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May 7, 2023
This week’s theme
Star Wars

This week’s words
dark side

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Relative usage over time

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AWADmail Issue 1088

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

How Much Can Duolingo Teach Us?
The New Yorker

A New Language Textbook in Mexico Has Caused a Brouhaha
The Economist

To Bridge Divides, We Might First Need to Agree on Language
Greater Good Magazine

From: Regina Layug Rosero (rejjventress gmail.com)
Subject: Star Wars

I met my husband because of Star Wars. We were both members of a local fan club in the Philippines. In 2010, we had a Star Wars wedding that incorporated elements of our Filipino heritage with symbols from a galaxy far, far away. In 2016, we had a son, and of course we named him Lucas.

Regina Layug Rosero, Manila, Philippines

From: Nicolas Ribet (nickribet gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Yoda

Earthling George Lucas did not conjure those names out of thin air (very rare in deep space), but very likely drew inspiration from other terrestrial languages: why not the Sanskrit word yoddha, which means a warrior?

Nick Ribet, Türanganui-a-Kiwa, Aotearoa/New Zealand

From: Raymond Hoogenboom (rayhoo7563 gmail.com)
Subject: Jedi

I wonder whether it’s rooted in the Japanese term for its own self defense forces, Jieitai.

Raymond Hoogenboom, Maebashi, Japan

From: Luigi Kapaj (puppy viahistoria.com)
Subject: Jedi etymology

Jedi is believed to originate from Jidaigeki, the Japanese name for period samurai dramas, such as the Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress, which heavily influenced the original Star Wars movie. Do the other words have similar such origins?

Luigi Kapaj, New York, New York

From: Gavin Harris (gavinharris1976 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Yoda

It is interesting to note the Hebrew and Yiddish connection throughout Star Wars. Darth Vader, for instance. Vader in Yiddish means father. Or Jabba the Hut: Jabba means “frog” in Yiddish.

Yoda has two connections to Hebrew. Yodai’a means “to know” from the root, dai’ah, as in the word da’at (knowledge), indicating a creature who is all knowing, like Yoda. The other connection is to Adonai. I read somewhere that this name, denoting lord or master, an appellation for G-d which can also be used to mean master or sir, was the inspiration for Yoda.

Gavin Harris, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Howard Allmand (howardallmand shaw.ca)
Subject: May the Force be with you

A few years ago, friends of mine in New Zealand married on May 4th. It was no surprise that they received many “May the Fourth be with you” wishes on their wedding day. Since that time, they have been blessed with the arrival of two lovely children. Looks like those wishes have been answered.

Howard Allmand, Chilliwack, Canada

Email of the Week brought to you by The Wiseacre’s Guide to Life -- A Practically FREE Wicked/Smart e-book. Learn more.

From: Dave Conant (davefb123 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Yoda

“May the 4th be with you” and “The 4th will be with you, always” have meaning for many of us that goes beyond the Star Wars connection. May 4, 1970 is the date that National Guard troops killed four people on the campus of Kent State University and the phrases are a reminder that the problems we faced then are, in many ways, still with us. Not as happy an association, but equally important and maybe a bit more so.

Dave Conant, French Lick, Indiana

From: Steve Harmony (steveharmo gmail.com)
Subject: Star Wars quotations

My all-time favorite Star Wars quotation, and one I used many times raising two sons, was this line from Yoda: “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Steve Harmony, Mancos, Colorado

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

Punning on Star Wars names is fun until someone sues: in 2006 a Hοοters restaurant promised a Toyota to the waitress who sold the most beer in the month of April. At least that’s what the winner thought was the prize: when the time came to collect it all she got was a toy figurine of Yoda. She quit, then sued, then settled for enough money to buy any Toyota she wanted.

I’m sure there’s an appropriate Yoda quotation out there; I prefer that greater sage, Elias McDaniel, better known as Bo Diddley, who told us “Don’t let your mouth write a check your tail can’t cash.”

