marriage to same-sεx couples.

Dianne Friedman, Guadalajara, Mexico



From: Susan Wiseman (wisemans299 gmail.com)
Subject: Cynical in football

I often hear cynical used in Premier League football.

“In my experience, the term cynical tackle, or, more usually, cynical foul, is when an opposing player will bring down a forward running towards their goalkeeper with the ball, in an attempt to stop the aforementioned striker from scoring. This action usually means that the offending player is presented with either a yellow or red card depending on the severity of the offence and the leniency of the referee.” (source)

Susan Wiseman, Tempe, Arizona



From: Barbara Goodman (bgs0512 gmail.com)
Subject: Cynical

Being cynical has a negative connotation. I have a questioning/sarcastic nature (behind every skeptic lies a disappointed idealist) and people mistakenly call my calling out of potential deceptions “cynicism”. (“You’re such a cynic!” I’m told after doubting the purported benefits of many a marketed product/idea.) But real cynicism lies with individuals who deceive purposely, who market/promote a product/idea they know in their heart of hearts doesn’t/won’t work. (Or perhaps... let me give the benefit of the doubt... those individuals just haven’t thought it through critically enough.) It frustrates me that (many) people don’t “get” that calling a person “cynical” for calling out “cynicism” is blaming the victim. Or maybe the word is simply a contranym that for the most part people don’t know is a contronym.

Barbara Goodman, Toledo, Ohio



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

During the early Middle Ages, members of the Dominican Order were known as Domini canes, i.e., dogs of the Lord. Later, when they established the Inquisition, they were really dogs, using torture and all kinds of other unspeakable methods to re-establish the supremacy of the Catholic Church after the Reformation had put a serious dent into it.

In the seventeenth century, no less a person than Galileo Galilei was arrested by the “dogs” for going against the teachings of the Church about the origin of what then was known as the universe (actually the solar system). Although they did not physically torture him, they displayed the instruments of torture to make him recant. Though he temporarily did so, the last word still belongs to Galileo. “Eppur si muove,” he exclaimed, meaning the universe is in constant motion. So there!

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada



From: Daniel Leeman (writemark msn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lemming

A hundred thousand lemmings can’t be wrong.

Daniel Leeman



From: Elizabeth Block (elizabethblock netzero.net)
Subject: Lemmings

A lemming cartoon from The New Yorker. I cut it out and posted it on my kitchen wall: One lemming to another, in a group heading for a precipice: “Look, I have my misgivings too, but what choice do we have except to stay the course?”

Elizabeth Block, Toronto, Canada



From: Glenn Glazer (glenn.glazer gmail.com)
Subject: lemming

Back in the early nineties, there was a computer game called Lemmings. Many people have praised it for numerous reasons, but to me the most phenomenal thing about the game is that the object was to save as many lives as possible, in direct contrast to many or most video games where the player is an engine of homicide and destruction.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California



From: Ed Waldock (mjw779 q.com)
Subject: lemming

The greatest bumper sticker I’ve ever seen came from the 1980 presidential campaign: Lemmings for Reagan. I use the phrase to this day to describe members of a certain political party that love to march in lockstep.

Ed Waldock, Seattle, Washington



From: Paul Glover (pglover bulkley.net)
Subject: lemmings

For 15 years we raised our family in a homestead in the wilderness of northwest British Columbia, Canada. Our water was carried by pail from a swift mountain river. One fall day while fetching water I noticed a small, furry object on the bottom of the stream. It looked like a mouse. Soon another nearby caught my eye. Then to my surprise I realized that there were dozens of them within sight. Walking upstream and downstream revealed hundreds more within a short distance. Closer examination showed they were lemmings.

The range of brown lemmings (Lemmus trimucronatus) extends down through the mountainous regions of British Columbia. While lemmings don’t commit mass suicide by leaping from cliffs, they are prompted by population pressure to embark on a mass migration. When they come to a river or other body of water, they crawl in. Lemmings can swim and some will make it to the other side, but the result for the rest is predictable.

Migrations like this are reported to occur every few years but they vary in size. This one must have been larger than usual; there were numerous reports from local First Nations of similar observations in streams north and east of us. After 45 years in the area it is the only time I have seen this or heard reports of it.

Paul Glover, Smithers, Canada



Email of the Week brought to you buy The Official Old’s Cool Education -- “Thanks for the memories!” -Keith Richards

From: John Gulla (jgulla blakeschool.org)
Subject: Serpentine

When I saw the week’s theme, I had high hopes this word might be included just so I could suggest to those who haven’t yet seen it the classic 1979 comedy The In-Laws with Peter Falk yelling to Alan Arkin, “Serpentine!”: video, 2 min.

John Gulla, Brooklyn, New York



From: Julie Vanderwier (kai_malama hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--serpentine

Serpentine is also California’s state rock but what I think of first whenever I hear/see the word is this scene from The In-laws. It still cracks me up!

