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May 21, 2023
This week’s theme
Words from ball games

This week’s words
Hail Mary
jump ball

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Relative usage over time

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Metaphors & idioms

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AWADmail Issue 1090

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 Are So Many Young Americans Adopting Fake British Accents?
The Guardian

You Don’t Need to Speak Another Language to Love a Bilingual Edition
The New York Times

From: Linda Peace (linda.peace gmail.com)
Subject: Hail Mary

Hail Mary is wrongly applied in sports. St. Jude is more likely to respond as he is the patron Saint of lost causes!

Linda Peace, Kirklevington, UK

From: Mary Knatt (knattm3 gmail.com)
Subject: Male pronoun for God

I love your sensitivity to the power of words to shape -- and shake up -- people’s perceptions, so please do NOT assume that every religious and/or spiritual practitioner deems God a “he”, as this paragraph did:

“It’s not clear why an all-knowing, all-powerful, beneficent God wouldn’t do the right thing in the first place, instead of waiting for people to pray. It’s even more unclear why he wouldn’t do the right thing even after hearing heartfelt prayers for a just cause.”

Mary E. Knatterud, Minneapolis, Minnesota

From: Laura Bell (kiddogardener gmail.com)
Subject: Hail Mary

I love baseball. Most other sports -- meh. But baseball, to me, is athletic poetry blended with calculus and strategy. Sadly, my team is the Oakland (for now) Athletics. And their owners have purposely destroyed the team. Heartbreaking really.

That’s neither here nor there, though. What I really wanted to plug was a great book bearing today’s term. The book is Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, the same author who brought us The Martian (of Matt Damon movie fame). It’s full of science and science fiction and humor and humanity.

Laura Bell, Roseville, California

From: Rhana Bazzini (rhana3 verizon.net)
Subject: Regarding sports

First let me say how very much I’ve enjoyed AWAD. My son introduced me to it many years ago. Sadly, he died in 2018 but reading AWAD always makes me think of him. I’ve also met several penpals through your site.

About sports. None of the men in my family -- father, husband, or son -- were sports fans. I used to joke that I have a virgin TV set. It’s never had a sports event on the screen.

The only sport I have ever engaged in is swimming laps. Not because I enjoyed it but because I knew it was good for me. The proof is at 90 I take no meds and have no aches or pains.

Rhana Bazzini, Sarasota, Florida

From: Brian Turner (brian.turner health.wa.gov.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Hail Mary

Five years ago my favourite AFL (Australian Rules Football) team was doing very poorly and I was very stressed and agitated. Then I had an epiphany. Why was I stressing about people I had never met, doing things I had never done? Why did I barrack (yes I am Australian) for that team just because, at some point, I had decided that this particular group of strangers would be the one I would follow?

So from that moment on I have not followed any team, and don’t care who wins and loses. No more tribalism, no more aggravation. I still watch the occasional game, usually the grand final, and enjoy the speed and athleticism without caring which team comes out on top. I have many more hours in my week and feel much calmer. I am a happy asporteist and atheist.

Brian Turner, Perth, Australia

From: Chevy (I_Humanist msn.com)
Subject: Y do we love sports so much?

Much to the dismay of his mother’s rather large family -- all Red Sox fans -- here in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, my son Benjamin and I root for the New York Yankees.

I like to say he has that Y chromosome!

Chevy, South Hadley, Massachusetts

From: Raymond Hattingh (mettertyd gmail.com)
Subject: Hail Mary

No favourite sportsman or woman.

I maintain that sport is the main reason aliens have not made contact. Any reasonable race watching a rugby match from on high will conclude that we are an insane species and best left to destroy ourselves.

Ray Hattingh, Riebeek Kasteel, South Africa

From: Fernando Faria (fernando.faria magna.com)
Subject: Asporteist

From your post I discovered this new word: asporteist. I’m one since I was born, because I never followed any sport. I do like some athletes, like Airton Senna, Guga, Cafú, Kaká and others, but more for their guts and attitude outside the sport than for what they do on the field.