Henry Willis, Los Angeles, California

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: A Thought For Today

I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind than as one of the species. -Joseph Addison, essayist and poet (1 May 1672-1719)

I have had three epiphanies -- if one may use such a lofty word -- in the reading of literature. Of course, like most serious readers I have splendid moments while reading, but I can remember only three times when reading affected me not only emotionally and intellectually but also viscerally.

The first time was one rainy Fri evening when I was in college and found myself alone in my dorm room reading Thomas Macaulay’s essay on Samuel Johnson. Macaulay’s prose had an extraordinary effect on me. I was possessed by a sense of the sublime, finding myself for a moment in a strange and alien place. I found Macaulay’s prose to be high art. I thought for a moment that I, like Stendhal in the presence of great art, was going to faint away.

The second time was when I read chapter 66, “The Shark Massacre” in Moby-Dick. It was at that moment that I knew Emerson’s views on Nature were wrong, even simpleminded, and Melville’s right. Nature is not benign, nimbused, some sentient phenomenon always speaking to man. It is, on the contrary, ignorant, possibly malefic, but at the most indifferent to man. It is mere blind evolution. The sunrise and sunset and flowers are beautiful, but what of the tornado and the flood. What was this pandemic all about if not nature? The virus struggled as hard as we do to live and prosper (note the mutations). Does anyone think Nature is on our side? Thank God, science is.

The third moment was when I read Joseph Addison’s essay about his walk in Westminster Abbey, when, to be more specific, he walked among the stones and markers of the ambient burying ground one afternoon in 1711. It’s mere coincidence that only a few days before I read Addison, I found myself walking in a medium-sized cemetery, one in which I had, many summers ago when I was a college boy, marked every grave in the place. I worked that summer for a surveyor.

And so it was that I dragged around a box of soft drink cups filled with concrete, the tops etched with a letter and a number to mark each grave’s section and number -- say, C-8. Section C, grave 8. I had a large spoon with me, and a steel measuring tape. With the surveyor sighting through his transit and then indicating where to dig, I’d make a hole with my spoon. Into this I would insert the concrete cone, in that way marking the grave.

Working through hot days, we and a few others laid out a symmetrical graveyard, after which the surveyor marked locations on a plat that the owner of the cemetery could use to sell plots. It might be an ironic morbidity I mention that everyone charged that summer with laying out the cemetery, with the exception of me, now lies in it.

In truth, though it has been quite a while, I am amazed at how many now lay in a place I marked. A lot of dead people can rest beneath a few acres. How still they are, how quiet.

When I read Addison’s essay, I realized that our accounts are fairly congruent: we were two men out one afternoon walking through a cemetery. Of course, what cried out, what distinguished one walk from the other, was the unavoidable distance of almost three hundred years. Addison observed stones above the dead that mourners placed there in the 1300s, whereas I in my perambulation saw that most people buried in “my” boneyard had been born and had died in the 1900s, with a small minority in the late 1800s.

What is remarkable is that the gravamen of his walk in 1711 is not much different from what I’d say about my walk. We speak of progress. Anybody could list ad infinitum the technological progress society has made since 1711. On the other hand, look at what hasn’t changed: people still die and are buried in cemeteries with some kind of marker for the grave. I imagine that the grief one felt in 1711 as they buried someone is no different from the grief we feel today.

Our lives have changed a lot, and I know all of us rejoice in modern medicine and dentistry. We have much to rejoice about, but, even so, as it’s always been, we must die, and not only must we die, we must watch those we love die. And that is why from time to time, whether it’s 1711 or 2023, we see a lone man, perhaps deep in thought, walking slowly among tombstones and grave markers, a man, I’d surmise, who understands the cold and uncomfortable truth: he is literally walking over the bones of the dead.

Says Addison near the end of his essay:

When I read the several Dates of the Tombs, of some that died Yesterday, and some six hundred Years ago, I consider that great Day when we shall all of us be Contemporaries, and make our Appearance together.

Despite high rank and station, we are all one in the grave. Sic transit gloria mundi. Thus passes the glory of the world! Despite all the striving toward immortality, this is how it all ends. Instant perspective! So live life while you can! Live it intensely, with might and main!