Julie Vanderwier, Creston, California



From: David Mezzera (damezz comcast.net)
Subject: Serpentine

In parliamentary lingo, a “serpentine vote” is one in which all members of an assembly who favor a motion are asked to rise. Then, beginning in one area of the hall, each member sounds off a number (beginning with “one”) and is seated. The next member calls out “two” and so on, winding around the room until everyone has had a chance to add their number. The process is repeated for those who do not favor the motion. Once both sides have “snaked” around and added their number, an accurate vote count can be announced.

David Mezzera, Vallejo, California



From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon kamanesq.com)
Subject: serpentine

Most automobiles have a serpentine belt, which connects a frammus to a thingamajig.

Gary Muldoon, Rochester, New York



From: John van Rosendale (j.van.rosendale gmail.com)
Subject: serpentine

Another use of the word: serpentine walls. Thomas Jefferson incorporated them in the University of Virginia campus architecture. The undulations keep the wall from tipping over, allowing it to be built with only two layers of bricks. A straight wall needs to be much thicker.

John van Rosendale, Poquoson, Virginia



From: Bob Gordon (bob34g gmail.com)
Subject: Jackrabbit Parole

Slang for prison break and title (Jackrabbit Parole) of Stephen Reid’s tales of his bank robbing days with the Stopwatch Gang.

Bob Gordon, Brantford, Canada



From: Daniel Miller (milldaniel gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jackrabbit

No jackrabbits here in TX. They’ve been chased out by the jackalopes.

Daniel Miller, Laredo, Texas



From: John Nugée (john nugee.org.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jackrabbit

In the UK the jackrabbit start is called a kangaroo start. If you have ever seen a kangaroo leap into action and bound off at high speed from a standing start (zero to 30 mph in a couple of seconds only), you will understand why.

John Nugée, London, UK



No Win by A Hare
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: jackrabbit and serpentine

In my revisiting this Aesop fable, don’t get the impression that obfuscator Mitch McConnell (as the turtle) is in the race for the presidency in 2024, challenging the Big Lie promulgator “Jackrabbit” Trump. After the Jan 6 insurrection, McConnell was one of the harshest in Congress to admonish Trump for his role as Inciter-in-Chief. But like so many GOP flip-floppers, McConnell had a change of heart, hopping onto the Trump crazy-train, admitting that he would vote for Trump if he was on the 2024 ballot.

Sidewinder
This summer, despite the high prices at the pump, many families are still hitting the road, traversing America’s highways and byways. The probability of some having to negotiate meandering mountain roadways is pretty much guaranteed anywhere in our Western states... the Rockies, the Cascades, the Santa Monicas... et al. Driving these narrow, serpentine mountainous roads puts a premium on driver patience, concentration, and staying within the posted speed limits. These snaky stretches are also known as switchbacks, found on the steepest grades.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



Anagrams

   
This week’s theme: Words coined after animals
1. Cynical
2. Lemming
3. Serpentine
4. Jackrabbit
5. Chevachee
= 1. Sceptical canine mocks me
2. Convincible rat-member
3. Twisty snake here
4. Swift-heeled hare
5. Nag jihad
     Animals are this week’s theme
1. Cynical
2. Lemming
3. Serpentine
4. Jackrabbit
5. Chevachee
= 1. Acerbic, vehement as canine
2. Sheep, mimic
3. Wily
4. The nimble hare’s legs jerk
5. An attack
     This week’s theme: Words coined after animals
1. Cynical
2. Lemming
3. Serpentine
4. Jackrabbit
5. Chevachee
= 1. Negative Mike
2. Asinine celeb follower
3. Check twisted shim-sham
4. Careen
5. Bcc: Ms. Jane -- raid the pantry
-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.



Limericks

“I’m espousing the cynical view
Which, I own, I’d pooh-poohed, hitherto.
Altruism is fine,
But one must draw a line,
Or one finds oneself caring.” “How true.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Toward most of the world Dad was cynical,
His manner aloof, almost clinical.
But where I was concerned
Each small honor I earned,
OMG! He had me on a pinnacle!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

I must say Donald Trump reached the pinnacle
For a President who was most cynical.
If he chooses to run,
Then he’s only begun.
So I pray his election’s not winnable.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“The flood I’ll unleash will be biblical,”
Said Yahweh one day, feeling cynical.
“But I’ll save two of each,
And train sages to teach,
For the dummies need guidance rabbinical.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Lemming

In a lemming, the instinct is strong.
It will follow the herd, right or wrong.
What possesses its kind
To dispense with a mind?
I suppose it’s the need to belong.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Sopranos in opera abound,
But hearing the glorious sound
Of the great Renée Fleming
Makes me act like a lemming.
I follow her now all around.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Cryptocurrency once shaped our dreams;
Lemming-like, we would join blockchain schemes.
But looming recession,
called bitcoins to question;
Our net-worth soon fell to centimes.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