Fernando Faria, São Paulo, Brazil

From: Camila Guadalupe Cortea (cami.scout gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Hail Mary

A former asporteist, I converted to enjoying sports as long as I am playing them. Dedication to a minor sport brought me the chance to play on a world stage, and this summer, sporteists will be able to see my team (Japan) challenge the best global quadball talents for the first time, either live in Richmond, Virginia or by online streams.

While hoping to do our best performance, the gap in regional competitiveness does not play in our favor... it is likely you may spot us performing Hail Mary drives!

Camila Guadalupe Cortea, Tokyo, Japan

From: Andrew Allison (allison5000 yahoo.com)
Subject: asporteist

Used to be a massive Buffalo Bills fan, growing up in what’s known as Bills Country in Western New York. When I moved away, I realized that watching sports was merely a way to connect with my father and my brother, and I stopped watching altogether. Been decades now. Guess I’m a latter-day asporteist!

Andrew Allison, Falls Church, Virginia

From: Madeline Johnston (johnston andrews.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Hail Mary

Yes, I am also almost totally uninterested in most sports. Many years ago I read an interesting book comparing football to the military, and it agreed with much of what I had concluded myself. I might have been influenced somewhat by my father, who practiced medicine for 65 years in Los Angeles and would not allow my brother to play tackle football. He said he’d seen too many knees ruined for life. The passion that fans exhibit for a sport or a particular team is hard for me to understand. What happened to their reasoning and intelligence? Why not the same passion for reading a good book, learning a new language, or getting involved with classical music?

Madeline Johnston, Berrien Center, Michigan

From: Karl Siewert (yoyology gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Hail Mary

I grew up in Kansas, and now live in Oklahoma. Both states have strong in-state college sports rivalries (The University of Kansas vs Kansas State University and The University of Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State University).

I learned at a young age that just wearing a particular color of shirt on a day that seemed random to me could get me branded as a heretic by supporters of one side or the other. I’ve often said that I wish sports fans paid nearly as much attention to politics. I think that things would be a lot different.

Karl Siewert, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Andy Marie (frostedgroove gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Hail Mary

I’ve always wondered which man-made idea came first: religion or sports? And then I begin to hear the Pink Floyd “Us and Them” song. (lyrics,; video, 7 min.)

Andy Marie, Springfield, Virginia

From: Pierre-Alexandre Sicart (PA_Sicart hotmail.com)
Subject: Of sports and gods

As a foreign student in the States, I was once asked if I liked sports, and I answered that I did. Then I was asked which sport I watched, and I was confused for a moment. For me, liking sports meant that I liked to play sports, not sit on a couch and watch other people play.

Pierre-Alexandre Sicart, Midi-Pyrenees, France

From: Paul Tarry UK (p.tarry zen.co.uk)
Subject: kingpin

Skittles is not just a lawn game. Over 65 years ago, when I was a lad, we used to play an indoor table version known as Northampton/Leicester skittles in the White Swan Inn in Holcot (Northants). Nine pins (skittles) were set up on a table that was padded on three sides and fitted with an overhead net to catch wayward missiles. We would stand a few feet in front of the table and throw wooden “cheeses” (so-called on account of their shape) in an attempt to knock down all the skittles; we were allowed three throws to achieve this. Those were the days. Read more here.

Paul Tarry, Ramsbottom, UK

Email of the Week brought to you by The Official Old’s Cool Education IV -- “A masterpiece!” -Tim Leatherman. Learn more.

From: David Ornick (david.ornick ymail.com)
Subject: kingpin

Years ago, a Pittsburgh, PA, TV station personality drew the state lottery numbers, an action which he rigged. At the same time he was hosting a live bowling program. Prophetically, he was introduced as, “the kingpin himself.” I think of his intro every time I hear kingpin.