I just sit here, imagining I see Addison on that afternoon in 1711, his present as real to him as ours is to us. It doesn’t take an excessive imagination to imagine a contemplative person in, let’s say, 2323, walking through an old cemetery, their eye catching on a time-stained marker, cracked, the name, perhaps one of ours, impossible to decipher.

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

From: Troels Forchhammer (troels forchhammer.net)
Subject: droid

Recalling the Star Wars droids -- R2D2 and C3PO in particular -- the description of a (human) droid as “showing little emotion or personality” seems rather un-droid-like.

Troels Forchhammer, Hedehusene, Denmark

R2D2E-80: A data link connection in a patient room in a hospital in Vancouver, Canada
From: Rory Filer (rflyer gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--droid

Yesterday on May 2nd, my wife was in the hospital for a small procedure. I noticed a data link connection behind her on the wall and got this photograph. My wife was in the good hands of ... well, via a data link. If it had only been May the 4th. Missed it by 2.

Rory Filer, Vancouver, Canada

From: Robert Payne (rpayneassociates gmail.com)
Subject: droids

The company I work for as a mechanical engineer has a conference room named R2D2 and another one named C3PO, but then, all the conference rooms are named for robots.

The company makes robots.

Robert Payne, Wellesley, Massachusetts

From: Trent Morton (try2mailin yahoo.com)
Subject: dark side

I urge everyone to examine their personal biases and make a conscious effort to stop psychologically associating “dark” with “evil”, which is deeply racist, colorist, and offensive. Some useful reading:
The “Bad Is Black” Effect (Scientific American)
Is Saying “Dark” to Mean “Bad” an Offensive, Racist Metaphor? (Teaching Traveling)

Trent Morton, Morrisville, North Carolina

From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
Subject: dark side

Tongue-in-cheek references to the dark side as a place where evildoers dwell mentally are certainly of Star Wars origin. But as a serious description of the more unsavory aspects of a society or person, the phrase goes back at least to the 17th century.

Steve Benko, New York, New York

From: Nancy Harris (nanann1332 gmail.com)
Subject: The Dark Side

Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.

Nancy Harris, St. Paul, Minnesota

From: David Sacks (david davidsacks-rla.com)
Subject: Star Wars

A long time ago (not in a galaxy far far away) I had this exchange with a client: my invoicing is always scrupulously honest- I would never padawan! In fact, yoda’nt have to pay any charges that you think are not correct. I would rather forego a little revenue than see my reputation for honesty damaged or des-droid! (Jedi must admit I’ll miss the cash.)

David Sacks, Avondale Estates, Georgia

From: Que Areste Estavia (queness66 gmail.com)
Subject: Am I a Star Wars fan?

The best description of Star Wars I ever heard was this: it is a cowboy movie set in space. I much prefer Star Trek and its many offshoots. the TV series more than the movies, though. More like science fiction than a cowboy western in space.

Que Areste Estavia, Seattle, Washington

From: Bill Richardson (kymrbill aol.com)
Subject: Science Fiction Discovered

In 1958, the year I started 7th grade, Have Gun, Will Travel was a popular TV show. Twelve-year-old me visited the school library for the first time to look around. In a short row of books on a window sill, a title stood out to me: Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein. Intrigued (already burdened by scientific curiosity less than a year after Sputnik), I brought the book home with me. The characters and their adventures started a fire in me that continues to this day. My eyes have seen every nanosecond of Star Trek ever on any screen and I’m still ripe for more. Keep ‘em coming, OK!

Bill Richardson, Orange, California

From: Terry Moore (terry terrymoore.org)
Subject: Science Fiction

Several years ago, I attended a multi-day conference that included senior contributors from business, science, the arts, and public service. A very heady group. One day about ten of us were having breakfast together when someone said, “Let’s go around the table and tell us what books have been the most important to you and your life.” After a brief silence, we all provided our short list. Stranger in a Strange Land was on everybody’s list. Grok?

