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Feb 5, 2023
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Words with multiple meanings

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AWADmail Issue 1075

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

Why We Need New Words for Life in the Anthropocene

The Arcane Pleasure of Cryptic Crosswords
The Financial Times

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy One Up! -- The wicked funnest word game in the world.

From: Dave Shelles (writesdave gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--churl

In a great example of a name setting a person’s destination, we have hockey enforcer Shane Churla, who “protected” his teammates for several NHL teams over a decade-long career. He racked up more than 2,300 penalty minutes while likely engaging in what you’d consider rude behavior -- off the ice, anyway.

An “enforcer” or “goon” is a player who protects his more skilled teammates by taking physical liberties with opponents who are similarly physical. For example, if the great Wayne Gretzky, whose value to his team was scoring goals (a record 894 in a lengthy career), gets hit or checked by an opponent, the enforcer will go t1t-for-tat with the offending opponent. There’s a whole unwritten code within the game governing who fights, who doesn’t have to fight, the “right” time to do so, etc.

Dave Shelles, Acworth, Georgia

From: Erik Friis (erik.friis icloud.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dickey

I was aware from my English in-laws that a bow-tie is there oft referred to as a “dickie bow.” I had no idea the term “dickie” for a shirt had its origins in rhyming Cockney slang:

A bow tie is a necktie in the form of a bow with two loops.

This slang expression is British English slang that has evolved from Cockney rhyming slang. The word dickie is rhyming slang for shirt (from dickie dirt = shirt). The bow tie looks like a bow on a shirt and this is how the expression dicky bow came about. (source)

The seemingly related definition of a bib is not related to the above at all. This definition is derived from E.E. “Colonel” Dickie, who with C.N. Williamson, in 1922 founded the Williamson-Dickie Mfg. Co., a denim bib overall company, primarily known for its largest brand, Dickies.

The term dickie is also used to refer to a small bird -- a dickie bird, which brings to mind this famous nursery rhyme of unknown English origin:

Two little dickie birds
Sitting on a wall,
One named Peter,
One named Paul.
Fly away, Peter!
Fly away, Paul!
Come back, Peter!
Come back, Paul!

Coming full circle, Cockney rhyming slang, also gives us the term “dickie bird” for the word “word” as in “I haven’t heard a dickie bird from her in years!”

Erik Friis, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey

From: Paul Edmunds (paul pauledmunds.co.za)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dingbat

The typographical symbol you label a dingbat is known to me as a wingding.

Also, in South Africa in the 70s, there was a toy comprising a plastic table tennis-like paddle with a ball attached to it by elastic, known as a dingbat. The product was always branded with a soft drink logo and available at corner stores, so was possibly a Dingbat and not just a dingbat.

Paul Edmunds, Cape Town, South Africa

From: Jim Tang (mauijt aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dingbat

To a large part of the boomer generation, Dingbat is also a proper noun, aka Edith Bunker, faithful spouse of Archie Bunker in All in the Family. Before this, I’d never associated the word with anything else. Although batsh-t is an obvious synonym for the adjective. I’m assuming a rabid connection.

Jim Tang, Kula, Hawaii

From: Andrea Jensen (frostedgroove gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dingbat

My father enjoyed and watched All in the Family religiously. I refused to watch it because all I heard was endless bickering. It was difficult to get away from the loud TV in our small house. I got enough of the racial hatred in my eastern North Carolina school. He even bought my mom, his wife, a t-shirt with “Dingbat” on it. She was embarrassed and sad; she never wore it.

Andrea Jensen, Springfield, Virginia

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

On All in the Family, Archie Bunker always called Edith a dingbat! That’s when I first heard the word. This clip (1 min.) explains how it started.

And here are clips of Archie actually using the word 1, 2 (1 min.).

Phyllis Charney, New York, New York

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

The best-known dingbat type font in the digital age is Zapf Dingbats, designed by the late great typographer Hermann Zapf. The basic 100 of them are embedded in Unicode, but Zapf designed more than 1,000 of them.

Bob Richmond, Maryville, Tennessee

From: Paul Jacobs (woodnutz verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dingbat

I have been receiving AWAD for many years and find it educational and enjoyable.

However, I’m offended by the inclusion of the Star of David in the graphic of symbols shown to represent an example of “dingbat”. My comment also extends to the cross to the left of the Star of David if it’s meant to construe a symbol of faith, such as the crucifix. Religious symbols should not be diminished in their importance and significance by being included among “ornamental typographical symbols” as listed under Meaning.

Paul Jacobs, Huntington, New York

From: Lee Entrekin (harpo mindspring.com)
Subject: Decollate

When I had problems assembling large computer printouts, I thought of myself as an inferior decollator. <rimshot>

Lee Entrekin, Old Fort, North Carolina

From: Kenneth Bus (kenbus50 aol.com)
Subject: lave

As a child in school back in the day I learned these lyrics to “Beautiful Blue Danube”:

By shores that you lave
With your wave
On your way to join the sea.

Kenneth Bus, Peoria, Arizona

Ode to a Dickcissel
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: dickey and decollate

Being an avid birder, when I saw that one of the definitions of our word “dickey” was a little bird, I recalled the sparrow-like dickcissel, summering in our Midwestern prairies, native grasslands, and fallow fields. They winter in Central America and northern Venezuela and Colombia and acquired their name from the male’s signature mating call... first a series of “dicks”, followed by 3-4 “cisses”.