Dave Ornick, Morgantown, West Virginia

From: Steven Price (sdprice510 mac.com)
Subject: Hail Mary

On Nov 2, 1935, with Notre Dame trailing Ohio State 13-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Fighting Irish scored two touchdowns to cut Ohio State’s lead to 13-12. With less than a minute left in the game, Notre Dame quarterback Andy Pilney ran 30 yards to the Ohio State 19-yard line. After Pilney was injured and carried off the field, William Shakespeare (nicknamed the “Merchant of Menace”) became the replacement quarterback. With the clock running out, the ball was snapped to the fullback who handed it to Shakespeare on what appeared to be a reverse. Shakespeare’s pass into the end zone was caught by Wayne Millner on his knees for an 18-13 win.

Radio broadcaster Red Barber later called it “the greatest college football game I ever called.” Another announcer mused that “I always said Shakespeare had rosary beads and a bottle of holy water in his back pocket.” Shakespeare’s game-winning pass became known as the “Hail Mary pass” after newspapers ran tales of the Catholic faithful praying for Notre Dame as they listened to the game. One nun told of overhearing another “threatening” the Poor Souls and saints for another Notre Dame touchdown.

In 1969, the Associated Press selected the contest as the “game of the century”, the most outstanding one in the first century of college football.

Steven D. Price, New York, New York

From: Robert James Robson (robert.james.robson gmail.com)
Subject: Wheelhouse

Not being a sports enthusiast myself, I had no idea that wheelhouse had two other meanings, both of which turn out to be very relevant. I call the little office at the front of my home “the wheelhouse” after my favourite childhood place in my grandfather’s tugboat. My present wheelhouse is also where I can focus on my strengths and do my best work. Thanks to today’s column, I have a renewed appreciation for that space and its moniker. Thank you for consistently delivering cyberspace’s most enlightening and uplifting content, every day. Here in Hungary it pops up well after my work day has begun, and I am always happy to drop everything to read A.Word.A.Day. Endless thanks.

Robert James Robson, Szeged, Hungary

Mar-A-Lago Fats
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: snooker and wheelhouse

In the tradition of the infamous pool hustler Minnesota Fats, here I’ve cast Trump as Mar-A-Lago Fats, a huckster/hustler supreme. He’s stymied by the proverbial 8-ball in the guise of Ron DeSantis (Trump-lite?), who is trailing Trump in the polls by a huge margin. Trump’s recent lie-riddled CNN town hall before a partisan GOP audience demonstrated that he intends to stick to his playbook of division, conspiracies, and lies. He still holds a stranglehold on the Republican Party.

Darwin's Wheelhouse
In pondering our word wheelhouse, I pictured a youthful Charles Darwin at the helm, steering HMS Beagle, with Charles Schulz’s cartoon beagle, Snoopy, as his navigator. Here, Darwin is literally at the wheelhouse of his vessel, but his actual wheelhouse was evolutionary biology.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Karen Folsom (kgfols yahoo.com)
Subject: Kingpin

Karen Folsom, Santa Barbara, California


This week’s theme: Words from ball games
1. Hail mary
2. Kingpin
3. Wheelhouse
4. Snooker
5. Jump ball
= 1. “What if mad push works?”
2. Mob’s higher-up
3. Real job skill
4. Make me lose shell game
5. No winner yet
-Josiah Winslow, Franklin, Wisconsin (winslowjosiah gmail.com)

= 1. Last-moment pass (may help)
2. Major boss
3. Bulwark; helm; huge skill
4. Hoodwink
5. Referee weigh-in
= 1. Jesus’ mother’s prayer
2. Be some alpha man, bigwig, khan
3. Lets folk helm
4. Hoodwink
5. Will resume
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