Terry Moore, New York, New York

From: Kent Rhodes (krho1 aol.com)
Subject: Science fiction films

My favorite sci-fi film is The Day the Earth Stood Still, (trailer, 2 min.) the original 1951 version. In the film a spaceship lands in Washington, DC, and alien Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, warns earthlings to stop wars or Earth will be destroyed. Patricia Neal, Rennie’s costar, tells Gort, a robot enforcer, “Klaatu barrada nikto,” an untranslated line that probably saves the planet. Clearly an anti-war film, it’s too bad that the message was not received and heeded by the likes of today’s dictators.

The film title alludes to the display of the power of Klaatu’s civilization, when at an appointed time all mechanical and electrical power on Earth is shut down for a brief period except for critical places, such as hospitals.

Kent Rhodes, Charlotte, North Carolina

Rock of Sages
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Yoda; dark side

Joe Biden has declared himself a candidate for a second term, and right out of the box, Republicans, and even a few Dems, have questioned his advanced age. Yoda gives Biden encouragement. As Biden insists, “Just watch me!”

Jabba Jabba Doo-Doo
Arguably, Jabba the Hutt is one of the most loathsome, evil entities in the entire cast of “dark side” Star Wars characters. He looks like a gigantic, warty slug. He’s a gangster, profiting in the trafficking of illicit goods and inter-galactic piracy. He’s arrogant, greedy and disgusting, while never accepting defeat. Jabba and Trump have so much in common, right down to their orange complexion. As the Star Wars website says, Jabba “ultimately fell victim to his own hubris and vengeful ways.” Hopefully, ditto for Trump.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Words from “Star Wars
1. Yoda
2. Droid
3. Jedi
4. Padawan
5. Dark side
= 1. “Wise, I am”
2. Standard worker
3. Major powers
4. Drafted kid
5. Shadowy, shaded site
= 1. Odd dwarf joked spoke weird
2. AI
3. Master
4. Tyro
5. Nemesis, dastard had war wish
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)>/td> -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

This week’s theme: Words from “Star Wars
1. Yoda
2. Droid
3. Jedi
4. Padawan
5. Dark side
= 1. Aid jaded maestro
2. R2D2 & I swept, washed
3. Warrior monks
4. Tyro kid was fed
5. Hades
= 1. Wise
2. Artoo; friends added to this
3. Had powers
4. Kid, Jr.
5. Mask wearer...was my dad?
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com) -Josiah Winslow, Franklin, Wisconsin (winslowjosiah gmail.com)>/td>

Make your own anagrams and animations.



To my grandchild I said, “Come, my son!
We’ll pretend that, like Luke, you’re the one.
I’ll be Yoda, the wise.”
“But you can’t! It’s your size.
Sorry, Grandpa. You’re more Obi Wan.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

I have lately been living in fear
That the end is impendingly near.
My wise doctor, that Yoda,
Said not to drink soda.
Thank goodness, he didn’t say beer.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

If ever I need some advice,
Some nuggets of wisdom concise --
As Luke turned to Yoda
And Mary her Rhoda --
I go to my rabbi, who’s nice.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I’m addicted to sugary soda,
So I don’t have a sensible quota.
An internal voice (gruff)
Warns me: “You’ve had enough!”
I’m so grateful to that inner Yoda.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

It’s rare; you could not fill a quota,
If looking for those wise as Yoda.
For Luke a resource
Who taught him The Force;
With no hands, he could open a soda.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Miami, Palm Beach, Sarasota:
DeSantis is these people’s Yoda?
As a place to retire
I have no desire
To move there -- nope, not an iota.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


An Aussie who made his first droid,
Said, “For sure this’ll get me employed!
For lacking an income
That’s truly fair dinkum,
I’m facing a financial void.”
-Rob Arndt, Houston, Texas (theveryword aol.com)

Of emotion, me ’usband’s devoid.
It’s like sharin’ me life wiv a droid.
‘Is idea of romance,
Is a questionin’ glance --
An’ no clue why I gets so annoyed.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Emotions I always avoid,
And never do I get annoyed.
I don’t love, I don’t hate.
So, there’s little debate,
When people say I’m just a droid.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

For cleaning her house she’s employed
A wonderful sort of a droid.
She goes off to Zumba
And leaves things to Roomba;
Her dog, though, seems rather annoyed.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Sheriff Taylor, I’m worried,” said Floyd,
“There’s no hair I can cut on a droid.
If the world of sci-fi
Becomes real, my oh my!
The disaster will be unalloyed!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