“Whereas Rubio follows the lemmings,
I say ‘Save ourselves!’ “ argues Val Demings.
“Climate change has been proven --
We gotta get movin’!
No more of his hawings and hemmings!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Serpentine

Politician, your serpentine wiles
You conceal behind devious styles,
And by means of your charm
You seduce and disarm,
Then insinuate, using your guiles.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

If he offers you fresh apple strudel,
Don’t be stupid. You must use your noodle.
It’s his serpentine way
To lead you astray.
He assuredly wants to canoodle.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

That serpentine hiss that I hear
Is sounding uncomfortably near.
I think I would like
To shorten this hike --
Let’s beat a retreat now, my dear.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

In sick bay, my plotting was serpentine;
My objective? To date that young nurse of mine.
To myself I said, “Sailor,
Get better and nail ‘er;
Her clothes cling like paint, and you’re turpentine.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Jackrabbit

Only one slice of pizza is left.
Says she, “I will need to be deft,
‘cause the guy might jackrabbit
and suddenly grab it.
‘Twould render me greatly bereft.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

How often we suffer the plight
Of waiting in line at a light!
If you’re not right up front,
Then I have to be blunt:
A jackrabbit start’s not too bright.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

A jackrabbit move, so I’ve heard,
Is so quick that its movement is blurred.
So don’t worry if you
Miss a movement or two,
For its speed is just simply absurd!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

The jackrabbit’s fame caused him sorrow.
To bet on himself, he did borrow.
Ahead, rabbit rested,
The tortoise the best did.
Alas! Hare today, gone tomorrow.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“What’s up, doc?” says a clever jackrabbit,
While Yosemite Sam
shouts, “Dagnabbit!”
There’s “Another fine mess,”
But my favorite, I guess?
“Who’s on first,” by Costello and Abbott.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Chevachee

As a father of daughters, I pay.
If I don’t, they deploy chevachee.
My resolve to deny
Will be weakened till I
Acquiesce, and their wishes hold sway.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

You remember, no doubt, Wounded Knee,
America’s own chevachee.
Was it cruel? You bet!
But we tend to forget
In the home of the brave and the free.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Says she to her husband, “No way
will I join you in this chevachee.
Your urge to campaign
is truly insane.
You’ll regret it when comes judgment day!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

To win his bride over did he,
Pursue her in grand chevachee.
To foster romance,
He took her to France.
Result was a baby, Marie.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Came the order from Christopher Wray,
“Saddle up for today’s chevauchée.
You must find in a box
Secret nuclear docs;
Mar-a-Lago’s the place you’ll sashay.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)



Puns

“Let he among you who is a-cynical cast the first stone,” said Jesus to the Neologites.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“By attracting 007’s attention, my evil masterminds all race headlong to their own doom,” said Ian F-lemming.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Infectious disease rates will head right off the cliff with penicillin,” said Alexander F-lemming.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

“Hey serpentine-ever realized I was nakεd,” said Eve. “Do I look fat?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Hearing about Jill up on the hill and imagining what was beneath her skirt, little Donald thought, “Jackrabbit!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Brer Bear wanted to hi-jackRabbit and throw him in the briar patch.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Late that morning, the order came to attack. It came so abruptly, I barely had time to chevachee-se sandwich in my mouth for lunch.
-David Sacks, Avondale Estates, Georgia (david davidsacks-rla.com)

O’Shaughnessy and O’Brien used to push and chevauchée and O’Malley until one day they suddenly realized that Catholics and Protestants both worship the same God.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

According to Mrs. Goldberg, Mr. Rosen’s funeral would be at B’Nai Shalom, and then for three nights her family would sit chavachee told her husband.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)



Kari Get Your Gun
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Kari Get Your Gun

The State of Montana is proud of its “Big Sky Country” moniker. Now Arizona has earned the ignominious moniker “Big Lie Country”. Former Phoenix-based FOX-10 News anchor Kari Lake campaigned on Trump’s Big Lie, backing the NRA, and urging continuing construction of the border wall. She won the gubernatorial primary in a close race. Trump-backed Arizona primary candidates for US Senate, secretary of state, attorney general, and the US House, all won.

Re-Leash the Krak-Pot!
“Release the Kraken!” Sounds familiar? Horror film geeks would recognize this mythic sea monster, the Kraken. In this scenario, I’ve put hate-mongering conspiracy-theory spinner and snake-oil salesman, Alex Jones, in the guise of the Kraken. But instead of calling for his release, decent folk want to see him re-leashed, tried, and convicted. Jones’s years of spewing hate and disinformation has emboldened far-right hate groups such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A poem cannot stop a bullet. A novel can’t defuse a bomb... But we are not helpless... We can sing the truth and name the liars... we must work to overturn the false narrative of tyrants. -Salman Rushdie, writer (b. 1947)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere

Donate

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2022 Wordsmith