Hail Mary

To Congress I’m hereby appealing:
I wish that you’d raise that debt ceiling.
Sans a Hail Mary pass
I’m afraid that alas,
Severe troubles to us you’ll be dealing.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“I’ll die down here,” said the canary,
“For this mine’s not sufficiently airy.
If I sing them a song,
Will they still do me wrong?
Guess I’ll try it; it’s worth a Hail Mary.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


A kingpin’s more innocent meaning
Comes from bowling, from Webster I’m gleaning,
Where a big heavy ball
Makes a group of pins fall.
It’s as dull as a cup of Darjeeling!
-Rob Arndt, Houston, Texas (theveryword aol.com)

I’ve no wish to be kingpin. The role
Is to oversee, guide, and control,
Until put out to grass
By some upstart young ass
Who’s made ‘Numero Uno!’ his goal.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Donald Trump tries to be a real smarty,
Like the fictional James Moriarty.
The kingpin is he
Of the new GOP;
Which is not a legitimate party.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

The man is a kingpin of crime,
Who’s called into court all the time.
It’s clearly because
He breaks lots of laws,
Too many to list in this rhyme.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Mr. White, you’re the crystal mεth kingpin;
I’m in awe of you,” said Jesse Pinkman.
“Your spellbinding saga
Exemplifies MAGA!
Let’s run you for office, I’m thinkin’.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Ah, the view from the wheelhouse -- I see.
Or I should say, I couldn’t. Dear me!
No, the first thing I knew
Of the iceberg, the crew
Were all screaming, “You’ve let in the sea!”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

What’s my wheelhouse, you ask? Can’t you guess?
I’m an excellent cook, I confess.
And it’s needless to say,
I am quite the gourmet;
But my kitchen is always a mess.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

What fanciful tales George can tell!
At fiction does Santos excel.
That’s what’s in his wheelhouse,
But that guy’s a real louse,
Whom Congress I hope will expel.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

It’s amazing! Though I’m 92
In my wheelhouse there’s stuff I still do.
It’s pretty exciting,
This limerick writing!
I’m able to do it -- are you?
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“Though I’m just a cartoon, not a real mouse,”
Said Mickey, “this fight’s in my wheelhouse.
I’ll tell Ron DeSantis
His views don’t enchant us.
And Jasmine, I like your new teal blouse!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


I once met a really great looker,
And assumed that she must be a hοοker
By the way that she dressed.
Well, you must know the rest.
She’s my wife now. She knew how to snooker.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

To dinner in Tahoe he took her.
“She’s a pοrn star,” he thought, “not a hοοker.
So I won’t have to pay
For this roll in the hay.”
She was thinking, “This moron I’ll snooker.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Jump ball

Remember the jump ball we had
Because of the damn hanging chad?
The Court’s voice was heeded,
And Al Gore conceded,
So half of the country felt bad.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Towards knowledge some run and some crawl,
While others want no facts at all,”
Said the Martians. “How strange
To ignore climate change;
Their survival is now a jump ball.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Her fans would hail Mary Tyler Moore as the greatest sitcom queen.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Y’all say y’all’s a virgin? What the hail Mary?” says Joseph in the New Texas Version.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“While he loves to wrestle, can the kingpin down one of his wives long enough to produce a son and heir?” wondered Henry VIII’s courtiers.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Ze Bastille wheelhouse all our enemies, zere ees nussing to worry about,” said Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“I wheelhouse whoever I wish to be my boarder,” Ma defiantly told Pa.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Alas, if only I had snooker off that balcony and we had run away,” lamented Romeo.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Jump Ball!” The director told Lucy when she saw a mouse in the scene they were filming.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“This here is still anybody’s game,” said the Louisiana basketball fan over a bowl of jump ball-aya.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When I am asked, “What, in your view, is the worst human rights problem in the world today?” I reply: “Absolute poverty.” This is not the answer most journalists expect. It is neither sexy nor legalistic. But it is true. -Mary Robinson, 7th President of Ireland (b. 21 May 1944)

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