This Jedi’s a most perfect knight,
And in matters of sεx, a delight.
So his ladies would swoon
As he stalked from the room,
“I have just had the most perfect night!”
-Rob Arndt, Houston, Texas (theveryword aol.com)

A poetical Jedi conceives,
And with words, rhyme, and rhythm he weaves
Stories witty and terse
In the limerick verse
To share views on the world he perceives.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

My cooking skills are a disaster,
As chef, I am no Jedi master.
My family entreats,
“Let’s go out for eats.
Your pasta tastes strangely like plaster.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“When we go to a carnival, he
Almost always wins prizes for me.
My boyfriend’s a Jedi,
A shooting game deadeye,
The guy’s a real keeper!” says she.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

She knows what she wants in a mate:
A Jedi would really be great!
But her choices are few
And she’ll have to make do,
So Jabba the Hutt she would date.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

A coast-to-coast flight on a red-eye
Couldn’t stop the renowned lim’rick Jedi.
“Should I skip today’s word?
Why, the thought is absurd!”
So he wrote one, and still holds his head high.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


When the padawan looks to his guru,
He says, “It all seems much like voodoo.
Let the Force trickle down
To my feet from my crown,
Then I’ll do what so very well you do.”
-Rob Arndt, Houston, Texas (theveryword aol.com)

He soon will be riding a horse.
His mother will teach him, of course.
Says she to her padawan,
“First you must saddle one.
Careful, don’t use too much force!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A padawan learning to drive
Depends on a Yoda who’ll strive
To show him the ropes,
And (ev’ryone hopes)
Keep both of them safe and alive.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

An apprentice he wanted to be,
So he said to the jeweler, “Train me.
I’ll wake at the crack of dawn,
Serve as your padawan.
Further, I’ll work for you free.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Moses, “The pharaoh’s a padawan;
Follow me, there’s a path we can travel on.”
When he’d shouted, “We’re free,
For I’ve parted the sea!”
Ramses soiled the throne which he sat upon.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Dark side

Pink Floyd’s album, Dark Side of the Moon,
Attained Fifty this year -- what? So soon!
Oh, but how can that be?
I was -- yes! -- only three
When I first heard my favorite band croon.
-Fiona Hall, Edinburgh, UK (fionamghall gmail.com)

We all have a dark side, I s’pose.
In nightmares, when I’m in the throes
Of a storm or a fight
I awake in such fright
That I’m shivering down to my toes!!!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“Oy vey, Yahweh has such a dark side,”
Said Noah, beginning his ark ride.
“This is some kind of flood,
So I’m glad I’m His bud;
I’ll keep lions from sheep with apartheid.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The Irish boy greeted his father, “Yoda, whassup?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The first ever humanoid robot psychiatrist was called Sigmund Droid.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Why ain’t ye picked any pockets today?” asked Fagin. “Did me laundry an’ me clothes ain’t droid out yet,” answered the Artful Dodger.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Jedi think Jethro and Elly Mae are down swimmin’ in the ceement pond,” said Granny.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Lookee here at the bran’ new i-Padawan in the raffle!” said the church lady.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“That was fast,” in the dark side Stormy in disappointment.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Happy 90th, Willie!
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Happy 90th, Willie!

Sat, Apr 29, Country music legend Willie Nelson attained nonagenarian status, and a who’s who of music showed up at the Hollywood Bowl to pay homage and celebrate. Willie, along with Merle Haggard, George Jones, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash are my favorite Country artists. Here, I’ve captured Willie rockin’ it out with pals Neil Young and Keith Richards, a living fossil in his own right. At the concert, Richards quipped, “It’s good to be here; it’s good to be anywhere”, alluding to his many brushes with death. Hopefully, Willie will be “on the road again”* for years to come.
*His signature self-penned song.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

The butterfly flitting from flower to flower ever remains mine, I lose the one that is netted by me. -Rabindranath Tagore, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator, composer, Nobel laureate (7 May 1861-1941)

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