In contemplating the multiple definitions of our word decollate, I rejected illustrating decapitation, outright, and I was iffy on riffing on the “separating sheets of paper” meaning. As is my wont, my polymorphous perverse imaginings gravitated towards the “stretched” definition, a short-form for decolletage.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Words with multiple meanings
1. Churl
2. Dickey
3. Dingbat
4. Decollate
5. Lave
= 1. Vile, rude men; hick
2. Neck cloth; ill
3. Gadget; smiley; twit
4. Behead; dismantles
5. Wash; pour wet
= 1. Boor
2. Vehicle trunk, well then he’ll get sick
3. Widget, missile, and dummy
4. Decapitate
5. Wash
= 1. Tightwad cove. LOL!
2. Well! Keep misc. items in trunk.
3. Mad guy
4. Behead still heretic, end.
5. Wash
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

This week’s theme: Words with multiple meanings
1. Churl
2. Dickey, dicky, or dickie
3. Dingbat
4. Decollate
5. Lave
= 1. Heel; hunks; dimwitted hick
2. Collar; bird; donkey; sick
3. Decor; thingummy
4. Decapitate
5. Lees; wet; give a swill
-Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)
Make your own anagrams and animations.



When she lives all her life with a churl,
Things can go either way for a girl.
As with oyster and grit,
The mean-spirited git
Can destroy her, or turn out a pearl.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

“On my lands toil many a churl,
But I say, ‘Before swine cast no pearl.’
My new meat-on-bread thing
Is more fit for the king;
He’ll cry, ‘Sandwich, you rock!’” said the Earl.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“Am I makin’ old bones? You think not,
Since me liver an’ lungs is both shot.
Dickey plumbin’ an’ ‘eart,
An’ BP off the chart.
To sum up, Doc, I’m all gone ter pot!”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Her kiss had been more than a peck,
And his friends all did tease him like heck.
He was wearing a dickie
To hide a big hickey
That his girlfriend had left on his neck.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

I heard that his health has been dicky,
And since he is feeling so icky,
Whenever he wheezes
He googles diseases --
Though self-diagnosis is tricky.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“We’ve been stubborn, as bad as a dickey;
But we’ve two legs, not four,” said Branch Rickey.
Jackie Robinson’s prowess
Is going to wow us;
His color’s no cause to be picky.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


When protestin’, a dingbat to hurl
Is essential. How else can a girl
Get her message across
If she’s nothing to toss
When they bagpipes are makin’ that skirl?
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

He warns her, “Keep mum with my folks.
They’re a bunch of conservative blokes.
We don’t want them to think that
I married a dingbat
who smokes, drinks, and tells dirty jokes!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

In classroom discussions each day,
He always has something to say.
His dingbat digressions
In all of our sessions
Can easily lead us astray.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I really don’t think it’s a thing that
I’m never on time and I sing flat.
I beat my own drum.
So that is how come
My friends all think I am a dingbat.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Though Liddy was nuts, a real dingbat,
Gerry’s pardon will lessen the sting, Pat,”
Said Nixon. And bent
On nostalgia, he went
To the zoo where Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing sat.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The revolting sang out, “Decollate!”
Thus Marie Antoinette met her fate.
Seems a harsh price to pay
For the things one might say --
And the worst of all ways to lose weight.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

You’ve left me alone in our bed.
It must have been something I said --
Something nasty and drear.
Don’t decollate me, dear.
I’m a grouch, and I’d just lost my head.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

That Red Queen we love to hate -- bold!
She’s a famously nasty old scold,
Who yells, “Off with her head!”
(But just think if she’d said,
“Decollate!” Would Alice have sold?)
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Vice Presidents mostly just vegetate,
But occasional bombs they still detonate.
Both Biden and Pence
Lacked sufficient good sense
To their classified documents decollate.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Winter mornings one needs to be brave
To be shedding those layers to lave.
With no heating, that chill
Saps the hardiest will,
So no need to feel shame if you cave.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Our ancestors had to be brave
to live in a primitive cave.
But it must have been good
to know that they could
avoid ever having to lave.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Since Covid sent folks to their grave,
We’ve learned that our hands we must lave.
We need water and soap,
And now that’s how I hope
That my surgeon’s about to behave.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Fido scarfs what I put in his dish;
Tabby gobbles up all of her fish.
I taught both to behave
So there never’d be lave,
And it looks like I’ve gotten my wish!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

When it’s sweet carrot cake that I crave,
My appetite will not behave.
It would be so nice,
To save you a slice,
But nothing is left, not a lave.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Scrooge as he looked at his grave,
“O Spirit, my soul I shall lave!
If I get one more chance,
Wretched lives I’ll enhance --
Tiny Tim most of all, he’s my fave!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Churl Tiegs was a top model in the 70s.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Churly you jest,” she scoffed.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“That isn’t very ma-churl-iz,” said Richard Burton as the plates came flying at his head.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The private dicky most like watching was Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“When I married Dickey said we’d never get divorced, and now we’ve done it twice,” sighed Liz.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Holy dingbat-man! Look what happened to our car in the parking lot!” said Robin.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“What was the timing of the two design movements?” asked the art history student. “Nouveau came first and Decollate-r,” answered the professor.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“That’s not a knife, this is a knife. Ya’d best lave us alone, mate,” said Crocodile Dundee.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions. -Adlai Stevenson, governor, ambassador (5 Feb 1900-1965)

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